Everyone has a job that they remember. Whether it was the laissez-faire style of a teenage summer job or a boring stint as one of many cubicle-bound office workers, the company culture that existed in those jobs significantly impacted your enjoyment or discontent of those positions.
If you're a small business owner who is attempting to build a company culture, it's important to ensure your next hire fits in within that culture; otherwise, there could be potential problems later.
What is a cultural fit?
As an all-encompassing notion within a company that dictates everything from how people interact with one another to the style of banter that takes place in the office, a company's culture is an intangible factor that matters more than you might think.
According to Culture Amp's Sophia Lee, a cultural fit is the "concept of screening potential candidates to determine what type of cultural impact they would have on the organization." This screening is done by focusing on the "values, beliefs and behaviors" that exist between an employee and their employer.
Cheryl Hyatt, co-founder of Hyatt-Fennell Executive Search, defines company culture as the organization's "mission, values and approach." Hiring, said Hyatt, goes beyond what's listed in the job posting.
"Job descriptions usually focus on the roles and responsibilities of an individual position by listing the necessary experience and skills needed for a job," she said. "However, each job is within the context of a unique organization. It's not just what they do, but how and why they do it."
According to Hyatt, two companies engaged in the same business undertake their work in different ways, and for different reasons. By understanding what makes your business uniquely successful, Hyatt said, you can understand how to best foster success within your workforce and the company at large.
Why is workplace culture so important?
Recent data suggests that Americans spend approximately 1,764 hours per year working. That translates to 73.5 consecutive days without stopping, or 10.5 weeks without breaks. With so much time spent working, it's important that those long hours aren't miserable ones. There are additional reasons as well why you want to create a strong, positive work culture among your existing and new employees.
It keeps employee engagement up.
One way to avoid having your workers be miserable is by creating a company culture that makes them want to come to work.
How a company does that depends on the type of business it is and its ability to create an environment that keeps employee engagement up. By fostering a company culture that keeps your team focused on the task at hand, Greg Besner, founder of CultureIQ, said it is possible to create an environment that boosts productivity.
"Hiring for mission and value alignment is arguably the most important piece of the puzzle to get right," he said. "If someone isn't inspired by your mission or on board with your values, then the employee won't feel as incentivized to contribute. Further, other employees will know if a new colleague isn't getting the culture or doesn't care, and this can tear your company apart."
It establishes a company's "personality."
Over time, workplace culture becomes analogous to the company's overall personality. Provide a workplace where people feel comfortable, accepted and part of something they want to contribute to, Hyatt said, and you can enjoy the fruits of a "mutually advantageous relationship."
"People do not only want a job as a way to make a paycheck, they want a job as a way to make a difference," Hyatt said, referring in particular to today's largest segment of the workforce – millennials.
Employers, said Hyatt, benefit from employees who work hard for the company's mission.
"Simultaneously, you provide meaningful work in a positive context," she said. "An individual who is a poor cultural fit will not have a positive impact on the team where they are placed and may not last long with your company, which is an unfortunate use of time and valuable resources."
People who don't mesh well can spoil the culture.
It can only take one person who doesn't work well in the already established office culture to ruin the feeling for everyone. Therefore, it's important small business owners and managers pay attention to a candidate's personality and cultural fit while evaluating their business talent.
"When the hiring process is effective, the candidates that are hired are more likely to be satisfied, motivated and committed," Besner said. "Successful recruits are motivated to exceed their goals, proactive about learning new skills and starting new projects, positive in their approach to work, creative in solving problems, and committed to developing their careers at the organization."
How do you quantify a candidate's cultural fit?
When going through the interview process with new candidates, research where they've been, what skills they may possess and what they can bring to your team from an operational standpoint.
How, though, do you properly assess a potential candidate's cultural compatibility?
Though you can't necessarily assign a point value to a person's cultural fit within your company, nor can you see it in front of you, there are ways you can glean whether a candidate will work well with your current group. According to Hyatt, it involves asking thoughtful interview questions and carefully listening to the answers provided.
"When evaluating a candidate, looking at their experience and accomplishments is helpful, but the most important thing is to ask intentional interview questions and listen to their answers," Hyatt said. "The purpose of an interview is for a candidate and a company to get to know one another, which is why it's the perfect place to evaluate cultural fit from both sides. Interviewers should ask questions about a candidate's values, approaches and career aims. A candidate should learn more about a company's legacy, mission and strategy."
Evaluating cultural fit goes beyond the candidate interview
Once hired, the evaluation doesn't end. Besner believes it's through the "employee life cycle" of the onboarding process, training, and, eventually, daily life in the office that you gain an even better understanding of their place within the corporate culture and whether they're a good fit.
"After an employee is hired, consider the rest of the employee life cycle ... and look for ways to embed the company's values throughout the employee life cycle," he said. "Every policy, process, and program is an opportunity to reiterate the mission and values."
Potential pitfalls of hiring for cultural fit
While it's important to keep your company culture in mind when seeking out a new hire, you're running a small business, not a social club. Work still needs to get done, and people need to be professional.
It's with that concept in mind that you should remember that while important, your company culture is not the be-all and end-all when it comes to making a hiring decision. Hiring a successful candidate relies on several factors, with cultural fit being one of them. As a small business owner looking to hire the best candidate for the job, you have to make sure the person you hire has the skills to contribute right away.
Hiring strictly for a cultural fit may be tempting, but your business depends on strong and competent employees who can get things done. It can severely hurt your bottom line if they're too busy goofing off or not getting things done.
"Cultural fit is one vantage point that employers must consider, a wide lens, but it's not the only vantage point," Hyatt said. "A candidate doesn't just need to fit a company, they need to fit a team and a role. An individual could be right on track with an organization's vision and ethos and have none of the strengths or skills needed in a particular department or position."