The Lowdown on Culture Fit

Culture is one of those words that I would throw into the “we overuse this word too many times in the HR/Recruiting world”. Everyone talks about culture these days, which by the way, they should be. Every single organization on the face of this planet has a unique culture, whether they know it and/or actively influence it or not.

By the way, this post was influenced by Tim Sackett‘s article titled, “Maybe We Got This Culture Fit Thing All Wrong!

Before I get to my main point I think it’s important that I establish what I think culture means. To me, it’s the personality of an organization. This personality is driven, defined and described by the collective group of employees. It’s what makes an organization unique – identified by its mission, vision, values and how it operates day-to-day. It is NOT things that I characterize as “lipstick” – ping pong tables, free food, office parties, etc… It’s deeper.

Even though each organization is truly unique one thing remains the same. That is the goal of every organization with respect to its employees. There are 3 things that are the same, and they are the following:

  1. Talent Attraction
  2. Talent Engagement
  3. Talent Retention

Every single organization is tasked with attracting top talent, engaging their top employees and retaining their top employees. Everything an organization does flows from these 3 things. In fact, I typically build HR strategy around these 3 pillars because it’s easy to understand, digest and implement.

Getting to My Point

Attracting top talent is a huge priority and increasingly more difficult to accomplish. Most organizations attempt to recruit with the “culture-fit” mindset. They want to hire those individuals who will fit best into their culture. I’m not going to get into the nitty gritty of how they attempt to do this, but let me just say that there are ton of mechanisms to do this. Some work better than others, and it requires a mix of software tools and creative human interaction to make this work.

But here’s the bigger problem. The bigger problem isn’t so much that we are unable to effectively hire those that fit into our cultures. The bigger problem is what we do with employees after they start working for us.

Let me give you an example. I have gone through many recruitment processes during my career. One specific circumstance I was interviewed 9 times by an organization. To be honest, the experience was fantastic. They painted a clear picture of what it would be like to work for them, how they would treat me, the expectations of me, what success would look like, and the list goes on. What happened was when I started working for this organization everything I thought I was getting into literally crashed. My experience was anything but what they led me to believe during the interview process. Needless to say, it did not end very well because there was a complete misalignment between what I valued and how they truly operated.

What’s the Point?

I truly believe that we place far too much emphasis on the talent attraction part of the equation, and not enough on how we engage and retain our employees. You can call it whatever you want… culture-fit, culture alignment, culture contribution, culture matching, whatever… It doesn’t matter what you call it because the deeper issue is how you go about accurately and effectively attracting, engaging and retaining top talent within your unique culture.

Questions to Ask Yourself

Here are a few questions to ask yourself. Do you do what you say you will do? Do you actually behave in line with your core values, mission and vision? When you tell prospective employees that you value employee development and personal growth, what does this mean and do you actually practice this? When you say you reward top performers, does your rewards and recognition, and compensation programs align to this? When you say you’re open and transparent top to bottom in your communications, is this true? If you say you value diversity and inclusion, can you describe what this means to you and how you practice it?

You get my idea. So while we grapple with the problem of being better at hiring the right people that fit our cultures, the work doesn’t stop once they start working for you. The work continues infinitely, through the talent engagement and talent retention phases of the employee life-cycle. Organizations that understand this are highly successful from a business perspective — it’s all about employee engagement.

So instead of arguing over what to call something, try focusing on more important things such as how your organization will effectively attract top talent, engage your top talent and retain your top talent. This mindset will ALWAYS ensure your culture is top of mind in everything you do.

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