Culture is what gives business its specific identity; the attitudes, values and behaviours that set the tone and structure of each day, and determine how employees feel at work. A company with a strong culture has greater workforce cohesion, which makes for happy and productive staff, whereas a company with a weak culture can leave staff unsure of where they fit in the scheme of things, feeling less motivated and more likely to leave.
When it comes to recruitment, it’s obviously important for a business to have a clear sense of their culture if they’re looking for somebody who matches the company. Employers are often looking to recruit a person they can see themselves working with, and who would fit into the environment – be that environment creative, corporate, casual… for example, a candidate who likes to work by themselves in quiet focus would probably find it hard to concentrate in a completely open office with lots of noise, distraction and office chatter.
It’s understandable that many employers heavily emphasise cultural fit when considering new recruits. The issue is that cultural fit can mean a variety of different things to different people and for some employers, it masks a process of simply picking someone who’s just like them, instead of someone who would work the best in a particular role with all factors considered. A recent article in Forbes by Erika Andersen explores some of the issues with an unclear or narrow approach to cultural fit, which can simply end up with ‘an unhealthy and exclusionary lack of diversity’, a hive-mind in the office, with no different voices and experiences bringing fresh ideas to the table.
It’s useful for employers to have an understanding of cultural fit that takes into account more than behaviour and personalities, and emphasises the values underpinning them. A candidate that genuinely identifies with your vision could end up being a huge asset for your company, and be more likely to stick around. Their personality is of course important, but isn’t the sole determining factor. After all, you probably wouldn’t want all your friends to work for you – it would be fun, but would it be productive?
As a candidate you might have had a negative experience with a particular business’ culture and as a result written off working in the entire sector. I’ve seen it a few times where the issue isn’t that the sector as a whole isn’t right for a candidate, but rather that they didn’t fit the culture of one specific business in that sector. There are a whole variety of business cultures – you might have found yourself in one that was overly stressful, ‘blamey’, too corporate, too laid-back and so on. You have to ask yourself whether it was the nature of the work itself that you disliked, or the environment in which you did it.
As you can see, cultural fit has a strong connection with your happiness and productivity. But it also goes far beyond just whether you like an open plan office or not – it takes into account your personal ambitions and goals, your talent and how you see yourself applying them in your work. If your values and the values of your employer align, then behaviour and working styles can be taught, tweaked or mutually adapted to create a workplace that is diverse in people but united in purpose. That, to me, sounds like a true cultural fit!