Diversity and synergy

An organization’s culture includes values, beliefs, assumptions, principles,
myths, legends and norms that define how individuals interact, think,
make decisions and perform. When organizations ensure that their employees possess technical skills and soft skills, and
“culturally fit,” they can better succeed in
competitive markets.

“Culture plays a significant role in attracting and keeping great talent, which ultimately has an impact on the organization’s
bottom line,” says Simone Gans Barefield,
CEO of Gans, Gans & Associates, an executive recruiting firm.

Smart Business asked Gans Barefield
about the significance of hiring employees
with the right cultural fit.

What does it mean for an employee to be the
right ‘fit’ for an organization?

Fit is typically defined in two distinct
ways: ‘job fit’ and ‘cultural fit.’ Job fit refers
to the degree to which the candidate finds
the role’s activities and responsibilities satisfying. Cultural fit refers to the applicant’s
compatibility with the organization’s values, mission, environment and daily
method of operating.

If someone fits into the organization and
demonstrates the propensity to develop,
the person’s knowledge and skills will
change and grow over time. Values and
motivations, on the other hand, are hardwired into us and can be almost impossible
to change. Cultural fit cannot be developed.

What problems arise when an individual has
the right skills but the wrong style?

In a tight labor market, hiring managers
often make speedy decisions and may, consequently, choose individuals who may not
be right for their organization. But the
same highly talented applicant who is successful in a traditional, conservative, team-oriented organization could be disastrous
in a high-flying, autonomous atmosphere.
It is important that an incoming employee
mirrors the basic character traits of the collective organization or a serious misfit will
occur. If individuals do not fit the culture, it
can be disruptive, leading to a nonproductive, uncomfortable and, in some cases,
hostile work environment. This can ultimately affect the bottom line and lead to
attrition of truly valued staff and increased
financial resources spent attempting to
blend a new team member into an existing
style and work flow. The simplest disconnections can also result in difficulty getting
cooperation from other teams for mission-critical projects leading to missed deadlines and failed initiatives.

Can hiring managers identify a good match?

The interview is the single most important opportunity to assess the candidate’s
fit. Everyone involved in the process must
focus on the goal of the interview, which is
to reveal the applicant’s true self. To ensure
you achieve this goal, the interview team
can use the philosophy that past behaviors
predict future results. It is important to
commit the time and resources necessary
to develop the right questions and conduct
thorough behavioral interviews. Other
effective techniques include panel interviews, reference checking, on-site visits,
trial work periods and even pre-employment dinners.

How can employers inform applicants about
their culture during the hiring process?

Start by clearly articulating the organizational structure and defining its core values. Talk about clearly defined goals,
objectives and simple yet powerful no-tolerance policies, rules and regulations.
Speak to why the ‘best of the best’ would
want to work for the organization. Explain
what the organization offers that is unique
and provide literature describing organizational core values, whether it be pamphlets, posters or postings on the company’s Website. Some companies provide
realistic job previews or ‘day in the life’
snapshots on their Web sites. Recruitment
consultants must thoroughly understand
the unique attributes of the organization
and the processes used to assess applicants to find the most ‘fit’ candidates.

What benefits arise from employee synergy
within an organization?

A good cultural fit between employees
and the organization contributes to
employee retention, organizational productivity and profit. The most immediately
noticeable benefits are excellence in work
product, retention, loyalty, cohesiveness
and referrals of like employees. There is
also a direct relationship between employee satisfaction and synergy and profitability as a result of employees being able to
focus on performance and outcomes
rather than environmental discomfort. The
environmental harmony that results from a
perfect fit frees the organization to strategize and focus on higher-level concerns
that tie directly to its core mission and values and significantly reduces the amount
of hours spent by staff on ‘putting out fires’
and keeping the peace.

Existing employees can, at times, benefit
from a refresher or more advanced orientation as the organization’s culture changes
and evolves. The performance review
process and mentoring teams should also
include discussions on cultural fit to help
determine how to better blend or mesh
employees into the culture.

SIMONE GANS BAREFIELD is CEO of Gans, Gans & Associates, an executive recruiting firm, and board director of TBWA.