Should companies hire for a suitable culture? Yes, but how about calling it a match for values
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Radhika Panjwani is a former Toronto journalist and blogger.
When academic Kyle Brykman co-founded TalentFit, a tech start-up that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to match job candidates and companies based on “cultural fit,” some people feared that this approach does not erode an organization’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.
“Hiring for the ‘fit culture’ gets a bad rap because people are obsessed with terminology,” noted Professor Brykman, assistant professor of management at the University of Windsor’s Odette School of Business. .
“My experience is that it’s often seen as an organization where everyone is the same or homogeneous.” He said he would never advise organizations to hire people who all have similar characteristics or backgrounds. “For me, that means finding people who share common values and common approaches to work.”
Corporate culture includes elements such as the values, vision, attitudes and practices that define how a company operates and treats its employees. Hiring for a fit culture means recruiting candidates whose core values are aligned with those of the company, Professor Brykman explained. There is compelling evidence from dozens of studies that shows hiring candidates based on a fit culture reduces turnover, increases employee satisfaction and leads to improved performance, he said.
During interviews, some recruiters will ask specifically designed questions to assess a candidate’s compatibility. Asking candidates to describe their ideal work environment, for example, can be eye-opening. If you are a small business that values autonomy, individual contributions and competition among its employees, you can be less inclined to hire someone whose past successes have been nurtured in a collaborative setting with multiple resources at their disposal.
Beer logic and bro culture
Patty McCord, former director of talent at Netflix, has a different approach to hiring.
In a Harvard Business Review article, she writes that the process involves going beyond what’s detailed in the resume — making great hires is about matching the candidate to the position in unconventional ways. Ms. McCord noted that at Netflix, she and others had to get creative about where they looked for the right talent. This went beyond what was detailed in resumes.
“Finding the right people isn’t about ‘cultural fit’ either,” notes Ms. McCord. “What most people really mean when they say someone fits in well culturally is that he or she would like to have a beer with them. But people with all kinds of personalities can be great at the job you need.
In his book Pedigree: How Elite Students Get Elite Jobs, Lauren Rivera recounts the results of her interviews with 120 recruiting executives at elite investment banks, management consulting firms and law firms. Eighty-two percent of managers admitted that one of the most important criteria they look for in employees was “culture fit,” but only half had a clear idea of their organizational culture. And only a third of respondents had tools to measure culture fit during the recruitment process.
Candidates were judged on unspoken expectations about certain social behaviors and almost all of the recruits hired were from ultra-prestigious schools. The process was flawed because after the pool of applicants was narrowed down based on the institutions they attended, hiring managers picked the candidates they liked.
“These tactics, used to discern a ‘cultural fit’ between the candidate and the workplace, systematically weed out low-income, high-achieving students who might be qualified for jobs at these companies,” Ms. Rivera writes in the book.
Curse of cultural adjustment – homogeneity
To hire for the right culture or values, organizations must first map the skills and capabilities of a representative sample of their employees using a qualitative methodology; create structured interviews where everyone is asked the same set of questions and analyze and evaluate the responses to eliminate bias, Professor Brykman said.
He also suggests that candidates also do their due diligence by looking at reviews of the company and its values by asking questions such as: “How do you resolve conflicts?”, “What recent changes have you made based on employee feedback? and “What was the emotional tone for the company during a recent crisis?”
What I read on the web
- This CNBC article says that the post-pandemic economy in the United States is a job seeker’s dream. A few statistics: some 48 million people left their jobs last year and 76 million found a new one. The US job market currently has 11 million openings, which roughly translates to two jobs for every person looking for one.
- According to this article from BBC, the second edition of the Global Land Outlook, which took five years to prepare, paints a grim picture of the global degradation of land, water and biodiversity. The earth’s overall health has declined and become less fertile and soon it will no longer support many species. If nothing changes, an additional area the size of South America will be damaged by 2050.
- A major slowdown is coming. According to this story CNN, Deutsche Bank may have caused a bit of a stir earlier this month by becoming the first major bank to predict a U.S. recession, albeit a “mild one.” The bank warns that there is a deep downturn in the works, caused by the US Federal Reserve’s quest to bring down stubbornly high inflation.
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