It’s Just Not a Good ‘Cultural’ Fit …

How often have you heard yourself or others utter those words in the recruitment process?

What is ‘cultural’ fit?

As an experienced recruiter here at Challenge Consulting outlined “It’s intangible so it’s hard to say. Sometimes it’s just a feeling. Sometimes it’s demographic – that’s very general though, just because two people are 30 years old and live in Bondi it doesn’t mean they are going to get on with each other.”

According to empirical research[i], there are actually four distinct types of “fit” and each impacts both the initial attraction of potential employees to an organisation and their on-the-job performance:

  • Person-Job Fit:  how well the demands of the actual position line up with the prospective employee’s skills and abilities
  • Person-Organisation Fit: match between a prospective employee’s personal characteristics and the organisation’s cultural characteristics[ii]
  • Person-Group Fit: the interpersonal compatibility between potential employee and their work group or team
  • Person-Supervisor Fit: match between potential employee and their potential supervisor

(And all four together make up Person-Environment Fit)

So how should you assess fit?

Before you even think about how to assess fit, you first need to clearly define the other side. What is it that you want the potential employee to fit to? Job Fit is seemingly easy; it becomes more difficult when you are looking to define the organisational culture.

Different people are motivated by different things; it stands to reason when values are aligned an individual is going to be more motivated. BUT, and here is the big but, just because an organisation has written placards of their values doesn’t mean this is their culture. If everyone doesn’t embrace these values, including senior leadership, they are not definers of a culture they are merely catchphrases of the HR or marketing team.

Once you have clearly defined the culture operating in your organisation, next you need to assess fit to this culture in the selection process, you can do this through:

–          motivation or values based interview questions

–          motivation or values based reference checks

–          personality or values psychometric assessments

You could even consider a realistic job preview (or job trial) so both the potential employee and employer can get an understanding of the fit to job, group, supervisor and organisation.

Don’t forget it’s not just the company assessing fit.

Of course it’s not just the company assessing fit in the recruiting process, but the jobseeker as well.  Research suggests that the jobseeker will assess their match to the organisational culture, not based on the questions asked, but by the interviewer’s behaviour and recruitment process itself[iii]. What does your interview process say about your organisational culture? Are you turning potential great-fit employees off by an incongruent recruitment process?

Why is cultural fit so important?

Employees with greater Person-Environment Fit are more satisfied at work, are less likely to leave, and achieve higher performance ratings (as assessed by their managers) than those with lower Fit[iv].

But when there is poor fit the opposite is true. As my colleague stated: “I moved to a similar role with a different organisation and very quickly learnt that, despite the role and responsibilities being the same, the organisational culture was very different. This created increased stress levels and less enthusiasm about my job. I ended up leaving that organisation and joining another organisation with a greater alignment to my key motivators of teamwork and collaboration. It was a great reality check for me because I realised that a job is not just about the job role but an even more important factor is the organisational and team culture.”

So when it’s just not a good cultural fit, it’s important to know when to walk away. Re-invest your energy into opportunities that will allow you to be motivated and engaged– and ultimately a win-win for all.

What does ‘cultural’ fit mean to you?

[i] Kristof-Brown, A.L., Zimmerman, R.D., & Johnson, E.C. (2005). Consequences of individuals’ fit at work: A meta-analysis of person–job, person–organization, person–group, and person–supervisor fit. Personnel Psychology, 58: 281–342.

[ii] Kutcher, E. J., Bragger, J. D. & Masco, J. L. (2013), How Interviewees Consider Content and Context Cues to Person–Organization Fit. International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 21: 294–308 

[iv] Want, M., Zhan, Y., McCune, E. & Truxillo, D. (2011). Understanding newcomers’ adaptability and wor-related outcomes: testing the mediating roles of perceived P-E fit variables, Personnel Psychology, 64: 163-189.