Every recruiter dreads and despises the phrase “Rejected – Not a culture fit” but keeps hearing this now and then. A lot has been spoken and deliberated on what culture fit is and how talent acquisition professionals assess culture fit.
I would be addressing this enigmatic topic in two sections: 1) What and 2) How.
What is culture?
Culture is an unsaid, non-documented (some pieces are documented), acceptable, non-negotiable set of behaviors which are a way of life in an organization.
Some characteristic of organization culture:
1. Every function/department/team would have its own culture stemming from their leaders, driven by their behaviors. These behaviors could be innate or adopted by adapting to the environment. Each of this function/team is a strand of the larger DNA called ‘organization culture’. A function or a team’s culture would have a more lasting impact on the new hire as this is the ecosystem where he/she would be rooted and nurtured. This would directly influence his/her performance and longevity.
2. Not all behaviors forming the culture are adored, some are despised too.
3. Similarly, not all behaviors are promoted or endorsed by the management, but they still thrive and flourish. The biggest example here is to do with diversity, especially biases with respect to age and sexual orientation.
4. An organization culture is the sum total of its vision + values + management behavior + leader’s behavior + employees + environment + geography (Let’s keep last 2 out of our current scope).
5. Culture is never stagnant and ever evolving.
6. Organization culture can change and can be molded.
But what do mean by culture fit?
In the general sense, it is misunderstood to be an assessment of similarity quotient, which has been the bane of ‘diversity & inclusion’ initiatives. The question that must be popping up in your mind is how we guard against it?
There are two critical components to culture fit:
Organization & Team Culture-
It is imperative to explicitly outline the Organizations:
- Desirable Work Environment, e.g., Fun loving or Formal, Free flowing communication, Open door policy, Innovative, Creative, Caring, Respectful, Risk taker or Risk averse, etc.
Objectively define behaviors which would nurture and sustain your culture. Once we have the behaviors identified we need a robust and consistent assessment methodology to assess the candidate for those behaviors. Always keep in hindsight to promote diversity in Culture which will be the foundation for the future.
How do we assess Organization Culture?
Any assessment has to be objectively driven by data, to derive consistency in output. We would start with capturing all data points which would give you glimpses of the Organization culture in action.
Where do we start?
1) Internal Data
Employee engagement surveys, Employee feedback, Town Hall, One-on-ones, Skip sessions, Exit surveys, New hire surveys, Complaints, Performance reviews, etc. are employee touch point data which will give you enough insights on the culture of the Organization and what makes your employee tick as a well-oiled clock or a bomb.
2) External Data
Social media platforms like Glassdoor allows for anonymous employee feedback. Similarly, you would also get such feedback from various social platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.
The above-mentioned route is slightly longer but a comprehensive one. There are tools as well which could shorten the cycle time for you to understand your culture holistically. Then analyze the data mentioned above to reconcile if they are on the same tangent.
Normally when you analyze the data (Internal + External), you would find 3 to 5 culture themes which are common across the organization. Form focus groups to represent all sections of the organization to define and refine these themes.
Once you have zeroed in on culture themes that exist, we need to ascertain if they are in sync with the strategic vision and values of the organization. The top management should be championing this cause, but at this critical juncture, it is imperative they will have to endorse what the future state of the organizational culture should be.
Each of the shortlisted themes would be accompanied by behaviors that would feed into the culture. Please identify those behaviors as it is essential not only to reward acceptable and desirable behaviors but also to reprimand unacceptable behaviors.
Tools to gauge organization culture
There are tools like OCAI, Tinypulse which can help classify your culture type and leader traits.
OCAI is based on a competing values framework. Cameron and Quinn found out that organizations have to choose whether they have:
- Internal focus and integration - or - External focus and differentiation
- Stability and control - or - Flexibility and discretion
The competing values framework emerges by plotting those two dimensions in a matrix. Based on this framework, there are four organizational culture types that emerge: 1) Clan culture, 2) Adhocracy culture, 3) Market culture and 4) Hierarchy culture.
Tinypulse is an emerging player in this area; it helps gauge the pulse of the organization in tiny shots. The key differentiator is ease of use, not time-consuming (one question a week), real-time employee pulse as these changes and evolves.
Tools to gauge associated behaviors
There are various psychometric tools to gauge behaviors; they are mostly based on “Myer Briggs” (MBTI) or “Big 5” theory. (Tools like Predictive Index, Central Test, Aspiring minds)
How do we assess culture fit?
Once we have identified the culture themes & associated behaviors, we want to build and encourage, how do we find candidates who possess those behaviors?
A: There’s a two-step process:
Step 1. Psychometric assessment: By employing any of the psychometric assessment tools, you would have a detailed synopsis of the innate behavior which the candidate possesses. Some tools will also give you details on the Interplay of those behaviors (Linked to competencies) and what Job role would suit them the most. (Note: Please don’t use this step as an elimination step)
Step 2. Behavioral Interview questions: The objective of this step is to deep dive into the behaviors revealed during Step 1. You would build your behavioral question on 2-3 areas of strength and areas of weakness. This will help you understand core behavioral traits of the candidates.
- Culture question: Tell us about your company culture and what two or three components of these cultures you liked the most?
- Culture question: How did your Organization culture help you exceed in your professional goals or customer expectations?
- Team question: Give us a situation where you helped your team meet their deliverables? What was your contribution and what were the challenges?
- Fun@work: When do you celebrate your team success, give us a recent situation where you celebrated your peer’s success?
You could craft more questions basis the behaviors.
Culture fit tools like weirdlyhub, careersunbound and Saberr help gauge the candidate’s culture fitment directly. I would like to mention one unique aspect of Saberr, this tool helps you assess organization culture, candidate behavior & candidate culture fitment along with team fitment score.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own