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Hiring for cultural fit: the diversity equation

23rd Nov 2016
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What does the future look like for those organisations which are looking to cast off the shackles of the past and embrace a more proactive and innovative culture? This is part 3 of our 'How to build a Next Generation culture' series, where we're taking a look at all the aspects that go into making a strong company culture; from leadership, to recruitment, to strategy.

How does your recruitment programme work?

Do you look for personal qualities or abilities, qualifications or past experience?

Do you skim application forms, ticking off criteria against a preset list; or do you search for that special something which may enrich the organisation?

It’s difficult isn’t it, particularly for those jobs where you’ve had hundreds of applicants. Even the task of selecting a shortlist can seem almost insurmountable, particularly when filling a vacant role is an additional burden on an already busy schedule. In all honesty, can you afford to spend the time in an in-depth examination of each application?

Well in all honesty, I would ask whether you can afford not to! It doesn’t matter what the role is; it could be post room assistant or the new finance director, the person which you employ is going to have a profound effect on the culture and attitude of the organisation. Choose the wrong person and not only will you regret it, the chances are you’ll be faced with the task of filling that post again as well as a number of other roles which have been vacated by unhappy employees.

This is why the idea of hiring for cultural fit has risen up the company agenda in recent years. Let’s take the time now to dispel one myth; hiring for cultural fit is not the same as hiring a bunch of clones who will all react identically to any challenge. Quite frankly, if you’re going to go down that route then you might as well automate as many of your processes as you can and subcontract the rest to an organisation which will guarantee to follow a ‘computer says’ pathway in every case.

Supporting culture and ethos

When you hire for cultural fit, you are in fact looking for individuals who will support the culture and ethos of the organisation and who will bring something extra to help push the organisation along.

Hiring for cultural fit may mean that you do take on the mavericks, the process followers, the ideas people

Looking at an extreme example, if the organisation values honesty and probity then hiring for cultural fit would exclude someone who admits to having ‘fudged the numbers’ in response to pressure from a superior. Similarly, if the organisation prides itself on its customer service then hiring for cultural fit would exclude those who prioritise tasks over customer interactions.

But hiring for cultural fit may mean that you do take on the mavericks, the process followers, the ideas people if in doing so you believe that they could add significantly to the aims and direction of the business. Always provided, of course, that you also believe these individuals will engage with the underlying culture and strategy.

The diversity equation

There is another reason why hiring for cultural fit has risen up the agenda in recent years and that is diversity. Let’s be clear, diversity is not simply a tick box exercise in response to external pressure. Nor is it a quota filling attempt to balance gender or ethnicity or any other criteria. In fact, diversity can be just as much about difference of approach and experience as it is about anything else.

Why bother with diversity? Quite simply, because when a diverse workforce represents diversity within the organisation’s sphere of influence then it speaks far more closely to its consumer base. And when a business is in tune with customers not only is it more likely to deliver customer excellence, it is also far more likely to deliver innovative solutions which resonate with its consumers. As the ex-CEO of Ford, Alan Mullally, said ‘diversity is the only business case we need – the only way to satisfy diverse customers is to include their perspectives inside the company.’

Diversity can be just as much about difference of approach and experience as it is about anything else.

So hiring a diverse workforce with a view to cultural fit is an imperative those organisations which want to really deliver something in terms of customer excellence and results. And yes this does require organisations to take a good hard look at their recruitment process, how they define job descriptions, review applications and their interview process. And yes it may also require organisations to look again at the way in which jobs are structured; offering part-time, flexible and job share roles in a bid to attract the most suitable candidates.

Onboarding culture

The work doesn’t stop there. Because hiring is one thing, bringing someone on board in a way that enables them to engage with the culture is another. Induction processes which run along the lines of ‘here is your desk, there is your work’, belong in the past. Hopefully the advertising-interview-selection process will have led to an initial appreciation of cultural values but unless further work is done at the outset, your new employee will always be playing catch up.

Admittedly that may make the induction process somewhat longer than was common in the past but if at the end of it you have an employee who is fully engaged, up to speed and ready to make a positive contribution then any initial time taken is time well spent. And anyway, technology can help increase the efficiency of the onboarding process through new-starter apps and their instant provision of company documents and collateral, and clever use of video to help start to embed people into the work environment and culture.

Technology can help increase the efficiency of the onboarding process through new-starter apps and their instant provision of company documents

That your people are your greatest asset isn’t simply a cliché, they really are! And that pile of application forms on your desk isn’t simply a task to be got through as quickly as possible; it represents the potential future of your organisation.

How does your recruitment programme work? Let’s hope that through diversity and with an eye to cultural fit your recruitment programme finds strong candidates who are in tune with your culture and will bring something special to benefit your business, its investors and its customers.

Read the rest of Jo Geraghty's 'How to Build a Next Generation culture' series

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