Corporate culture is a broad concept that can encompass many and varied elements, ranging from how employees dress and the official work hours to company-sponsored recreational pursuits and who brings in birthday cakes. It includes pervasive work habits, customer relations, how people work and how they have fun. There are small but important issues as well to consider—is it OK to eat at your desk? What about phone vs. email vs. texting? Which issues, if any, can lower-level employees bring up to management?
The corporate culture evolves over time, and while written rules and procedures may contribute to its development (both positively and negatively), much more is involved than what appears in the employee manual.
What is a cultural fit, you ask? The congruence between an employee’s personality and the organization itself. The benefits of having employees who are a good cultural fit within your organization have been shown to improve job satisfaction, commitment, work performance, and retention.
Because corporate culture is developed by employees at all levels of the organization, hiring decisions are central to its unfolding. How new hires will adapt to the culture and in turn shape it are vital considerations in the recruitment process.
Here are seven steps to selecting new hires who will benefit your corporate culture:
- Define important aspects of your corporate culture in writing. Yes, it is impossible to tie down every detail, but start with what can be documented. Does your company have a mission statement that reflects the firm’s true aspirations? An employee manual that is respected and followed?
- Show interviewees who are under serious consideration where they will work. Let them see the office. Allow them to talk to future coworkers, perhaps even have out-of-office conversations.
- Be prepared to discuss the corporate culture. If you are uncomfortable with the question or believe you must dress it up, there’s a problem. Face it and try to resolve it. Topics may include what the average workday looks like, how much overtime is typically worked and how much lead notice there typically is, the pace of work from day to day and from season to season, how employee performance is measured, and how much work at home is allowed (or preferred!)
- Elicit information during the interview that puts the candidate on the spot to reveal what he is really like. Ask for stories that relate the candidate’s personality and past experience to the job in question. Request tales about how she interacted with coworkers in previous jobs.
- Avoid tired, stale questions. Everyone expects to be asked where he wants to be in five years or his greatest weakness. Overworked questions reveal nothing useful.
- Prohibit discrimination on the basis of protected class, such as age, gender, religion, race, national origin, or disability. Cultural fit is not a code word for “we only hire people who have these same characteristics as us.”
- Conduct formal behavioral assessments as another tool to determine cultural fit. While you are at it, conduct such assessments of current employees. This can help you get a better picture of the corporate culture and what traits may contribute to a candidate’s fit.
Most of all, give the candidate space to talk. Let her do 90% of the talking if possible. Explaining the corporate culture is important, but listening to the candidate is even more vital to determine what his personality is really like.