Ensuring new employees are a cultural fit is key for a happy business

Written by
Inji Duducu

22 Oct 2015

22 Oct 2015 • by Inji Duducu

If you’ve worked in HR for any amount of time, you’ll have heard people say you should hire for attitude and train for skill – a view that was pretty revolutionary when Asda went public with it in the 90s, but is increasingly mainstream now, says Inji Duducu. Are you ensuring this? 

Ensure productivity

Confirming new hires are a cultural fit for your company is hugely important and, if done correctly, can accelerate the rate at which new starters become productive, and maintain an engaged and loyal workforce. But is it something you are truly testing for at selection?

What is company culture?

The starting point is obviously having an understanding of what your culture is and what attitudes will work for you. When I worked at HBOS, we identified that our best performing people in the processing teams had a desire to help people and were open to change, so instead of asking them competency based questions about working in admin, we asked them the last time they had helped a stranger and when they had last tried something new. First year turnover plummeted. Working in a values driven mutual like Benenden, its vital that we find people who share our passion for a different way of doing business and respect our membership model and democracy. A company’s culture is often expressed as “the way we do things around here”. Its woven through assumptions and stories, and you see it in action in the language, the routines and the symbols. The best test of what an organisation values is what it spends time and money on.

The benefits of a cultural fit

All employers want a new hire to slot seamlessly into their business, allowing the employee to work freely and efficiently with their new colleagues. Think about what all the values, beliefs, behavioural systems and language that currently exist within your organisation are, and how you can observe them and measure them through selection.

Organisations with truly unusual cultures often prefer to recruit from outside their industry, because experienced people are often too ingrained in a certain way of being and doing things. The online retailer Zappos thinks culture is so important that at the end of induction, they offer everyone a month’s salary to leave. Their thinking is that if you’re really bought into their vision you won’t leave for that, and if you’re not bought into their vision and values, one month’s salary is a cheap way of finding out. In any organisation, people who don’t fit with the culture and their team aren’t going to stay and perform at their best.

Ultimately, ensuring new starters are a cultural fit is key for a happy business, more productive employees, more team cohesiveness, and better staff longevity. Those who embrace a company’s ethos make fantastic brand ambassadors, engaged employees and a loyal workforce – something that we are all striving for.