STORY INLINE POST
What is cultural fit, or adaptability, and what does it look like?
It refers to the alignment of people with the corporate culture and the affinity they demonstrate not only with the company’s beliefs, values, purpose and policies but also in the way they express themselves, their hobbies, use of their time or dress, among others. It is like wanting to have the whole combo while forgetting the immensity that implies being a human being beyond that.
According to a Harvard Business Review article, it "is the likelihood that someone will reflect on and/or be able to adapt to the fundamental beliefs, attitudes and behaviors that make up their organization."
So far, we should all be nodding our heads in agreement because this whole package generates positive involvement in achievement, culture, happy employees and employer branding, which are undoubtedly key factors in brand positioning and mobilizing a strategy. So far, it all makes sense. Where we sometimes fail to stop and think about carefully is how we generate the evangelization of a DNA. Often, we only build it thinking about how people should fit, and how this can generate so much pressure that the glass breaks because no one can hide what their essence and soul really are for long. So, the culture and adaptation to it should not be to simply fit but to ensure that each individual with their essence, skills or qualities mobilize those values, purpose and forms of management vital to the business.
If we focus on cultural fit, giving it an outstanding weight in the talent selection process, and as recruiters or hiring managers we select the candidate who fits the exact mold, where do we leave the concept and current reality of diversity and inclusion, according to the meaning that I love from Verna Myers (VP, Inclusion Strategy): "Diversity is to be invited to the party, inclusion is to be asked to dance." Where then is the party and the dance that we so loudly ask for?
Therefore, having a clear approach to and a deep understanding of the cultural fit concept is for me non-negotiable in these times, because a bad concept and practice affect diversity and inclusion, factors that have proven to increase creativity, productivity, satisfaction and effectiveness among employees of any company and even more so with multicultural and multifunctional teams.
Therefore, in my concept and experience, when analyzing the candidate's adaptability, it is important to delimit key questions, although it is not necessary to make apologies, or parties, because a structured conversation as part of the process should be designed to generate affinities and share narratives, without which the cultural fit can become the stopper of the processes of attracting talent or the excuse for a layoff by a leader, regardless of the essence of that individual, taking for granted that we attract good human beings each with their own diversity. This also should not overlook the achievements and technical capabilities of a talented candidate who ultimately can move the needle of the business and contribute to its OKR (objectives and key results). The objective of a cultural fit is not to fit into a mold; it is about how the essence and behavior patterns of talented human beings will fit, enjoy and manage objectives versus the company’s culture and way of working.
You share something with each person you interview. You share time, energy, experience and conscious and unconscious expectations. When we listen to each other bidirectionally, we can know what is diametrically close or far from where each one wants to be as talent and as a company. This brings to mind the now famous "hire slow" concept. That does not mean having an eternal selection process for attracting and hiring talent; it means taking the time to have conversations with candidates (with or without vacancies as the mission of talent attraction (TA) professionals is always to have a relationship with all that market potential) and not monologues. We cannot pretend as TA professionals or hiring managers that having two 30-minute interviews is enough because there is never time in the schedule for more and if the candidate does not work out, blame it on the cultural fit.
With the above, I want to be emphatic that I am not against theories or studies on adaptability to an organizational culture; those are important, and it is obvious that adjusting to the culture of an environment makes life easier. What I want is to create awareness to not demonize the concept and commit the sin of seeking to fit people according to prejudices or tastes. We must train our teams and leaders so that the arguments for not advancing the process with candidates never include phrases like: "X’s view is super different from the founders;" "X person in management does not like working with women;" "He said that his dream is to be a professional tennis player, so when will he work? I don't think you can do both;" "He likes to meditate and there is no time here for calm, we always go at a thousand miles an hour," etc. I hear these phrases at least once a week with clients as a headhunter for more than 10 years and with the hiring managers of the companies where I have had the fortune to work.
Having honest, transparent conversations where you share and have the freedom to ask deep-dive questions is invaluable. I am a fan of the new generations. I spend hours having coffee with them virtually or in person and their constant questions are related to zooming in on the purpose, how did they get there, what social impact programs will they have, and what kind of technology will they use in the company? If I could talk to someone from the team and not the leader, or a former employee, what would they tell me about their culture, way of working and how they treat people?
This makes more sense and here we do not fit. Here, what happens is that we look for adhesion on both sides, we seek to strengthen or generate a more authentic match between the individual (talent-candidate) and the collective (organizations) because if there is understanding and real sharing of values, purposes, and above all, a respect for the diversity that by human nature exists in each one of us, it is very interesting because we value the difference of perspectives, skills, tastes, experiences to also value the mutation, novelty and innovation that occurs in the difference and diversity of molds within a group.
What a pleasure when regardless of whether the candidate is selected, he/she is left with a taste of happiness and satisfactory employer branding. That we allow ourselves to be in essence those candidates does not make us or them weak, it makes us share each other in essence, and in these conversations many new ideas emerge, insights that even we as a company have not identified and that contribute to the end-user experience, the associate, suppliers, etc. In the same way, I invite you not to force the essence and do not look for candidates and employees who fit into a mold. Do not set limitations. It is better to provide space for creativity and respect the essence of each person.
Without ever leaving DNA, values and company purpose aside, we can have a mix of the adaptability of a person, his essence and the essence of the company. I invite you to be more conscious in our talent attraction processes, more responsible and human. I’ll leave you with some questions that could replace standard older questions, like if your leader shouts at you, how do you react? (I have lived that myself, so let's not allow bad cultures and let's not normalize that people have to fit in them). Let's build questions with more depth and that lead to interesting conversations and sharing:
If you need to learn more about your new role or field of work, what blogs or books or even coaches would you seek out to accomplish this?
What steps do you take to resolve team conflicts? Which of your values help you in conflict resolution?
We have already told you about our culture and way of working. Compare this to your past experiences. Which one will help you grow and feel motivated on a daily basis? Please give me an in-depth and honest answer.
Let’s change the long-term goals cliché question, how do you see yourself in five years? Let's change this. What short-term goals will be your main priority in your personal life and the challenge in this new job challenge if you are the candidate hired by our organization?
For you, how important is it to already have structured career plans, diversity and inclusion and work protocols? Are you aware of the stage our company is in? Are you comfortable with it?
What type of people do you find difficult to work with in a team? Is there a personality type that makes it difficult for you to perform a task? This question also gives us clues about performance and how we as a company can contribute to their development if they are hired.
How interesting that within your daily schedule you do x or y activities, take time for your children, pets, etc. How do you organize yourself to always have a work-life balance?
Many of these are friendly questions and, in exploration mode, open a door for us to create more conscious processes, with less prejudice and the ability to share ourselves.