Your company culture is the living, breathing, beating heart of your business so why would you recruit employees who don’t align with it? It’s a potential recipe for disaster which is why matching your culture to your new recruits is vital for business growth.

What is cultural fit?

It’s hard to define cultural fit, it’s quite an intangible concept. But essentially it’s when your employees’ beliefs, attitudes, behaviours and values align with those of your company. You probably can’t put your finger on exactly what it is but you’ll know when it’s missing and there’s disharmony in the business.

More tangible things can also feed into company culture such as whether your staff are comfortable disagreeing with senior managers, whether you have reserved parking spaces based on seniority and on-site day care, gyms, relaxation rooms, free fruit carts and so on.

It’s important to remember that cultural fit doesn’t mean hiring everyone with the same cultural background, skin colour or educational experience - diversity can and should still be maintained and encouraged. Just as you’ll find people with a wildly different background to you who share the same values, you’ll find people who have an extremely similar background but whose values are nothing like yours. 

How is culture related to recruitment?

Culture feeds into recruitment right from the start. Your employer brand, the thing that will attract new employees to you, is essentially based on your culture. For example, Google is well known for its employee-centred culture with great perks, a fun and innovative working environment and serious flexibility for staff. By marketing your culture to potential staff you’ll attract people who fit that culture and deter those who would be more effective in a different culture.

Recruiting people with the right cultural fit also helps to reduce staff turnover. If you recruit purely for the job rather than the job and culture, you can end up with employees who expect a different culture and when it doesn’t meet their expectations they leave.

Roles and responsibilities will change over time but your fundamental cultural values will stay the same. If you have someone with the right cultural fit, then they should be able to cope well with the changes and move into the changed or new role. 

Why should small businesses use company culture to recruit?

You might think that as a small business you don’t really have a culture but you most definitely do! It may be that your culture is more focussed on you, your vision, your attitude and behaviour directly than in a large organisation like John Lewis where it is more focussed on the business, especially if you’re very hands on in the business.

As a small business you don’t want the cost and waste of high staff turnover but you do want the right people to help your business grow so recruiting with cultural fit in mind is important. Here are a few more reasons why you should consider it when recruiting:

Attracts top talent

Employees place a lot of importance on the benefits that come with the job – the tangible and the less tangible ones like work environment and company feel. If you can cultivate an attractive culture, a place where people really want to work, then you’ll get a wider pool of talented individuals applying.

Differentiation from competitors

Your culture can define you and make you different from other businesses. A potential employee might choose your company over another even if remuneration is the same because the culture at yours is better suited to them.

Each company culture is unique

There is no one company culture to suit everyone and what is right for a financial tech start up may be very different from and that of an accountancy firm. It’s about figuring out what your particular culture is and conveying it to staff and customers.

Staff retention

If staff have the same outlook as your company culture they are likely to be more loyal and stay. If someone doesn’t fit, they will leave and you’ll have to start recruiting again. According to one study by the Society for Human Resource Management, the result of staff turnover due to poor cultural fit can cost a business as much as 60% of the person’s salary.

Results of hiring a poor cultural fit 

Staff with a poor cultural fit can have an adverse impact on your organisation, leading to higher staff turnover, lower productivity, poor morale and ultimately less or slower business growth. 

Staff turnover and costs involved

The cost of losing an employee is high and not one you want your business to incur with major regularity. Our Culture Economy report found that 34% of UK employees have left a job due to company culture which costs the UK economy £23.6 billion each year. Some studies say it costs £30,000 to recruit and replace each one. Others say it is 1.5-2x the person’s annual salary. In addition, it can take months or even years before a person is fully productive.

Reduced productivity

According to one study, companies where there is a poor cultural fit and lack of engagement with employees will experience a 33% decrease in operating income and an 11% increase in earnings growth while those with engaged employees will see a 19% increase in operating income and 28% increase in earnings growth. They’re not the only stats out there, there are plenty more but the trend is the same. Happy employees = greater productivity and greater growth.

Toxic environment

Where there is poor cultural fit between the business and its employees the environment could be downright miserable to work in. Communication will be poor, leadership is domineering and bullying rather than inspiring and engaging, company rules and procedures will be applied unequally to employees and there will be very little emphasis on the company mission, removing a sense of purpose from employees. All this will lead to reduced productivity and higher staff turnover. 

Example questions to use in an interview when determining cultural fit

Unsure where or how to start using culture as a recruitment tool? Here are a few interview questions that you can use to determine whether or not a candidate would be a good cultural fit for your small business.

  1. What type of culture do you think you could really thrive in?

  2. Describe a work environment or culture in which you are most happy? 

  3. What management style do you respond best to?

  4. How do you feel about becoming friends with co-workers? Is this a good practice?

  5. What is the most important factor in your work environment for you to be successfully and happily employed?

  6. If you work in a team what part are you most likely to play?

  7. Can you give an example of a time when you went over and above to please a customer and exceeded their expectations? 

  8. Do you prefer working alone or as part of a team?

  9. What is a pet hate for you at work?

  10. What do you want from life? What attracted you to this company?

Culture economy