How (and Why) to Have Structured Conversations about Culture Fit

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Most people see culture fit as something to screen candidates for during the hiring process, and that’s true – it’s important to 95% of job seekers, 96% of HR leaders, and 94% of executives.

But it’s not the whole picture. To know what to screen candidates for, you need to ask your whole organization first about what your culture currently is, and what culture fit means for each team.

Develop Structured Conversations 

The best way to approach this is by having structured conversations. Bias can creep into unstructured conversations because people often unconsciously interpret “culture fit” as “people who are like me.”  This bias harms your efforts to create a diverse and inclusive organization.

Having structured conversations – one where you determine the questions ahead of time, and ask everyone the same questions – reduces the chances of bias. Of course, you might have a different set of questions for leaders vs. individual contributors, or for the finance team vs. customer service. But coming up with questions ahead of time and sticking to that list helps eliminate bias.

SHRM recommends focusing these questions on competencies and job-related factors to make them more definite. Asking your employees to dig into what it means to collaborate effectively, such as creating shareable resources or proactively volunteering for team projects, can help reduce bias by making culture clearly based on job-related factors.

Embrace Open Communication

Employees may be hesitant to discuss elements of culture with HR teams, especially when a workplace is toxic, because they fear repercussions. It’s your role to create an environment for these structured conversations where they feel safe to share what they really think.

You can create this feeling by explaining clearly to employees what you’re asking, why you’re asking, and what you will do with their answers. Giving them the opportunity to make suggestions and ask questions openly also encourages open communication and ensures you’ll get accurate, actionable answers.

Define Your Culture Clearly

Once you’ve received feedback from employees at all levels, it’s time to carefully define your culture. What are the principles, values, and skills that make your organization tick? What makes you unique from other organizations? What are the ingredients that make up a successful person on your team? Distill this abstract idea of culture into some very clear things you can anchor on and look for in candidates in the future.

Sometimes these conversations haven’t happened in a systematic manner in organizations. And if you don’t air them out together, you can’t have effective conversations later on about hiring the right people, encouraging them to stay, and even improving your culture over time.

Follow Up with Employees 

Once you’ve had these structured, in-depth conversations with employees and leaders, the work isn’t done. You should follow up to let them know what definitions of culture fit you landed on, and how you’re using that definition to hire the best candidates and make your workplace even better.

An internal communications plan to share this information should be part of your structured conversations strategy, whether it’s in email updates, town halls, or other communications from HR and leadership.

Employees are more likely to be open with you in the future if you show that you listened to their feedback and acted on it – they’ll know you hear and value their voices. And when you come back later for another round of conversations, they’ll be willing to share again because they know their contributions made a difference.

The Benefits of Culture Fit Conversations 

culture that brings out the best in your employees is the difference between good and great. And you won’t know exactly what that culture looks like unless you have consistent and open conversations with your current employees.

Hiring candidates who align with your culture leads to greater retention and employee happiness. What makes an employee thrive in your world? There’s no perfect personality profile that makes someone a good worker – but there’s a perfect profile for your particular organization and role. And determining what culture fit looks like through conversations with your employees helps everyone achieve maximum success.

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This post was originally published on the Cangrade blog.

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