A finger is pushing the last piece of a multi-coloured jigsaw into place.
Image: © Love the wind/Stock.adobe.com

What hiring based on ‘culture fit’ really means

6 Jan 2020

Future of work expert Cheryl Cran explores why hiring people for culture fit and diversity is the key to an engaged workforce.

The World Economic Forum predicts that worker shortages and the race to find good people are two trends continuing into 2020.

The new division of labour between machines and humans will create at least 133m new roles for humans by 2022, it said. The demand for technical skills will increase along with skills that are human centric such as creative thinking, decision making and negotiating.

Although technical skills are a key skill needed by employers, it is vitally important that companies are looking at employee ‘culture fit’ as a key focus when hiring.

Aligning values

A Dutch recruiter study found that 84pc of recruiters surveyed state that culture fit is one of the most important recruitment factors, and nine out of 10 said they have passed on applicants who were not aligned with company values and culture.

Companies such as Amazon are looking to hire for culture fit as its key success criteria for new hires. Recently, Amazon announced that it was no longer requiring job applicants to have degrees – instead the company would hire based on culture fit and then provide skills development through its internally created university.

A Harvard Business Review article in February 2018 made the counter argument against hiring for culture fit because it limits diversity. The key to successfully hiring for culture is to have a definition of culture fit that includes a diverse workforce. A review of culture fit should focus on how well the person’s values align with that of the organisation, rather than how well their personal characteristics – such as gender, ethnicity, age and sexual orientation – align with the current workforce.

How to merge culture fit with diversity

Research shows that adopting an updated view of culture fit can reap benefits while still bringing in diverse perspectives and skills. To ensure you are hiring for culture fit without sacrificing diversity, there are key questions to be considered:

  1. What are the core attributes of our culture?
  2. Who has succeeded in our culture and why?
  3. What are the elements of our culture that could be difficult to navigate?
  4. What is it about our culture that helps people succeed?

The answers to the above questions will help identify the ‘who’ that has been successful and the ‘why’. It’s important to know what areas of the culture are challenging and to acknowledge the level of diversity. Hiring for culture does not mean we dismiss the need to create a diverse culture.

There are a number of ways to help align culture fit with a new hire. In the interview process, it’s imperative that an honest overview of culture is shared with the potential hire. Most applicants will have checked out your company on Glassdoor in advance of their interview. Often the ratings and comments on Glassdoor given to an employer quite clearly spell out the true culture based on employee reviews.

Retention of the right people

Hiring for culture leads to greater retention. Higher diversity also leads to greater retention.

Pursuing culture fit and diversity together can buffer some of the challenges that come with managing a more diverse workforce. When done right, hiring for culture fit might enrich rather than undermine diversity in your organisation.

In the future, the employers that will be successful with hiring will be very mindful of ensuring the right person for the work. Finding the right person means ensuring that he or she is aligned with the mission, vision and values of the company. In addition, a key element of ensuring a culture fit is to clearly communicate the diversity of the culture and to ensure the person is aligned with working in a diverse culture.


By Cheryl Cran

Cheryl Cran is a future of work expert and author of NextMapping: Anticipate, Navigate & Create the Future of Work.

Loading now, one moment please! Loading