culture fit remote workforce
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Does culture fit matter for a remote workforce?

6 Mar 2018

Culture fit was once one of the most important parts of working for a company, but how much does it really matter when the future of work points to a remote workforce?

Company culture is one of the most important things to look at as a jobseeker. Will I like working here? Do their values align with my own? Will their style of working suit me?

Equally, recruiters will always look for the right culture fit when it comes to hiring someone. Will this person fit in well with the rest of the team? Does their working style complement the team dynamics we already have here?

Culture fit is so important that when it comes to new hires, HR start-ups and AI platforms are looking into ways to identify markers that will show who the best fit is for the team.

Good&Co is a software platform that acts as a matchmaker between companies and jobseekers. Its psychometric algorithm taps into more than 20 years of career psychometrics and psychological analysis, to help jobseekers identify their professional style for better fit with current and potential employers.

“There’s no magic bullet to avoid hiring duds but there are some things that are measurable,” said Samar Birwadker, CEO of Good&Co, during a recent webinar about team culture. “There’s no such thing as a bad employee, there is just a bad fit.”

The importance of culture fit

When it comes to hiring the right person for the right job, there are a number of things to consider, from experience and previous jobs, to skills and abilities.

How much weight should recruiters put on culture fit compared to a prospective employee’s skills and qualifications? Birwadker said it should only be considered supplementary to a person’s ability to do the job.

“Recruiters can use this information to compare applicants, determining key factors that go beyond basic information about background and skills,” he said.

“Our approach is designed to help reduce bias with the goal of being more objective than traditional hiring methods, as we do not base our algorithms on gender, race or socioeconomic background.”

HR thought leader Josh Bersin also spoke about the importance of culture fit and how often a bad hire can happen due to a mismatch.

He cited research carried out by Boris Groysberg, Ashish Nanda and Nitin Nohria of Harvard Business School, with the findings showing that high-flying investment bankers who were considered stars in their careers essentially crashed and burned when they were snapped up by another company.

The reason? According to the study, a star’s performance can be linked to the company they work for, which can be linked to the company culture. If the fit isn’t right at the next company, it won’t matter how impressive that person was; it will be akin to trying to jam the wrong piece into a jigsaw.

Culture fit, party of one

There have been countless studies, reports and comments from thought leaders who believe that the future of work will feature a dominant freelancing or remote workforce.

In fact, recent research shows that remote-working policies will rival the popularity of fixed office locations by 2025.

With fewer people working face to face with their colleagues, and many workers becoming a ‘team of one’, how will culture fit factor in for the jobseekers of the future?

Bersin said there will always need to be a human element to team culture. “As noted in an MIT study and as I’ve seen in my work, small teams of four or five people work best.

“This isn’t to say that remote teams can’t work,” he said. “It will just take more effort to create the kind of rapport that in-person teams develop naturally. Tools like video conferencing, quarterly on-site meetings and other digital resources are ways to help foster the same sense of team culture.”

Indeed, even in the working world we currently know, culture fit is important for international teams as well as those who work in close proximity.

Birwadker wrote a piece for Entrepreneur earlier this year about ensuring and maintaining a positive culture fit when working across different time zones.

Each year, we send all of our employees to our annual kick-off, which really works to build rapport, enable communication to solve challenges and create more personal interactions for the remainder of the year,” he said.

Finding the freelance culture fit

It’s one thing if you’re a remote worker for a single company, but what if you’re a freelancer or contractor, working transiently with a number of different companies and teams?

Birwadker said it will take more active consideration by the team itself to include freelancers and remote workers in daily conversation. “Ultimately, communication, whether face to face or online, is the foundation of culture, particularly among a distributed team,” he said.

“With this in mind, we’d advise putting extra focus on communication style when hiring freelancers or remote workers. Ensuring the communication style of a remote worker is compatible with the rest of their team can help ensure remote workers remain integrated into your team’s culture.”

While it’s important to find a good culture fit, apps such as Good&Co match people with the right culture based on a series of quizzes and tests. But, having taken these kinds of tests before and testing the app out for myself, it was hard not to try and guess what I thought might be ‘the right answer’.

Would this mean my answers weren’t genuine? Could I end up with the wrong culture fit or, perhaps more importantly, could a company end up with the wrong candidate based on their ability to ‘trick the system’?

“The tendency to scope what is being measured by an assessment and tweak the outcome is pretty much universal,” said Birwadker.

“Questions about time-travelling aliens may seem offbeat, but they allow us to learn more about your personality than we would, simply by asking whether you like to go to noisy parties.”

Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the deputy editor of Silicon Republic in 2020, having worked as the careers editor until June 2019. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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