Google the term “culture fit,” and you’ll find more content than you can read in a month. You’ll also find yourself within a debate – is hiring based on cultural fit too narrow an approach? Does it over-focus on who you want to spend time with versus the unique attributes and skillsets of the candidate? Do you keep the boat steady or rock it a bit?
Many researchers prefer the term “culture add” instead; you are “adding” someone to the team rather than making them “fit” within something already established.
Is there a middle ground between “culture fit” and “culture add?” Is there an approach that focuses on your company’s core values but leaves room for new employees to use their previous experience to improve their new environment? There is, and it’s called “culture alignment.”
What is Culture Alignment?
Culture alignment serves as a hybrid of “culture fit” and culture add.” Through culture alignment, hiring managers focus equally on the candidate’s unique experiences and the core values of the company, and then focus on aligning the two.
Culture alignment focuses on two critical aspects of culture: relationships and skillsets. These two must co-exist to have a fully aligned and engaged employee. You can have someone you love to spend time with, but if their work ethic, innovation, or unique experiences are lacking, they won’t be a good fit. Likewise, you can have someone who is incredibly intelligent, driven, and insightful, but if they are self-serving and prideful, and their core values don’t align with the company’s, they won’t be a good fit.
Hiring based on cultural alignment seeks to find the employee who is a good match for your team relationally and also pushes you creatively.
You Spend More Time with Colleagues than with Family
So much of our life is spent working – shouldn’t we do our best to hire people with creative energy who share common values and goals, and desire to use their unique skillsets and experiences to push the company forward? Of course we should!
When you take a statistical look at how a week is spent, it reminds you how important cultural alignment is. In a small business, one hire makes a huge impact on the health of your company.
Each week, we spend …
- 42-56 hours sleeping
- 40-48 hours working
- 28-32 hours with your spouse
- 17-19 hours with your children
Only sleep occupies more of your time than work. We owe it to ourselves, our team, and our clients to be culturally aligned at work.
5 Benefits of a Culturally Aligned Team
Cultural alignment carries several benefits. Here are a few:
- It makes hiring easier; a healthy team will recommend friends to apply for positions
- It increases your employee engagement and helps you retain your team
- It improves the level of customer service you provide to your clients
- It improves the overall production quality of your work
- It enhances everyone’s enjoyment level at work
With a culturally aligned company, it’s possible to enjoy what you do (job), who you do it with (colleagues), and who you do it for (clients).
Your Company Culture is Developed in 4 Ways
So, what exactly are you aligning new hires to? Though there are a lot of factors, company culture is developed in 4 primary ways:
- Company culture is rooted in your core values
- Company culture is affected by your industry, services, and clients
- Company culture should never be adapted from another company
- Company culture is established organically and over time
Let’s take a look at each of these.
Company culture is rooted in your core values
The core values of a company define what’s most important to you, serve as your primary navigational tool, and help you decide where to invest your limited amount of time and resources. Your core values answer one simple, yet monumental question: what characteristics of our company, if they went missing, would leave us directionless and without meaning?
M&R Marketing’s core values are relational, insightful, innovative, and passionate, and they shape our culture. We call it being RIIP (ripe). It’s impossible to create a healthy culture if you aren’t operating based on your core values.
Company culture is affected by your industry, services, and clients
Every company is unique. Your team may be small and in one office, you may have remote employees, or you may have hundreds of employees across multiple offices in multiple states. Your team may spend their entire day in the field and never set foot in an office. Your industry may not allow you to close the doors for a few hours during normal working hours. Every office will have cultural challenges, and that’s why your culture has to be unique to you and will require finding creative ways to engage, value, and empower your team.
Company culture should never be adapted from another company
Every business has competitors, and while there’s value in knowing what they’re doing, it’s possible to know too much. If you lose your conviction, you’re paying too close attention. If you lose your confidence, you’re paying too close attention. If you lose your ability to make difficult, risky decisions, you’re paying too close attention. Your work must be grounded in your conviction, confidence, and decisions … all of which should be rooted in your core values.
Your core values will push you further than the work of a competitor ever will. The world doesn’t need more copycats. It needs businesses who will stand on their convictions and commit to live by a set of authentic, passionate values. That is what will impact communities and change the world, little by little, and that is what will establish and maintain the cultural alignment of your company.
Company culture is established organically and over time
While your company culture is deeply rooted in your core values and convictions, your company culture will evolve. From a startup with 2 employees in 1 room to a team of 20+ with 5 departments, senior leadership, offices, and remote employees in multiple states, M&R’s culture has changed. As your team dynamics evolve, the way you relate and engage your team must follow.
5 Tips for Hiring a Culturally Aligned Team
With your core values established and a steady focus on your company culture, you’ll realize your company has a personality. It will be known for certain things. For any company, no matter your values, industry, or size, the most important part is your team, which means hiring is a vital activity. So, how do you make good hiring decisions and bring in people who align with your company’s culture, values, and goals?
Here’s 5 tips:
- Remain active as owners in the hiring process for as long as possible
- Involve your department head and other senior leadership in hiring decisions
- Craft your interview questions around your core values
- Respect the candidate’s journey to interviewing with your company
- Get to know the candidate before submitting a job offer
Let’s take a look at each of these.
Remain active as owners in the hiring process for as long as possible
Delegation is an important aspect of empowering leadership and freeing you up to focus on your greatest skillsets. However, maintaining a role in the hiring process for a small business owner carries great benefit. You have the deepest understanding of your business, your core values, and your goals for the future. It also shows candidates from the beginning that you’re invested in the company and in them.
Involve your department head and other senior leadership in hiring decisions
It’s important to involve senior leadership from the department you are hiring for. They will have a deeper insight into the needs of the department, the most needed skillsets of team members, and whether someone will culturally align with their team.
Craft your interview questions around your core values
Over the years, our interview questions have evolved and become more specific to who we are as a company. This includes asking questions that help us determine culture alignment. By asking open-ended, non-leading questions that are focused on your core values, you can learn a lot about the candidate and envision how well they will align with the rest of your team.
Respect the candidate’s journey to interviewing with your company
Think about the candidate’s journey: before they applied, they chose a major in college, then a career path, then an industry to work in, then chose a city to live in, and eventually, a specific job to work at. That’s how they found your job opening. It took a lot of preparation and decisions to arrive at the interview. Respecting that journey as a hiring manager will improve your initial interaction with the candidate and be a foundational step in cultural alignment.
Take time getting to know the candidate before submitting a job offer
We have 3 rounds of interviews for each position, and this always includes a meal together. For our production positions, we also include a full day of paid work within their department, working on actual projects that are then evaluated by our team. They interact with multiple departments throughout the day. Our process is meant to evaluate alignment with our core values and overall skillset. You can’t spend too much time during the hiring process.
How Do You Maintain Culture Alignment with your Team?
Your culture becomes who you are as a company. It’s not a paragraph that gets stuck in your onboarding deck. It’s not what you tell your colleagues at the Chamber event. It’s not what you promise your team and fail to deliver on. It’s also never finished. Your culture evolves as your business does.
It’s been said you can quickly learn what’s important to someone by looking at their calendar and their bank account. The same is true for a company. Take a look at how you spend your time and how you spend your money – is it being invested in your team? Is it working to create a meaningful place for your team to spend the majority of their waking hours?
Culture is a daily activity, and having your team aligned is one of your greatest priorities as a business leader or hiring manager.