One in five wouldn't hire the wrong cultural fit

Employers see a candidate’s cultural fit as very important, but experts warn this mustn't turn into bias

One in five (17%) employers wouldn’t hire a candidate if they were not the right cultural fit for their organisation, according to a survey by totaljobs.

The survey found that 67% of employers see a candidate’s cultural fit as ‘very important’ in the hiring process, with only 1% seeing it as not important.

More than three-quarters (76%) said cultural fit helps to improve staff retention, while 70% said it improves job satisfaction. Additionally, 64% said it makes work a more fun place to be for everyone, while 60% said it increases productivity and makes employees more committed.

“Much like reputation, company culture takes a long time to build but can be broken in an instant,” advised Matthew Harradine, director at totaljobs. “It’s important, therefore, to not rock the boat with new hires – they must fit in with the company culture you’ve created.”

But others warned, in response to these findings, of the danger of hiring on cultural fit straying into bias and exclusionary practices.

Louise Ashley, a lecturer at the University of London specialising in research on diversity and inclusion programmes, told HR magazine: “Cultural fit in the workplace is associated with positive outcomes, including for example job satisfaction and commitment. But appointing on the basis of ‘fit’ is also problematic – a body of research demonstrates that this entrenches the tendency for managers to recruit and promote in their own image, contributing to a lack of diversity in many organisations.

“While it is by no means always the case, in many organisations the decision makers who set the dominant culture are drawn from a pretty homogenous group – often men, who are often white, and who may for example come from relatively privileged backgrounds. In those organisations, without careful checks and balances including attention to both unconscious and conscious biases this can have an exclusionary effect”.

She added: “The most enlightened employers recognise the importance of building a strong culture, including for example through commitment to a shared set of values, but also focus on recruiting for experience, potential and skills rather than ‘fit’.”

Professor of leadership at Cranfield School of Management Elisabeth Kelan agreed, warning of the detrimental impact striking the wrong balance could have on the bottom line. “If cultural fit just means adding more people who look like the majority organisations are missing crucial talent,” she told HR magazine. “If organisations are serious about diversity and inclusion they have to consider how cultural fit is defined in this context and which unintended consequences this definition might have.”

The totaljobs report asked those polled how organisations could improve company culture. Encouraging a positive team atmosphere was cited by 76%, recognising and rewarding great work by 57%, encouraging strong relationships by 54% and improving communication by 51%.