The idea of cultural compatibility in the workplace has gained currency in recent years. Enlightened attitudes to employment and recruitment are becoming mainstream as companies come to understand the benefits not just to their new hires but to their existing staff, their business performance and their bottom line.
What is Cultural Fit?
The concept of ‘cultural fit’ is a relatively simple one. It recognises the importance of the alignment of an employee’s values, beliefs and temperament with the aims, vision and conduct of an employer. Individuals differ widely in their expectations as to what makes the ideal working environment. While some will thrive in formal, hierarchical settings, otherwise will only flourish where freedom and initiative are encouraged.
Being the most skilled person for the job is no longer enough. Being in the right place to do that job is essential. If they find themselves in the wrong company culture, an employee may be unhappy, poorly motivated and under-performing. Not only is this bad for them, it will adversely affect morale in the team and ultimately undermine the company’s capacity to prosper.
A 2014 study by the University of Warwick measured the job performance of over 700 subjects and found that happy employees were 12% more productive. The gap between the reality and the ideal was identified in a series of studies between 2009 and 2017 by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). One report discovered that for 55% of employees, a work culture that felt more akin to a family, with leaders as mentors, was their preferred environment but of those respondents, 46% said their current workplace was run on very formal, old-fashioned lines. If formality is not encouraging the commitment of employees then there is little to recommend it. More empathetic and inclusive cultures are needed.
Key Features of Workplace Culture
As a candidate, you will want to know that the daily experience will suit you insofar as possible. It’s important to learn about the constitution and dynamics of the team you’ll be working with for many hours every day. For similar reasons, you’ll need to satisfy yourself that the sociability factor is right for you – not everyone wants party night with colleagues every day, but the alternative needn’t be a form of isolation in which work and social life never meet. There are many shades in between.
The wider context of the company structure can also be decisive. Every enterprise needs rules, procedures and policies, but the important question is how well an individual will fit in with those provisions. Some may baulk at hot-desking, rubber balls and slides, while others might feel they’ve found nirvana. There is no perfect office culture, but it’s possible to find the one that is perfect for you.
How to Research
With online resources and social media platforms, it’s easier than ever to research a prospective employer. The website is an obvious place to start and although you needn’t take the official line as gospel, there is likely to be some helpful information about the company’s values and the kind of people they like to hire. Check the trade press for any insightful stories about past and future projects and internal developments. You can probably also learn a lot by making contact with employees past and present via LinkedIn or Twitter. Brand advocates are easy to find these days.
If a company is actively resourcing, then it makes sense to ask the recruitment agency for as much information as they can give you. Consult them about how they feel you would adapt and follow any other useful leads they suggest. Remember that learning as much as possible about your prospective employer is just as important for your own decision-making as it is for your interview preparation. And bear in mind that you can’t expect to get all the boxes ticked but you should aim for the closest thing to a perfect fit as possible.
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