Cultural Fit

Cultural Fit

I note a recent spate of articles advising employers to “recruit for cultural fit”. And the inevitable backlash against that advice. Like most advice, this simple soundbite conceals a whole can of worms.

Where Are We At?

If we’re happy with our current “culture”, then by all means hire for “cultural fit”. We will likely hire new people that look the same, act the same and think the same as those folks already in the organisation. And thereby reinforce our existing culture and status quo. Which, if we’re happy with it, is what we want, right?

But if we ponder for a moment and conclude that our current “culture” is more of a hindrance than a help, we might want to look to a future in which the culture is different from how it is now. Maybe, markedly different.

“Until I came to IBM, I probably would have told you that culture was just one among several important elements in any organization’s makeup and success — along with vision, strategy, marketing, financials, and the like… I came to see, in my time at IBM, that culture isn’t just one aspect of the game, it is the game.”

~ Lou Gerstner

Culture Is Read-Only

Organisational culture, being a function of the prevailing collective mindset, is not amenable to direct manipulation. To change our culture, we have to pull levers that are available to us. One such lever is hiring. Another lever is the collective mindset of the organisation (yes, that IS amenable to change, if we know how).

In which case, it makes no sense to hire folks for their fit with the current culture.

“A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.”

~ Wayne Gretzky


Rather, would it not make much more sense to hire new folks for their fit with the future culture we’re wanting to see?

And how to gauge their fit into that future culture? By their mindset.

Not only will they fit well in to our future culture, their mindset will contribute to shifting the collective mindset – and hence culture – of the organisation, in the direction we want to see it moving.

However, it’s not a free lunch. The real trick is keeping the new hires on board and engaged even though the future culture we want and into which they will fit has not arrived yet. Can we do that?

– Bob

  1. Andy said:

    I figure the manager who recruited me had a strong idea I wasn’t a great fit for the current culture, as to aspirations about the culture they want to see? 13 months on I don’t see any semblance of a new one.

  2. Reblogged this on thinkpurpose and commented:
    “culture is read only”, only 4 words long but sooo many implications.
    This excellent pithy blog post from talks about recruiting by mindset for the culture you WANT not the culture you have. l’m reminded of the Deming story about someone complaining to him about all the organisation’s “dead wood”, and he said well you either hired dead wood or killed it yourself.
    I think cultures that do either of them actually do both.

  3. rutty said:

    Reminds me a bit of Ashby’s Law of requisite variety:

    Hiring to fit the current culture provides limited options for variety, so limiting your ability to adapt to problems/changes. Less chance of innovation I guess

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