Cultural fit: moving from the short-term fit to the long-term solution

By Maya Wettenhall

Published on 24-07-2013

Cultural fit: moving from the short-term fit to the long-term solution

When discussing cultural fit the focus is often on assessing how an individual will align to or "fit" into an organisation's existing culture. However, perhaps our attention should turn to looking at what it is that the individual will bring to an organisation's culture? How will the culture be changed? "What/who" is it that our organisational culture could benefit from?

So what is organisational culture?

Organisational cultural can be loosely thought of as an organisation's set of collective and normalised beliefs, attitudes and behaviours, from ethos through to execution. In other words - it's the "vibe" of the place, from core values to the informal water cooler language. It's the:

  • dress code
  • the office layout - arrangement of the desks
  • the posters on the walls
  • the internal meeting schedule
  • the formal hierarchy and the social hierarchy
  • it's the "how we get things done around here"
  • it's the people

And 'cultural fit'?

Cultural fit is evident in recognising how a chaotic environment to one individual, may in fact be laid back or creative to another, or how process driven means structure to some, while restriction to others. Research defines cultural fit as the congruence between one's personality and organisations' culture.

However, as a recruitment manager or HRD, focusing on the short-term question "will they fit in here?" is not always in an organisations best interests. For one, there is risk to cultural diversity in our innate bias to favour those most like us. Extroverts are attracted to bold, loud innovative companies while the more conservative of us are drawn towards the structure and regiment of a more formal organisation.

In recognising that culture is dynamic and acknowledging the relationship between employee and organisation; the question moves from the short-term "will they fit in here?" to the long-term "what they will they contribute to and how will they affect the culture?" With each new employee comes a whole new set of experiences and attributes, a new set of inter-employee relationships, a new office dynamic, a new perspective. Perhaps the culture needs that extrovert to inspire and reignite motivation among the team? Or the introverted pragmatic thinker to balance out the creative powerhouses?

Who are the key players in your organisation's culture? What is it that you contribute? What types of people do you think would make a positive impact on your culture?