Abhijit BhaduriGuest Author

If we hired for “culture-fit”​ why are employees quitting?

By | Abhijit Bhaduri |Keynote speaker, Author and Columnist

Hiring is a complex process. The candidate needs to have the skills and must want the role we want are hiring for, at the price point we fix. Then there is a reference check to be done. We believe that the interviewers really know what they are looking for. Everyone wants people who are passionate, adaptable, clever, pleasant to work with, share our values … etc. And yes, the person must “fit into our culture”. Such a person would never want to quit during the Great Resignation, or would they?

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One man’s bias is another man’s “Culture-Fit”

  • Talent shortage: The year is 2021. The Great Resignation is wreaking havoc. Can you afford to reject someone who can do the job, because the person does not “fit the culture”? I have seen business leaders turn a blind eye to several hiring standards when there is a client deadline. When uncontrolled attrition makes your talent pool look like a leaking bucket, the business simply needs people to keep the lights on. In this desperate scenario, rejecting a competent coder because this is not someone you want to have a beer with after work seems like an overkill.
  • Perpetuates the mould: If innovation is key to drive business success, building a diverse talent pool is a pre-condition. The reality is that employers classify educational institutions as Tier 1, Tier 2 etc. The students hired from the pedigreed institutions are given a privileged treatment. Without diversity, these hires all speak the same language, have read (or not read) the same case studies and believe that their institute has a knack of hiring the best. The belief that “pedigree” can predict performance is a myth that smacks of elitism. <Read: Do Business School Rankings Matter>
  • Lazy recruiting is based on stereotypes: When an employer recruits from a college that sets high standards, they are saving themselves the trouble of challenging their own stereotypes and biases that colours every hiring decision. Going to hire from Harvard automatically lowers the probability of hiring someone does not fit the admission criteria that Harvard sets every year. Lazy recruiting hurts the employer and the applicants in equal measure. <read more>
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The conflict of stated values vs practised values

“Client Service, Excellence, Integrity, and Partnership”are the stated values on the website of this top-notch financial institution. This firm was found guilty of paying more than a $1 billion in bribes to officials in various countries. They have admitted to the charges and paid a fine of more than $2.9 billion.

“Respect, Integrity, Communication and Excellence” were what Enron had in its Vision & Values statement. We all know where that ended up. <read more>

If every employee is hired for culture fit, then were these scandals an exception? During The Great Resignation, millions of people who were assessed and tested for “culture fit” quit and joined other employers who may have had other cultural norms. Miraculously, all these employees were found to posses a fit with the culture of the new firm.

The challenge of scale

Think of your network on a social media platform. Your first few connects maybe people you have known and who you resonate with. As more people get added to your network, the standards get harder to maintain. Values which are so deeply personal and shaped by nature and nurture are harder to find when organisations scale.

A large IT services firm employs more than 520,000 employees across 40 countries and more than a hundred nationalities. During the firms existence thousands more would have been hired, who then jumped ship and went somewhere else to work for employers who all shared the same values? And that the firm will continue to hire thousands of people in future who all share the SAME values that the firm has?

Hiring for culture-fit kills diversity

People were asked if diversity was a casualty when hiring for “culture-fit”. More than 54,000 people viewed the post and almost 600 people said that, “Hiring for culture fit leaves out people who are not “like you” but can do the job”. Don’t miss the comments where people have shared what they like or don’t like about hiring for “culture-fit”.

Don’t miss the comments in this post <read the comments>

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When the leadership has been with the firm for a long time

I was speaking to a the leaders of a consumer goods firm whose leaders have each worked at the firm for 15-20 years. When they deal with impatient millennials and generation Z employees who want to have career discussions, they tell them that they need to be patient and leave it to the firm. They are facing a massive churn in employees who have spent less than 3-4 years at the firm.

Lateral hires to the leadership team have not been successful. The old coterie quickly colludes to label the new hire as a failure. New hires then quit in frustration. When everyone around you is the same, it is easy to blame the problems on those who are “not like us”. This firm is struggling to bring in innovative products and services in a complex marketplace.

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Does that mean we should stop hiring for culture-fit?

Hiring for culture fit is hard. Every step of the hiring process – from the job descriptions to the interview process and on-boarding must be aligned to find such people. Even after they are hired, everything from goal-setting, performance management, rewards and recognition, succession planning, promotions must all align to keep the end-goal in mind.

1. Stop getting impressed by labels:

Do not hire someone because they went to a certain school or college. You are not hiring for the school reunion. Do not get impressed just someone worked for a Fortune 500 employer – do not reject them only because of that reason either. Decode what the role would look like in 18-24 months. Ask the interviewers to identify the skill gaps and behaviours that would need to be addressed during onboarding. Track the recommendations of the interviewing panel members individually to identify those who have an eye for talent. Invest in assessments to identify the best hire for critical roles. <read more>

2. Assess how they would approach jobs they have not done before

Recently I polled a set of leaders of a global giant about the changes to their business during the last two years. Most of them claimed that 30-40% of the changes they were seeing had never been seen before. The second order changes that will impact our world will be even more pronounced. While hiring look for the ability to accomplish tasks with people who are different and diverse. <Read: How to tell if someone can do a job that they have never drawn before>

3. When you have found the magic formula, change the formula

Adam Grant says that you have to keep looking for people who can bring in what you culture is missing today. Skills vs culture fit, what should you be looking at? Think what is missing from your culture and hire for that missing skill.

Here is a Sketchnote that summarises the talk <watch it here>

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Read: The dangers of hiring for culture fit

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