Harnessing Culture Fit – What Does it Mean?

Posted on November 5, 2012

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In the last few years the same phrase has been on everybody’s lips when it comes to finding that perfect job: ‘culture fit’.

There have been countless debates about what it actually means…it seems straightforward enough, right? Do your personality, style of working and ethos mirror those of whom you are working for? Surely you would think so if you were applying to the company in the first place. It can be hard to come away from an interview, with all the technical knowledge and professional experience needed – only to be told you do not have the right cultural fit for the role.

This seemingly intangible quality is becoming a massive focus firmly rooted in industry speak with innovative business models now appearing on the horizon en masse. Here at le Pont we make it our business to perfectly match the right kind of people to not only a job that fits their skills but also a business that suits that resonates with their ideals – and vice versa. We thought it would be valuable to try and harness what was required a good cultural fit and found a much more detailed conclusion than we bargained for. The ‘feel right’ factor that is referred to is in actual fact made up of several different things and there are different ways candidates can better identify it in the future.

The idea of organizational culture is not new, having grown organically through the years as brand names have gained strength and influence. Culture is made up of the values, attitudes, behaviours and assumptions shared by a group of people. Different combinations of these things make up different working culture, whether that is of fun, customer service or social responsibility. The behaviours that represent the general operating norms in your environment which were previously unwritten and assumed, are now being promoted, as brands struggle for identity amongst global competition.

Culture springs from a company’s experiences over time; it is learned and evolves through the negative or positive consequences of their actions in business.People also shape culture;   interactions between senior management to junior roles contour this – and in turn an applicant can gauge it from the interview process. A company with outgoing sociable employees and open door meetings suggests an unguarded culture. Whereas one that depicts its history and values obviously values its heritage – these things can be seen from doing some research on the way companies are both represented by the media and themselves – through their website, products, advertising and people.

Culture is interesting in that it is also created by everyone in an organisation. Although there may be a clear set of guidelines in place for how to conduct oneself in the workplace, peoples’ interpretations of these will invariably be different. It is important to remember that executives are not necessarily going to be the human embodiment of all the company stands for. Recognising these subtle nuances in their personalities and management techniques will give an applicant a far truer cultural awareness. Furthermore, employees will influence the path that culture takes through the way work is performed and decisions are made within an organisation – often attributing these to the progression or regression of a company. Communication, persistence and training, as well as team building exercises can create an intimate culture in even the largest organisations, ensuring each employee has a holistic view of the company.

As a potential employee, someone outside looking in – there are certain signs you can spot to determine whether you are the right culture fit for a company. Language, decision making, stories and daily work practices all come into play. It is worth finding out whether employees find the environment warm or clinical, for example whether interaction between departments or creativity is encouraged or not. With all this in mind, it is a starting point to moulding yourself as a paragon of the right cultural fit. There is an element of instinct of course, and “it just doesn’t feel right” but this is often in conjunction with all these other tangible things which make it all just that little less confusing!

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