Even before the current coronavirus pandemic, remote working was on the rise. In the US, the number of employees working remotely has increased by 44% over the last five years[1]. More and more workers are looking for greater flexibility and a better work/life balance. Employers too are embracing the benefits in terms of reduced costs and a larger talent pool to hire from.

But how do you ensure these new recruits are a good cultural fit for your organisation when they could be working in a different town or different country? This blog post examines how to successfully assess culture fit when hiring remotely. It will look at:

  • What culture fit is
  • Why hiring for culture fit is important
  • How to define your own culture
  • How to communicate your culture – the importance of employer brand
  • How to create a hiring process to assess culture fit successfully
  • Culture fit hiring in the age of Coronavirus

What is Culture fit?

Culture fit in this context is about how well an employee will align with the values, working rituals and beliefs of organisation, in essence will the way they like to work fit in with how the organisation works as a whole.

There is much confusion over how best to recruit for culture fit. In research conducted by ThriveMap in 2018, 96% of HR leaders agreed that hiring for cultural fit was crucial but only 11% were satisfied with how they were hiring for it. Over three quarters, 77% admitted they were relying on just gut feel – whether they liked the candidate and got a good feeling about them – rather than considering any objective measures. This leaves them dangerously open to a whole host of biases and potentially overlooking much more suitable candidates.

Culture fit should not be about personality, but about how well a candidate will fit in with the working style and environment of the company and team they are joining.

Why is hiring for culture fit important?

We’ve all had the feeling of being a square peg in a round hole at sometime in our lives. Whether at school or in a social setting, being somewhere that you don’t feel that you belong is uncomfortable and unsettling. If you feel like that at work, it’s impossible to fulfil your full potential, no matter how skilled or talented you are. 

Finding employees that are a good culture fit is hugely beneficial, reducing costs and increasing productivity. 89% of hiring failures are down to cultural reasons, rather than whether an employee has the capability to do the job[2]. More research by ThriveMap shows the link between culture fit and productivity. Employees that said that they were a good cultural fit for their organisation rated their productivity on average as 7.18 out of 10. Those that said that they were not a good fit rated their productivity on average at just 5.29 out of 10.

How to define your own culture and ‘cultural fit’

Before you can successfully hire for culture fit, first you need to define what your culture is. This goes beyond stated company values that have been created to be aspirational, but taking the time to examine how teams work in practice. This involves looking at objective measures like communication style, management style and the level of interaction between team members. This is likely to vary between teams in the same organisation, because of the different nature of the work they carry out. For example a finance team is likely to have a very different culture to a marketing department.

From here, it is possible to build up a clear picture of the type of person who would fit into the team you are hiring for. It is also possible to create questions and tasks that objectively test a candidate on how they prefer to work.

How to communicate your culture – the importance of employer brand

Recruitment has changed over the last few years. Candidates aren’t just looking for the jobs they want to do, they are actively looking for organisations where they want to work – the ones they feel they would be a good cultural fit for. According to LinkedIn 75% of candidates check out a prospective employer’s website and social media channels before applying for a role to get a better feel for the organisation and their values. 88% of job seekers cite company culture as an important factor in their search[3].

Creating a clear and distinctive employer brand through your communication channels that accurately reflects the organisation’s culture will attract candidates that feel they will fit in well with your values and the way you work. The more you can draw the most suitable candidates towards your organisation, the more successful your hiring is likely to be.

This is even more important for remote roles as candidates could be based anywhere across the world. Your online presence could be their first interaction with your business and how you present yourself will create a lasting impression.

How to create a hiring process to assess culture fit successfully

Once you have a clear idea of the culture of your organisation, it’s important to consider the role you are hiring for. Think about why you are hiring for the position, is it a new role or are they replacing someone else? Ensure the hiring manager has a clear idea of the position’s responsibilities and what KPIs will be expected. Also define clearly what you mean by remote working or flexible working – different organisations will have different expectations. Being upfront about how the job will work and how the candidate is expected to operate will avoid any confusion and ensure candidates know exactly what they are applying for.

As stated previous, getting a good cultural fit is about finding someone who will fit in with how the team works. On top of this they need the right capabilities – the skills and experience to do the job and commitment – the desire to take up the role.

An effective way to test all three of these attributes is through online assessments based on real life scenarios. If the candidate is not in the same town or even country, getting together face to face may be a challenge and costly. Using an online pre-hire assessment tool can enable you to get a clear picture of not only what a candidate can do but how well they can fit into your operation.

Creating assessments with the hiring manager and the existing team is essential to ensure they are realistic and that the outputs produced will give you the data you need. The results can be measured against current employees who perform the role to see which candidate would fit best into the position. Looking at this alongside how their capability and commitment will provide a complete picture, pointing to the best person for the job.

These assessments can also be performed blind, meaning the results can be compared completely objectively. This ensures that candidates are assessed on how they performed the task, not on their personality or what they have in common with the hiring manager. This provides a much more accurate reflection of whether they will fit into the team and often leads to greater diversity and inclusion.

Remember culture fit is not about how much you like a candidate, it is about how suitable they are for the role you are hiring for and how well they match how the team they are joining works. Getting a measure of fit when hiring remotely can be difficult which is where assessment tools can help. 

Culture fit hiring in the age of Coronavirus

The number of employees working remotely is only likely to grow, especially following the current Covid-19 pandemic. Finding candidates who are the right culture fit is vital for those working away from an office. They need to feel that they belong and are part of a wider organisation, with shared values with their colleagues to avoid feeling isolated. Employing pre-hire assessments that uncover how candidates work will provide the best indication of whether they will be the right fit for the job.

[1] https://www.flexjobs.com/blog/post/remote-work-statistics/

Chris Platts is CEO of ThriveMap, a leading provider of personalised pre-hire assessment software for volume hiring. A former recruiter, Chris has experienced the problems of relying purely on intuition when making hiring decisions. ThriveMap’s approach is to create realistic pre-hire assessments that take candidates through a day in the life experience of a job to help companies hire more authentically. Before devoting time to ThriveMap, Chris founded TalentRocket, a culture-driven recruitment marketplace which helped hundreds of organisations to promote their unique company cultures.