The Pros and Cons of Hiring for ‘Cultural Fit’

Is hiring for “cultural fit” sustainable?

Company culture at human resources technology company Bonfyre App emphasizes trust, care and empathy, and the employees who align to these values tend to excel. To determine cultural fit, Rob Seay, the St. Louis-based company’s HR director, said it makes sure to spend time with candidates outside of the office in less rigid environments like coffee shops to get to know prospective hires, learn about their character and how they approach difficult situations.

Seay said employee alignment to company culture influences worker satisfaction, engagement and retention. If an environment focuses on being collaborative and team-oriented, but individuals focus only on individual achievements, “that environment might be really difficult for them to really work to their true potential,” Seay said.

Despite the importance of company culture, few organizations do well at establishing it properly. According to research by professional services firm Deloitte on the topic, only 12 percent of respondents indicated their organization was “excellent at driving the desired culture.”

To identify company culture, business leaders must think about the values that drive their business, said Katie Bouton, CEO of Koya Leadership Partners, a national executive search firm focused on mission-driven organizations based in Newburyport, Massachusetts. “That’s absolutely critical to being able to begin to assess for culture fit.”

Bouton sees “cultural fit” as an important tool, especially for younger generations, who she said don’t see a lot of difference between their work and personal lives in terms of how they live out their values. “Since we spend a third of our lifetime at work, I think people are really looking for that kind of alignment,” she said.

Organizations are getting better at defining company culture. Although terminology of “cultural fit” became popular primarily in the past decade, it’s only been recently that organizations became more particular about defining their principles, said Justin Hirsch, president and HR executive search lead for Jobplex Inc., a midlevel executive search firm. Business leaders are doing well at publishing detailed information about their cultures in handbooks, job posts and other places they broadcast their employer brand.

“Employees are more apt to join organizations that they find their values aligned to, and employees are keenly interested in a collaborative, team-oriented organization in which advancement is earned and communication is open,” Hirsch said. He advised continuing to document cultural leadership principles and integrate that language in the employer brand. “It’s something to be proud of,” Hirsch said.

Fraught for Fit

The problem, however, is in assessing cultural fit. It’s very much a feeling at times, Hirsch said, making it hard to quantify and inviting the potential for bias in the hiring process. The innate subjectivity is a challenge in hiring for cultural fit.

Another issue is around diversity in the workplace. People tend to gravitate to those similar to themselves, Hirsch said, which then undermines organizational efforts to diversify the employee population.

To avoid impacting efforts to maintain or gain a diverse workforce, business leaders must first define what they mean by culture fit. “What you really mean is values fit,” Bouton said. Then, they should assign a set of questions for the interview process, as well as train the people doing the interviewing. “That’s a nice check and balance for bias,” Bouton said. Also, look out for blanket statements, such as “they’re just not the right fit,” and be prepared to ask for more specifics about why interviewers felt that way, Bouton said.

Despite the extra time and effort this process takes, Bouton said the rigor is worth it. “Because employees stay longer when their values align, you save so much time down the road that that extra couple of weeks it might take to do a rigorous hiring process is well worth the effort,” she said.

Also, Bouton warned about the differences between assessing for values vs. working norms. Things like staying late and getting drinks after work is dangerous territory to use as an evaluation tool. “What you want to focus on is rather the reason that people get up in the morning and come to work,” she said.

Terminology of “cultural fit” still has negative connotations when it comes to diversity and inclusion, however. As a result, some companies are working to stop using the phrase, Bouton said, adding that she’s heard rumblings of “network fit” and “values fit.”

Another term making the rounds in hiring communities is “culture add,” said Jim Conti, people lead at Chicago-based Dscout Inc., a consumer research software company. Culture add takes the existing idea of a foundational culture and then pushes it to the next level by seeking people who have a variety of experiences and backgrounds who can add to the organizational culture instead of replicating what’s already at the company. “Culture fit doesn’t really push you to challenge yourself,” Conti said.

Bonfyre’s Seay also advised that companies be open to change and even be ready to do away with cultural fit should they experience talent attraction issues. In industries that lack the sufficient supply for the demands placed on the talent pool, business leaders might need to only look for the essentials needed for the role.

Finally, it’s important to acknowledge that companies’ cultures will not remain stagnant, Seay said. As companies go through reorganizations or mergers and acquisitions, it’s inevitable that their cultures will change. Therefore, business leaders should be open to changing or adding values to their cultures. “Just like everything else, I think it’s going to continue to potentially evolve and change,” Seay said.

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How to Accommodate Millennials as Workplace Demographics Shift

Millennials are changing the face of the American office, as we all can readily observe. But did you know that by 2020 this generation will make up 40 percent of the workforce? The perks that motivate them are unlike those that appealed to previous generations. A just-released report by Jobplex and our ninth podcast installment with Smooch R. Reynolds explores it all.

By 2020, Millennials will make up 40 percent of the workforce. But the perks that motivate them are unlike those that appealed to previous generations. To stay competitive, businesses must recognize this and adapt to the evolving needs of their workforce, according to a new report authored by Susan Gottlieb, a partner for Jobplex, Inc., a DHR International company.

For starters, Millennials want more flexibility. They have no desire to be stuck at a desk with a manager constantly looking over their shoulder, and they don’t necessarily want to be working nine to five, said the report. They’re more comfortable with technology than previous generations, which means they’re also well aware of the benefits that technology can offer them, such as working from virtually anywhere.

For many people, working from home – or Starbucks, or their local library, or their kid’s soccer game – is more conducive to productivity than the traditional office environment. If they can get their work done without having to worry about the stress and expense of commuting, they see no reason to come into the office five days a week.

Paid time off is another factor Millennial candidates tend to weigh more heavily than previous generations, according to the Jobplex report. While the traditional model is to work one’s way up toward earning more PTO, many Millennials would rather not wait months or years before they get two weeks of paid vacation, and they’re averse to buying vacation time from their employer.

Accommodating Parents
This is especially true since most Millennials tend to leave their jobs before they have earned extra PTO. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average young adult has had an average of 6.2 jobs by the time they’re 26 years old.

Although it is common for working mothers to seek greater job flexibility, Millennial dads are increasingly making the same demands. Family life is converging with both men and women taking on more equal parenting roles, the report said. The traditional paradigm of the woman staying home or making concessions around her career is seldom the case anymore.

That means companies that are less accommodating of parents who need flexible hours or time off to take care of their kids stand to lose both male and female employees, said the Jobplex study. Smart companies provide training programs during and after maternity/ paternity leave to keep parents informed about changes at work and what is underway so that they are up to speed when they return, the report added. Some new parents might also want to keep working for their employer but move to a different department where they won’t have to travel as much or work long hours.

Instead of asking employers to consider work-life balance, the author pointed out, Millennials are more concerned with work-life integration. They know that technology can help them bring the office home and vice versa. They also want to be working assisting on projects that align with their personal values. For example, companies that allow employees to take PTO in order to volunteer and do charity work are very popular among Millennials.

“Companies need to cultivate a culture that embraces leveraging technology as a means to achieving flexibility in work schedules and integrating work-family balance,” said Smooch R. Reynolds, global investor relations and communications practice group leader with DHR. “Companies also must trust that talent will be responsible about their workflow commitments and their bosses’ expectations.”

A Different Emphasis
Prioritizing family life is just one reason Millennials are more inclined than their predecessors to make lateral moves. To retain great talent, it is important for employers to accommodate those kinds of moves, the report said.

Rather than focusing on moving up in the company, Millennials tend to put more emphasis on the kind of work they’ll be doing and the connections they’ll be making, the study said. Some are even prepared to take a lower-paying job in order to get the experience and connections they think will ultimately help them move forward in their careers.

“Millennials are most interested in the fabric of their work environment and how relationships are woven into broader responsibilities,” said Ms. Reynolds. “Frankly, I think they are almost ‘unknowingly astute’ to focus on the relationship building aspect of their work environment because one of the most sought-after skills that management seeks in talent is their ability to develop credible relationships and be influencers across the enterprise.”

The report said that when companies fail to provide Millennials with what they’re looking for in a job and/ or fail to challenge them, Millennials will often depart. “Millennials’ parents were the first generation that regularly switched jobs, so company loyalty does not come naturally to Millennials,” said Gloria Basem, chief people officer of MediaMath Inc.

For employers, the challenge is to learn what they can do to attract and retain their Millennial workers. “It’s about, what is the contract?” said Ms. Basem. “What are we doing for you and what are you doing for us? And being more explicit about those things.”

Money is Not Enough
And when it comes to what they can do for their workers, employers should consider offering more than just a paycheck, which tends to mean less to Millennials than other aspects of their job, said the report. Businesses would be better served if they focused on creating a constructive, collaborative environment in which employees can contribute meaningfully and are made to feel like a valued member of the team.

“This generation is one that, in many ways, wants it all,” said Ms. Reynolds. “They want the satisfaction derived from meaningful work and relationships in the work environment AND they want to be compensated commensurate with their contributions.”

When Millennial workers do depart from a company, managers should understand that it’s usually nothing personal. “Because Millennials are not as loyal to the companies for which they work, they’re also not necessarily leaving with a negative attitude,” said Ms. Basem. “I’ve worked with managers who thought that if an employee left, that employee was being disloyal and they might be quick to write them off. And I think a Millennial manager today knows the relationship is going to wax and wane over time.”

The Millennial Question
Given Millennials’ tendency to move around, employers should invest time and effort to ensure a successful relationship with their Millennial workers, the report suggested. Alienating Millennials leads not only to a high turnover rate but can mean working with lesser talent. “Millennials are in their prime right now,” said Ms. Basem. “They’re still growing their careers and coming to the table with new ideas.”

Diversity in the workforce, meanwhile, is a strength, and that goes for age diversity as well. “Having the perspectives of different groups so that you can connect with your customers is critical,” said Ms. Basem. “Millennials are going to use technology differently than Xers or boomers, and they’re going to view purchasing decisions differently. Being able to really understand your user is critical.”

A New Definition
As in other aspects of life, Millennials are changing expectations and creating a cultural shift as to what constitutes a good employee, the report said. Rather than defining an employee by the hours they work, it offered, Millennials are more interested in the specific contributions workers make to their company. It is not just the amount of work they get done, but how they go about doing their work, the kind of work they do, and the new and innovative ideas they offer.

“Every company and industry will require slightly different amenities,” said Ms. Reynolds. “I believe that an increase in access to the right technology would be at the top of the list, including conferencing systems where teams of people can work virtually to develop products, concepts, frame workflow and ultimately achieve goals set by management.”

Companies like Google, Facebook, Evernote, Best Buy and Bain & Company are famous for successfully recruiting and retaining Millennial talent by offering free food, competitive vacation/ PTO, and maternity/ paternity leave, among other incentives, said the report. Millennials often look for amenities like on-site gyms, it continued. In the technology space, they tend to like the idea of free food and meals. Depending on the sector, some companies have margarita machines and other compelling additions to the office.

But for Millennials, work goes beyond simply getting freebies. “It’s about creating the space where people come together and get to know each other, as opposed to just being thought of as workers, working at their desk around a certain project,” said Ms. Basem. “I can tell you the ping pong tables are well used in every location we have.”

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Viholainen Joins Jobplex as Partner

Mexico City – Jobplex, Inc. is pleased to announce that Johannes Viholainen has joined the firm as Partner. Viholainen will lead the firm’s Mexico City office and be a catalyst in Jobplex’s growth in Latin America.

Viholainen brings six years of business development and executive search to Jobplex, with a specialization across the Healthcare, Consumer Goods, Retail, and Industrial sectors.

Prior to joining Jobplex, Viholainen served as an associate at Spencer Stuart as a member of the firm’s Healthcare and Human Resources practices in Latin America. He also holds experience as a Senior Consultant for GAPE Business Group, a Mexican headhunting firm specializing in middle management positions. Viholainen began his career in search as a researcher at Heidrick & Struggles.

“We are excited to welcome Johannes to the firm” said Jobplex President Justin Hirsch. “We know that he will be a strong addition to the already great DHR team that Larry Rubin has helped to build and will grow our Jobplex presence throughout Mexico.”

Viholainen earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management from HAAGA-HELIA University of Applied Sciences in Finland. He holds a Master’s Degree in International Development Management from the University of Westminster. A Finnish national, Viholainen has lived in Mexico City for seven years.

Established in 1996, Jobplex leads the recruiting industry in offering diversified search services for your company’s next generation executive leader. Our customized search offerings and performance-based fee structure provide solutions from a Single Search to Project Recruitment. For more information on Jobplex, visit www.jobplex.com.

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Work Wanted: Microsoft programs for veterans

Microsoft has developed several training programs for veterans over the past decade, and the company is launching another program in our region in October.

The Microsoft Software &Systems Academy is an 18-week educational program that Microsoft conducts in partnership with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. It provides active duty soldiers and veterans with the necessary career skills to meet demand for server &cloud administration, database &business intelligence administration, cloud application development, and cybersecurity administrators.

The program is one of few that trains active-duty U.S. service members for IT jobs and is a cornerstone of the DoD Skillbridge program, which prepares members on active duty for their next career. Classes in Fleming Island will start October 16.

The MSSA program launched in 2013 and has had over 600 graduates, many of whom have started careers with an average salary of $70,000. Interested military members and veterans do not need to have an IT background to qualify, but applicants will take an aptitude assessment before beginning the course. In addition to ERAU classroom work, Microsoft delivers coaching on professional development and building a personal brand. Active duty members within six months of their discharge date can apply with their command’s support.

Throughout the program, service members have access to resources like JobPlex, a staffing agency Microsoft has on retainer to assist participants with career placement support. Upon successful completion of the course, participants are guaranteed an interview for a full-time position with Microsoft.

I spoke to a military veteran based in Phoenix, who enrolled the MSSA while stationed at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas. Edgar Sanchez served in the Army for seven years after a civilian career as a firefighter and EMT, achieving the rank of E-5. He decided not to re-enlist and started exploring options in late 2015 in anticipation of his discharge. The MSSA seemed like a great fit. His command supported him, allowing him to report for duty each day at the Academy until he left active duty in 2016.

Sanchez was interested in IT, but knew that he wanted a customer-facing role.

“I liked the idea of a lucrative career in a cutting edge field,” he says, “but I knew that working with people was my strongest skill.”

He excelled at coordinating class presentations and, unlike some of his classmates, enjoyed public speaking.

He found the personal development coaching offered by Microsoft to be invaluable.

“The JobPlex team was so helpful in getting me prepared and building my confidence for the interviews,” he says.

Microsoft interviewed the program graduates onsite. Sanchez was selected for a second interview and was flown to Microsoft’s Seattle headquarters. He accepted a position as a technical assistance manager, supporting government, education and military agency customers in Phoenix and Salt Lake City. He also helped start a pilot program that allowed new technical assistance managers to ease into their roles over six months.

Microsoft doesn’t offer work to every MSSA graduate, but it has more than 200 hiring partners, including Accenture, Dell, Expedia and the Department of Defense.

If you’re interested in the program, you can find information, including requirements, at Microsoft’s site: military.microsoft.com/training/mssa/.

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