This post was originally posted in August 2017 and is still relevant today!
By Kristen Hayer
I previously wrote an article about 3 kinds of interviews that can hurt your recruiting process and drive away good candidates. While that article made the point that you can focus too much on culture fit during the interview process, how well a team member engages with the rest of the team is very important. How do you balance culture fit and job performance? What do you do when one of the members of your team isn’t fitting in? Here’s my take on culture:
WHAT IS CULTURE FIT?
Culture fit, at the highest level, means that each employee is aligned with the corporate mission and values. For example, if integrity is a company value, then in order to fit the company’s culture each employee should demonstrate that they are honest in their dealings with coworkers and customers. Another core part of culture fit is the ability to work effectively with other members of the group. Can employees influence others and drive change through relationships? That is culture fit at work. Employees who fit well with the culture also perform at the same level as the rest of the group. For example, it can be a mismatch when one person takes a casual, slow approach to their work while the rest of the group is performing at a significantly faster pace. Finally, a critical part of fitting in with any culture is openness to being managed and coached. While new employees may come in generally aligned with the company and team, a great manager will help each team member become an even better fit over time.
WHAT CULTURE FIT ISN’T
Unfortunately culture fit is often interpreted to mean being well liked, friends with everyone, and similar to other teammates. This interpretation can create real problems in terms of diversity and performance. If you only hire people who are just like the rest of your team, you may be missing out on skills and strengths that come from people who are different. For example, if your team is boisterous and outgoing but one team member is quiet and spends the day focused on work, that doesn’t necessarily mean that person isn’t a culture fit. If the quiet person works well with others and performs at the same level as the rest of the group, I would argue that they are a culture fit. Likewise, while it can be fun to have a team where everyone is friends both inside and outside of the office, that isn’t a requirement for culture fit. A teammate can be a great team player and able to effectively influence others without being friends with everyone.
WHEN SOMEONE ISN’T FITTING IN
So what do you do as a leader when you notice that someone on your team isn’t fitting in? Before you go down the path of moving them off your team, it may be worth exploring what is going on. Start by learning more about them. What are their strengths? How do they like to work? What do they get excited about? Building a relationship with your team member will teach you how to help them fit in. Make room for them on the team by helping other team members understand their perspective. The more your team gets to know about this person, the more they will accommodate their differences. Finally, be willing to be uncomfortable. It is human nature to want to be around people that are similar to us, but if we do that we’re missing out on the benefits that people who are different bring to the table. Stepping outside of your comfort zone, and encouraging your team to do the same, can result in a diverse and higher performing group.
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