Why Assessing Culture Fit is Critical to Hiring Success

Livingston James Group Head of Research, Kirsty Sim discusses the importance of assessing culture fit in order to maximise the success of new appointments, and how it can be done without undermining diversity.

It has long been proven that employing individuals with values and behaviours that mimic your organisations’ culture leads to increased employee engagement and overall business success.  Research by Deloitte has shown that 94% of executives and 88% of employees believe a distinct corporate culture is important to a business’ success.

A study by Kristof-Brown also looked at the consequences of individuals’ fit in the workplace and found that employees with higher cultural fit enjoyed greater job satisfaction and were less likely to leave. When you consider the cost of replacing an employee, which research by Oxford Economics and Unum suggests could cost firms an average of £30,614 (BrightHR), there is also a financial incentive to ensuring a strong culture fit in potential hires.


What do we mean by ‘culture fit’?

An organisation’s culture is generally defined as their purpose, values, and behaviours. In recent years, and increasingly since the COVID-19 pandemic, organisations are placing more emphasis on being ‘purposeful’. A recent article by the Guardian explained that 14 FTSE 100 businesses, including PwC and Unilever, had signed up to a socially focused ‘Purposeful Company’ scheme where they pledged to put employee’s welfare first and focus on a purpose beyond purely profit.

However, it’s not just large corporations who should be, and are already, working to define their purpose and values. At the end of 2019, we at Livingston James performed an exercise with all employees to determine our purpose – why we do what we do. After a couple of days of workshops, following a structured approach, we identified our authentic purpose as “we are here to advise and support people and organisations to realise their potential, so that together we can impact lives and communities for the better”.

This was then followed by a review of our values which you can read more on here. You can also read more on how this clarification around our purpose has helped the business guide our way through the COVID-19 pandemic in this Scotsman article with our Founder and CEO, Jamie Livingston.


If culture fit is so important, how do we assess it as part of the hiring process?

There are different solutions dependant on the level you are recruiting for and the size of your organisation. A recent BBC article discussed the potential of using algorithms to assess a candidate’s fit to an organsation’s culture in high volume, lower level settings. Start-up company ThriveMap utilises “interactive questionnaires that ‘simulate’ a day in the life of a new employee”, enabling large recruitment programmes to give all candidates an experience close to a ‘trial shift’. With results compared against the particular organisation’s assessment of their own culture, ThriveMap’s Chief Executive and Co-Founder Christopher Platts stated that “candidates that score ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ on our assessment are three times less likely to leave in the first 90 days.”

For lower volume, executive level recruitment, culture fit is typically assessed through an interview process with scoring mechanisms and personality assessment. Personality assessments such as Saville Wave offer an insight into candidates’ workplace behaviours, performance, and potential. Some of the areas assessed may relate to the values of the organisation, and the Saville reports also provide a snapshot of candidates’ predicted culture fit and the environments likely to enhance or inhibit their performance.

In terms of the interview process, open-ended questions are essential for uncovering the more subtle areas of a candidate’s personality and values.

Of course, one concern that regularly arises when we begin to talk about assessing culture fit, something that may seem less measurable, is whether there is a risk of perpetuating biases and undermining diversity in the process. The essential element in avoiding this is to focus on how well a candidate’s values align with the organisation, rather than their personal characteristics. If your definition of your organisation’s culture/values is strict enough, you should be able to hire for culture fit whilst also ensuring your team benefits from varying experiences, perspectives, and skills.

As discussed in our previous article on gathering data to make the right hiring decision, it is important to have a clear framework in place to ensure consistent scoring. In a similar vein, if organisations are able to assess candidates’ values in the same structured manner as they defined their own values, this will provide the most robust results. SHRM further supports this approach by stating that making culture “mappable to specific skills, abilities, values and motivators of candidates” allows for much more structured assessment of culture fit.

Hiring individuals who fit into your culture is undoubtedly hugely important – but being mindful of how we are making decisions on an individual’s culture fit is just as critical. By having a clear definition of your organisation’s own purpose and values, and thus culture, and by running an assessment process that is measurable and robust, it is possible to hire for culture fit whilst enriching diversity.


For a confidential discussion about your organisation’s hiring needs, contact [email protected]


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