Tag Archives: hiring well

Hiring for Cultural Fit… One More Nonsensical Idea

Businessman escapes from the crisis on a paper boatWe all know that human resource departments are fertile ground for fads and notions that sound much better than they actually are. Much of this irrational exuberance is due to the fact that HR managers, constantly in search of new silver bullets, are overly quick to embrace ideas that excite the imagination in the abstract but turn out to be speculative, overly simple, not really measurable in terms of what they contribute to the organization, and whose failure or lack of impact is relatively easy to rationalize after the fact.

Once such idea is called hiring for cultural fit. Implementation of this strategy means evaluating candidates against some broad (read ill-defined) statement of cultural attributes first and then, for those who pass that threshold, assessing skills or competencies. Some bloggers seem to endorse the idea, and there are consultants who now claim to be able to help companies hire precisely in this way. Who doesn’t love American opportunism?

The belief that culture is the principal driver of corporate greatness effectively took root with Tom Peters’ publication of In Search of Excellence in 1982. He argued very persuasively that he had discovered eight common practices that produced high performance cultures and led to exceptional performance. In 1994, with Built to Last, Jim Collins and Jerry Porras followed suit with their own list of eighteen visionary companies whose “enduring greatness” features (consciously driven cultural characteristics) could also be synthesized and replicated.

Other writers have also promoted these simple cultural formulae, but the point to be made is that in all of these cases, their research was dubious and their conclusions were based upon selective, subjective observations. For the full explanation and proof of this, read The Halo Effect by Phil Rosenzweig (Free Press, 2007). It is one of the most insightful business books ever written.

Rosenzweig’s research offers evidence that instead of cultures seeding high performance, the reverse is true: A highly performing organization spawns the cultural attributes that Peters and Collins saw as causal. Although these characteristics may be common in many highly performing organizations, they do not coalesce into some universal formula that explains success. In fact, a large percentage of those companies with “high performance” cultures – today’s heroes – eventually become tomorrow’s dogs!

Not convinced?

Just take a look at the lists compiled by Peters and Collins. A great many variables affect a company’s performance, most of them related to the marketplace and their competitors, which are beyond the control of a company’s management. Guess what happens to the cultures of those once high flyers when their performance begins to tank?

So, how does this relate to hiring for cultural fit? It’s a chicken and egg thing. Hire for the culture (most often a list of vague notions without an iota of supporting evidence) and you’re likely to overlook the exceptional performance skills and talents that fostered the “culture” in the first place! You may acquire some “good” team players and people who appear to meet some nebulous definition of leadership potential, but that’s shooting at the wrong target and is likely to exclude those rare, incredibly talented individualists who make the difference, but who don’t conform to stereotypes.

Cultures change as players come and go, starburst products flame out, strategies evolve leaving things behind and requiring a journey in a new direction, and the marketplace and competitors exert new and unexpected forms of pressure. What types of problems will you exacerbate by hiring people who are aligned, loosely at best, to a culture that will inevitably change?

Unless you have an HR mandate to experiment for the sake of experimenting, it makes more sense, financially and with respect to shareholder value, to look for exceptional talent in every role and let the culture take care of itself.

__________________________________________________________________________13259f4For more than forty years, Frank Gump has been helping corporations become more productive and profitable by helping management teams identify and hire top performers and manage them most effectively. Developed and refined through extensive experience in more than 1200 organizations in the United States, Canada, England, and Australia, ADGI’s Organizational Management System (OMS) is a finely calibrated, technologically advanced decision-making process offering the potential for enormous payback. Contact ADGI for more insight and connect with Frank on LinkedIn. Follow ADGI on Twitter @ADGIGroup. Like ADGI on Facebook and follow us on Google+.

Finding Candidates: It’s More than CAN Do; It’s WILL Do

hiring - mrgOnce candidates get by the can do hurdle, an effective selection process needs to target two considerations: their ability to do the job, and, if they are productive, their ability to remain motivated to stay in the job. This means that there must be some method of measuring candidate expectations and matching them to the reality of the job and, more broadly, matching these expectations to what the organization is likely to deliver. Reducing turnover that is attributable to mismatched expectations can have great impact upon a business and offer substantial cost savings, because these employees are, in all likelihood, the higher performers the organization least wants to lose.

The most prevalent and critical mismatches occur because candidates  a) want to use their talents, b) want to be managed in a certain way, and c) want the job and work environment to meet their personal needs.

People want to do what they perceive themselves to be good at – they want to use their talents. So even if they can do a job competently, feeling under-utilized is a self-esteem issue, and employees won’t stay if they feel their talents are being wasted.

Similarly, people want to be managed in a way that enables them to perform to their maximum potential in an environment that matches their personality type. For example, some people require structure and explicit rules whereas others enjoy the thrill of ambiguity and an environment with minimal structure. Whatever those personal preferences are, if they are not being met, dissatisfaction is inevitable.

Lastly, success in any given job is a matter of intrinsic motivation. Everyone likes to run on some track that’s taking him or her where they want to go. Unless they perceive that their career aspirations, developmental and growth needs can be advanced, and unless they enjoy what they actually do every day, in a reasonably mobile job market, they won’t put up with frustration for long.

Hiring the wrong person is expensive, but hiring the right person only to watch him or her leave is even more expensive – and demoralizing. With more predictive assessment tools that measure will do, you have the opportunity to better engage these high performers and retain them longer.

__________________________________________________________________________13259f4For more than forty years, Frank Gump has been helping corporations become more productive and profitable by helping management teams identify and hire top performers and manage them most effectively. Developed and refined through extensive experience in more than 1200 organizations in the United States, Canada, England, and Australia, ADGI’s Organizational Management System (OMS) is a finely calibrated, technologically advanced decision-making process offering the potential for enormous payback. Contact ADGI for more insight and connect with Frank on LinkedIn. Follow ADGI on Twitter @ADGIGroup. Like ADGI on Facebook and follow us on Google+.