What is a Good Cultural Fit, and is it Really Important?

Randstad Technologies

January 16, 2018

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We hear a lot these days about the importance of selecting a job at a company where the employee is a good cultural fit. This emphasis seems to be well placed. Analyzing approximately 200 studies, the average correlation between a good cultural fit and a positive work experience was 0.43.

This indicates that cultural fit accounts for almost half the variance between employees and job satisfaction. It is more important to predict an employee's commitment to their employer than the fit between that person's skills and the job. But how many job candidates can precisely define what a good cultural fit consists of?

Poor Cultural Fit

Here is what a good cultural fit is not: it is not an environment where all the employees share a common personality type, attitude, thinking style, and background. That sounds like working with a bunch of clones. Several studies have confirmed that a driver of innovation and better financial performance is diversity. A workforce with people who all think alike is unlikely to spur consistent innovation.

This is not to say that someone who is naturally an introvert is a good fit for a firm that requires its employees to engage in regular, loud, boisterous cheerleading activities. That is probably not the best setting for that person. The position does need to fit an employee's personality, but that does not mean that only one personality type is a good fit for that employer. The employer should offer a work environment that accommodates various personality types.

One's attitude toward work and work habits are also important. If an employer requires adherence to strict work hours and a job candidate wants flexibility, as long as they get the work done on time, the position might not be a good fit—even if the candidate's job skills and experience are.

Positive Cultural Fit

The most widely accepted definition of a good cultural fit is when the employee's norms and values are compatible with their employer's. Here is a somewhat extreme example: from 1957 until 2000, Disney parks employees were prohibited from having facial hair (even though Walt Disney sported a mustache). For some potential employees, such a policy, or perhaps the degree to which Disney was micromanaging their lives, would have been off-putting enough to be a deal breaker. Apparently, Disney was having problems recruiting enough talent and eliminated the policy (except the seven dwarves!).

Many studies have validated the benefits of a good cultural fit. In addition to having greater job satisfaction, those benefits include:

  • Identifying more with their company

  • Longer tenure

  • Greater commitment to their job

  • Higher job performance levels

  • A good cultural fit does not mean conformity to rigid guidelines. Cultural fit allows the individual to be different and unique and still remain true to their company's core values. All of this assumes that the company is also true to their core values. If a firm's core values are just window-dressing to impress potential employees and customers or aspirational to be attained someday in the future, the result will be cynicism, disillusionment, and high turnover. A good cultural fit requires adherence to core values for both the employee and the employer.

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    Originally published on Randstad.

    Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

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