Staff Selection: Culture Fit and Successful Job Performance


In a staff selection post earlier this year, I wrote about the importance of “culture fit”  in successful job performance. People who “fit” will be more comfortable and do better work.

Skills Aren’t Enough

Success on the job is more than a question of skill. Individuals must be comfortable with the values, systems and philosophies that underpin a business. Each day brings a story of a sports star who’s performance has “blossomed” or “declined”. After they’ve changed clubs or teams. The sports star’s skills are much the same. But the culture is different. “Culture fit” is real.

Skills Still Essential

Job skills are essential. All the “culture fit” on the planet won’t compensate for lack of skill. In selection, candidates either bring skills or can develop them with training.

You Decide

What does your company stand for? What professional and ethics values matter most in your company? What sort of employees “fit” best in your business? What professional standards do you want your business to be known for?

Text Book Responses

Please don’t try to answer with text book definitions. These sorts of answers may get you admitted to a university or college business course. But they’re mere labels. Your business culture needs more than labels.

Case Studies

  • An engine reconditioning business allows 14 reconditioners on an assembly line to set their own performance standards. They also monitor each other’s work and must be prepared for part of their reward to be paid through team based incentives.
  • A retailer has set up a system that enables staff to actually see “how they’re going” against sales budgets every time they make a sale. The details are before them on the screen.
  • A chain of family owned service stations in rural communities actively encourages managers to involve themselves in community activities and supports their involvement through special giants and subsidies.
  • A domestic plumbing maintenance company builds its success on outstanding customer service. Their slogan is “If we’re late you don’t pay”. They employ only competent plumbers. But the plumbers must be prepared to follow performance systems that satisfy strict customer performance protocols. All employees are involved. The company commits to “seamless customer service” from the time a client calls until the work is completed.
  • Every member of the management team in a car rental business is an internal appointment. Each of them started in a branch and “worked their way up”. Every employee can see that the company claim “we offer long term career prospects” is not an idle boast.

It’s Not Enough ……

It’s not enough to mouth lots of platitudes such as “employees are our backbone” or “customers are our first concern” or whatever slogan you can dream up. Culture isn’t a collection of smart sayings.

Visible And Demonstrable

Your “culture” must be obvious to all. If it’s a secret, it merely reflects a culture of secrecy. If that’s what you want, that’s OK. But you can’t reasonably tell your staff that you trust them completely and check their bags for stolen product each time they leave the workplace. A sound corporate culture demands absolute integrity.

It Starts With Selection

I often refer to corporate culture as satisfying “Willie Fit“. And if you want to keep Willie happy, start at selection. The time to evaluate culture fit is as part of the selection process. The selection process also offers unique opportunities.

Your Selection Collaborators

Modern staff selection techniques sometimes don’t make too much good sense. As managers we become deeply involved in selection. We choose a new person to work with and fit with a group of established employees. As part of that process we try to satisfy ourselves that the new person will fit. But we don’t ask the established staff. Does that make sense?

Involve Your Employees

The new employee must work with established employees. These people have shown that they “fit”. Why not use them to help you assess culture fit? After all, the employees have a major vested interest in ensuring that the new employee “fits”. And they are the “biggest losers” if the new employee fails to “fit”.

Skills testing and short listing can remain as your responsibility. But the two or three “most suitable” applicants can then be referred to employees to access culture fit.

Proper Process

I’m not recommending a “free for all”. I’m recommending a structured process where a representative workgroup interviews candidates before their appointments are confirmed.

Naturally the employees concerned would need to understand the objectives, nature and depth of their involvement. And they’d probably need some coaching in interview techniques.

But who’s better to assess fit than prospective work colleagues?


You need skilled people. But you also need people who are comfortable working in our business. They must also fit our business culture. Is it time to give employees more say in selection and give culture fit more emphasis?

What To Do Now

Think carefully about your business values. Make sure all employees know and understand them. Have you discussed them with employees lately?

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