The ROI of Recruiting for Cultural Fit

By Patty Hampton
In September 19, 2016

The work you do, the benefits you provide, every member of your team and how they feel when they’re at work all contribute to your nonprofit’s culture. When you understand your organization’s unique environment, you can focus on hiring individuals that align with it. As a result, you’ll see benefits like better job satisfaction, improved retention, higher productivity from your team, and even positive growth in your bottom line.

Before we dive into detail on how to realize results like these, I want to touch on an important distinction to keep in mind: hiring for cultural fit does not equate to discrimination. Cultural continuity does not mean only hiring the same types of people. In fact, diversity and cultural fit go hand in hand. You’ll find that having multiple perspectives from individuals with varying backgrounds and experiences will enrich your organization’s culture—not cloud it—so hiring for diversity and inclusion should continue to be a focus at your organization.

Once you learn how you can vet the ideal candidates for your nonprofit and how to measure the ROI of recruiting for cultural fit, you’ll start to see the benefits of a strong, consistent organizational culture.

How to identify culturally fit candidates

How do you identify who will be the best cultural fit for your organization through the recruiting and interview process? It’s not an easy task and it requires a thoughtful, strategic approach.

Start by looking for candidates with a balance of “soft skills” and “hard skills” that will allow them to perform the job well and align with your organization’s culture, mission, and environment. A candidate’s demonstration of soft skills like confidence, collaboration, and communication will indicate whether they fit in with your nonprofit’s culture, while their hard skills show whether they have the specific expertise and technical abilities needed to actually do the job. It’s not enough to skim over a résumé and ask about past experience to learn whether a candidate is the right fit for your team’s culture. Ask robust, open-ended questions during the interview process regarding what they’re looking for in a position and their own core beliefs and values. These are some sample questions you can ask candidates:

  • When have you had the deepest relationships at work? What kinds of relationships do you want at work?
  • When have you felt like your work was really helping other people inside or outside the organization? What is the ideal impact you would like to make on your co-workers and clients every day and week?
  • When have you felt like you have grown most as a person at work? What was it that led to the growth? What kind of growth do you want to create for yourself in your next job?
  • What are your personal interests and hobbies? How do you find a balance between your personal interests and professional goals?

Once you feel a candidate could be the right fit, invite them into your office and give them the opportunity to meet with other team members. Pick up on key behaviors that may have an impact on their level of success in the role they’ll perform, such as how introverted or extroverted they are, how engaged they seem to be with their potential co-workers, and how interested they are in what the people they talk with have to say. Check in with your staff after they’ve interacted with the candidate. They’ll be working with this individual every day and how they connect with a new hire will make an impact on the team’s overall productivity, connectivity, and morale—and ultimately your organization’s output.

Once you’ve found the ideal candidate for your organization’s culture and begun the onboarding process, you’ll begin to see the benefits of using cultural fit as a criteria for your recruiting and hiring decisions.

The benefits of recruiting for cultural fit

Talent is the key driver in furthering mission. When everyone on your team is invested in your nonprofit’s culture, mission, and goals, they’re also invested in driving long-term success for your organization. Employees who are a good fit with their fellow coworkers, their supervisor, and the organization as a whole reported better job satisfaction, a greater willingness to remain within their current organization, and even showed superior job performance compared to those who were not a strong cultural fit, according to a meta-analysis from the University of Iowa.

Additionally, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), turnover as a result of poor cultural fit creates a cost of 50 to 60 percent of an employee’s annual salary. If your team members fit in well with your organization’s culture, not only will they be more satisfied within their position, but they’ll be less likely to “jump ship” for another organization, preventing significant attrition costs.

As I’ve mentioned, a focus on cultural fit should not lead to a lack of diversity. A team should be made up of individuals who complement one another, not people who are all the same. Perhaps one team member’s strengths lie in the hard skills necessary to complete the technical aspects of a task while another has more soft skills related to engaging with stakeholders. These team members will complement each other very well and further your mission in a way that two people with only technical skills or only pure passion could not.

How you can track the ROI of hiring for cultural fit

Voluntary and involuntary turnover and retention rates are key indicators of how successful your organization is at hiring for cultural fit. Track changes in these statistics once you’ve incorporated a focus on cultural fit into your recruiting and hiring processes and note how the numbers change the more culturally-minded hires you make. As noted, turnover can have a severely negative impact on your organization’s bottom line. Once retention rates improve through culture initiatives, your organization is likely to have more resources available, from both a talent and monetary standpoint, to better reach more of the people you serve.

To analyze the output of talent, monitor outcomes from teams with hires that you feel are an especially good cultural fit and compare them with the outcomes of those who were hired solely based on hard skills or experience. You can also conduct surveys and feedback meetings amongst team members to gauge their overall satisfaction at work and how they feel it correlates to the success of your organization. The results of these surveys and meetings will help reveal whether the members of your team feel at home in your culture and whether you need to take steps to better define it and engage them.

If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of hiring for cultural fit or would like assistance in implementing recruiting and hiring practices with an emphasis on culture, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We look forward to hearing from you!

Nonprofit HR Vice President Patty Hampton is a seasoned HR professional and executive search consultant with a focus on talent acquisition, employee engagement, retention, transformational leadership, and communication in workplace. To that end, she has developed training programs and facilitated focus groups that result in an enriched employee/supervisor relationship, and presented workshops and webinars on strategic staffing and recruitment. Patty has been with the company since its inception, and has more than 23 years of human resources management experience working with nonprofit and for-profit organizations.

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