The Reverse Engineering of the Cultural Fit

As a CEO, what comes to mind when you hear the words ‘cultural fit?’ Do you immediately associate it with when things are working, such as a flow to work processes and your people’s productivity with everyone generally feeling pretty content? Or perhaps you visualise when it’s not working and think of someone who appears to be the odd one out, the one who doesn’t seem to ‘get it’ when it comes to moving things forward as a unit? Regardless of your association, what we do need to know is that it means something different to every company, it’s changing, and we need to be able to navigate this change as leaders. So let’s start at the beginning. 

What Do We Mean By Cultural Fit? 

It can be a tricky phrase to define, but ultimately, cultural fit is the umbrella term given to the visions and values of a business, and how your people’s beliefs and behaviours align with them. This can come in various forms, such as the highly ambitious being supported in upskilling or perhaps your company engages in corporate volunteering and is why the humanitarian in accounts applied to work with you—this kind of thing. 

Why Is It Important? 

For many reasons, the paramount one being your people’s happiness. People respond well to being part of a community and a sense of belonging. We often use the term, ‘fit into place’ and the place in this instance is your company. If they have shared values with the people and organisation they are working in, it’s going to deepen relationships, and therefore, make them feel content, supported and included because they are actively part of something they believe in. This naturally strengthens the company and will be reflected in their productivity. But times are changing, and so is the process of the cultural fit.

What’s Been Happening Before Now?  

The way many organisations have been operating is more focused on the fit rather than the culture and can be summed up with the phrase; fitting the mould. You know the score, you have a gap you need to fill in your company, and you are looking for the right hire. You have many qualified applicants, but you pick someone who can bring that bit extra to the team. The only thing is, are you going to let them? It’s easy to get stuck with the notion of what the cultural fit of your organisation looks like meaning it, as well as your people, have little room to develop it. It’s an approach used by many businesses, but it’s not the way forward for the modern workforce.  

“The movement towards a company matching its people

rather than its people matching the company has already started.”


What’s Changed? 

We are living in an era of individualism and expression, both of which are rightly celebrated because people are people first, and employees second. More and more people are looking for a purpose in their work. They are striving for more of a work-life balance. They are seeking remote working opportunities. The iron wall between their personal and professional lives has been replaced with a transparent one, and people are starting to own their differences, rather than trying to be like everyone else. These factors influence their approach to their work and impact our understanding and formation of a company’s cultural fit. 

Therefore, when it comes to your people and your organisation, these changes can not be ignored as they signify not only a change in how people are operating and what’s important to them, it calls for change in how we respond as CEOs. This results in the reverse engineering of the cultural fit. The need for people to fit the role is rapidly being replaced with the need for the company to embrace who their people are, not the other way around. The cultural element is now taking the reins, followed by the fit.    

As mentioned, when you hire someone, alongside them fulfilling the required criteria, they have something you want them to bring to your company. If you get too strict on the role they must fulfil as you visualised it, that spark will dwindle. If you allow them the space to make their own mould, they are much more likely to thrive. 

How To Adapt 

The best way to keep on top of this development is by changing your mindset. See people, their happiness and the great qualities you employed them for as a priority to nurture. Take a step back and let this and them form the company culture which advises the cultural fit rather than relying on the minimal wiggle room attached to the rigid job spec. 

The reason this is so important is it directly impacts the person’s feelings about their work. You are much less likely to retain someone who isn’t enjoying what they do, and you certainly won’t get the best out of them. Keeping in mind this is someone you hired because of what they could add to the company in the first place so let’s not lose that. It doesn’t mean the company’s core values are to be forgotten, it’s about making space for the culture, and it’s accompanying fit to develop. 

Why You Must 

There are ample reasons why it’s worth jumping on this train. The positive knock-on effects work towards tackling retention issues, improving engagement and increasing performance. And it all starts with your people, their contentment and their role in creating the right kind of company culture which contributes to the cultural fit.

The movement towards a company matching its people rather than its people matching the company has already started. And it’s not going anywhere any time soon. As leaders, it’s crucial we join the movement, rather than reject it. No business wants to get left behind, the same way your people don’t. Instead, this is about moving forward together. It’s time to rethink cultural fit from your perspective as a CEO and start thinking about it from the perspective of those who matter most and have a significant role to play in its formation, your people. 


If you’d like to know how we can help you, your people and your company when it comes to culture, contact Noel from team Frankli today. 

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