Columns , Leadership

Stop hiring for culture fit

Employing people who share your values will elevate a practice by introducing different perspectives and creating a more diverse workforce.

Stop hiring for culture fit
Diversity isn’t just generational. It can involve making the practice more gender equal or evolve the racial-ethnic demographic.

It doesn’t take long to find articles that share why you should hire for culture fit. You might be employed by or have worked for companies that stressed how crucial this is. In fact, it’s gotten to where “hire for culture fit” is something that “everybody knows,” which can serve as a red flag.

First, what does “hire for culture fit” really mean? It’s often defined as recruiting people who, in theory, should be able to join your team and mesh with employees quickly because of shared behavior and belief systems. Ideally, they would quickly add value to your veterinary practice, too, without causing conflict. Hiring for culture fit also can be described as a way to look at a job candidate as a whole, not just as a list of his or her qualifications and experiences. The person would be chosen in part based upon personality traits and how those traits match up with those of current employees.

At a high level, this makes sense. After all, for example, you want honest team members who desire to contribute to a workplace that genuinely provides quality animal care. And so, if you interview someone who fits those parameters, that’s a plus.

Good Intentions Go Astray

The danger occurs when you take the culture fit concept too far, narrowing what you’re looking for in a new employee. Culture fit can, quite unintentionally, become a catchphrase that means you want to hire people who think like you do, who perform their job duties like you do and who otherwise are just like you.

Doing this can lead to:

  • A lack of diversity among team members.
  • A dearth of viewpoints, creating a “me, too” culture that inhibits growth.
  • Overlooking potential employees who would have plenty to contribute.

A practice that rejects candidates who fail to fit into a precise mold despite their qualifications and despite what they can contribute is putting its efforts into maintaining the status quo rather than hiring to expand the possibilities.

More Than Culture

Instead of focusing on finding the right culture fit, what can make more sense is adding to your practice culture in strategic ways to increase what you offer clients.

Let’s say your practice team tends to come to a consensus quickly, which you’ve perceived as a good thing. But if you look around the room, you might notice that everyone is from the same generation, perhaps older Gen Xers.

If you added, say, a millennial to the mix, what would happen? There might not be as much consensus anymore, but you might receive a wealth of information about new technology, which could introduce a new level of service, streamline communication and much more. Diversity isn’t just generational. It can involve making the practice more gender equal or evolve the racial-ethnic demographic.

Creating a more diverse workforce can benefit you in numerous ways. But to make that happen, make sure a desire for culture fit doesn’t turn into a demand for consensus.

Hiring for Value Fit

Making sure new employees fit in well so that you can pursue goals together is important. But for a new perspective, aim for value matching instead of focusing on culture fit.

For example, if your practice strongly believes in providing empathetic service to clients and their pets, then recruit and hire people who can live out that value. When you hire for a value fit, you look for candidates who share the same sense of purpose that others do at the practice. You still allow for, and even embrace, diverse points of view on how to achieve the goals.

This might sound like splitting hairs, but when companies carefully analyze their culture, define what they value, create a hiring structure based on those factors and ensure the process isn’t really a path to a lack of diversity, then how the process is phrased might be a matter of linguistics. Unfortunately, not enough companies take time to dive deeply into what they value, and even fewer then interview and hire based on the intelligence gleaned. Too often, culture fit still means that those in charge of hiring make subjective decisions based on gut feelings about job candidates.

How can you tell the difference between hiring for culture and hiring for values? In the November/December 2018 issue of HR Magazine, a good example was given. Saying you want to hire friendly people who have a good attitude is an example of hiring for culture fit in a way that can hinder innovation. If, though, your practice places significant value on high autonomy in the workplace and you’ve discovered how to interview and hire for it, this can become a value fit hiring process.

The HR Magazine article recommended that scorecards be used for candidate assessment. The example used is that a practice decides that relationship-building skills are valued. Without using a carefully created scorecard, a quieter candidate who has stellar relationship-building abilities can be overlooked.

Job Candidate Preferences

What can be helpful is to talk to job candidates about the environments that allow them to thrive. Some people, for example, work especially well within a significant structure while others prefer to have wiggle room and space to breathe. Open-ended questions can give you additional insight into these candidates. If you feel uncomfortable about an answer, decide whether the answer is “wrong” for your practice or whether it’s an opportunity to open yourself to new ideas that would add value to the workplace.

If you end up hiring someone and it doesn’t work out well, you have an excellent chance to decipher why it failed. Did the employee’s values not mesh with yours? If so, do your interview notes reveal any missed red flags? What can you learn from the review?

When the notion of hiring for culture fit was first developed, it was a significant step in the right direction, focusing hiring managers on looking beyond mere lines on a resume. Including a cultural-fit component in your hiring practices can still be useful if your recruiting structure is well thought out, you’re strongly focused on values and you acknowledgement the importance of diversity.

H.R. Huddle columnist Dr. Charlotte Lacroix is founder and CEO of Veterinary Business Advisors Inc. She serves on the Today’s Veterinary Business editorial advisory board.

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