Improving Culture Fit in the Modern Workplace

Finding the right team members for your business is an ongoing quest. Hiring someone who fits within your workplace’s culture feels like finding a key piece to the puzzle. On the other hand, employing an individual who isn’t a great match can range from feelings of awkwardness to outright tumultuousness within the office. 

In the modern workplace, collaboration and communication are relied on like never before. In order to get things done, departments and teams have become increasingly un-siloed, and require employees to join forces both efficiently and considerately. More so, turnover isn’t just a bummer, it’s expensive. The average cost to replace an employee is 33% of that person’s salary, and that doesn’t even factor in the indirect productivity costs to an employer, such as the time spent finding and fully onboarding a replacement.

Finding a “good hire” isn’t just about relevant experience and education anymore — it’s just as much about finding someone who matches with your company’s goals, behaviors, values, communication styles, and degrees of emotional intelligence. Assessing a candidate’s education and experience is easy — I mean, it’s right there on their resume. Evaluating a culture fit is much more complex, but it has to be done. Here are the top ways that I’ve used to improve culture fit within the modern workplace.


Introducing the Trust Initiative

In order to promote a positive, mentally-healthy work environment, I need to consistently assess how my team interact with each other. This becomes especially important during periods of stress or disagreement, when cracks tend to form in even the most sturdy of foundations.  Through a partnership with Kevin Black, Forbes Leadership Coach, we have developed a scientifically-based analysis that identifies natural strengths and behaviors within teams. By utilizing what we refer to as the “Trust Initiative”, we are able to have open, lively communications where everyone feels safe to share their input and opinions.  It allows me to structure an environment that elicits these strengths in my Team, allowing each person to thrive.  We are excited to announce that this personalized coaching and analysis is now available to our Auxana community members as well.

It’s also important to empower my team members to acknowledge the efforts and accomplishments of their colleagues. I strive to hire individuals who show high emotional intelligence, so that regardless of the tone of the circumstance they may find themselves in, I can trust that they will demonstrate poise and professionalism. Inciting my team to celebrate each other’s successes makes us even stronger when issues do arise, and helps to ensure positive collaboration moving forward.

There are a multitude of questions that I like to use during the interview process, in order to assess how a job prospect will likely interact with their colleagues, and how their interactions demonstrate respect and support the trust initiative. For example: 

  • What do you value most at work? 
  • What do you like and dislike about working with a team? 
  • Can you give an example of when you went above and beyond to help a co-worker? 
  • Can you give an example of how you handled an interoffice conflict?
  • Have you ever felt out-of-place at a previous job, and why? What did you take from that experience?
  • What’s one thing you would change about your prior company and why?

To establish the levels of respect that I expect from my employees, I also take the opportunity during interviews to emphasize my company’s core mission and beliefs. It’s important that they hear about our policies for how we handle aspects such as work-life balance, recognition and achievements, as well as conflict resolution. I will also talk about what makes me proud about our company. Not only does this help set a precedent, but it will give you the opportunity to evaluate how your candidate reacts to your culture ideals, and also allows them to assess their own potential fit. The last thing any office needs is an environment rife with gossip, “us-vs-them” mentalities, or pettiness. Reviewing how your candidates demonstrate respect to their colleagues in the early stages helps institute an inclusive, productive work experience for everyone.


Encourage Transparent Collaboration

Closed-off communications and business practices can lead to an environment of uneasiness and even resentment. When communication is poor, employees tend to fill in the gaps…often with less than favorable assumptions. To that end, I want to hire people who show openness and transparency in their interactions and communications. I need my candidates to not simply address the “what”, but also the “why” behind their actions and processes. Hiring individuals who demonstrate transparency in their professional interactions helps foster engagement and equality across my teams, ensuring that colleagues feel heard and acknowledged. 

We’ve likely all worked somewhere and wondered of another employee, “Who is this person, and what exactly do they do”? I never want any of my team members to feel this way, and it’s up to leadership to promote transparency via avenues such as frequent communication across many channels, cross-functional meetings and communication, and requesting input from all departments and levels, particularly during times of change and development. 

During the interview process, I highly endorse having your candidates speak with different teams and potential colleagues. Even better, doing so within a casual setting, such as over coffee or lunch, will help to assess how they communicate, and allow you to get a better sense of people’s personalities. It’s important to see how they “gel” with your current staff, and allows you to get additional feedback. Ideally, your new hire solicits a mutual positive feeling amongst everyone involved.


Demonstrate Accountability

I’m not perfect, and I don’t expect my employees to be. I understand that mistakes will be made, and sometimes errors are inevitable. That being said, I love a colleague who is able to take accountability for their mistakes, learn from the situation, and use the lesson to help guide their steps moving forward. 

Accountability within an organization starts from the top, with transparent performance standards that apply to everyone, including our leaders. If I don’t model the desired behaviors that I expect from everyone else, then those standards become arbitrary. By honoring my obligations and deadlines, I set the precedent of what’s expected across the board. It’s with equal importance that I also practice what I preach when I make mistakes. Taking ownership of my errors, sharing the lessons I’ve learned from those instances, and encouraging others to find resolutions rather than “pass the buck” are crucial actions that I need to exhibit to all members of my staff. Leadership also needs to ensure that accountability doesn’t only coincide with punishment. Consistent, open feedback from leaders that emphasizes their team members’ strengths and successes is just as important as helping to correct any issues that may arise.


Prioritizing Workplace Culture Fit is a Win-Win

Paying more attention to workplace culture fit helps motivate your employees and fuel their performance, fostering a win-win situation for everyone involved. Organizations with poor workplace culture create an environment where employees feel as though they have no control, meager levels of trust, and plummeting incentive to perform. 

Your employees are the lifeblood of the organization, and when they’re working together harmoniously, that’s when awesome things happen. You can always provide more training or additional resources for your team members to get better at their jobs, but you simply can’t train for a culture fit. Prioritize culture fit during the hiring process, promote the trust initiative across all departments and levels of your business, and make sure you practice the culture you preach.