Why Culture Fit Matters Even More at the Top

Businesspeople in a meetingBy Laurie Bradley

When your organization hires your next C-level executive, what will you be looking for? An impressive CV? Proven leadership experience? Success in a top position with a competitor? The ability to affect change in your organization?

All are important considerations. However, the one consideration many organizations overlook can be the most important of all: culture fit. If a new executive hire doesn’t fit well within the company culture, no amount of on-boarding can increase his or her chance of success — or decrease the chance of failure.

When evaluating new C-level executive candidates, boards typically focus on data, goals, and shareholder value. Rarely do they consider matters of corporate culture when making hiring decisions — an oversight that directly impacts the success or failure of the candidate chosen.

A tale of two cultures
Because poor cultural fit is the defining cause of 89% of hiring failures, considering corporate culture is crucial — and you must start at the top. As Forbes contributor, Erika Andersen, explains, company leaders may hire “against type” for good reasons. In one of her examples, a leader believes his media company has become stagnant, so he hires an executive selected for being a risk-taker and free-thinker. In another example, an executive is selected because leadership viewed the company as “too nice” and wants to implement a direct and assertive environment.

Both cases show leadership attempting to change a culture that was already deeply ingrained in employees who placed high value in their shared beliefs and modes of operation. Examples like these aren’t evidence that change can never happen; but the change must happen from within, rather than coming from outside. To do that, your new executive must first be able to connect with the existing culture.

Changing the story
Truthfully defining your company culture and using it as a clear measure for hiring new executives can help maximize their chances of success — and yours. Here are a few steps to help you change the story and put your company culture to work in your hiring decisions:

  1. Know your real culture — Do an analysis to determine what your culture truly is — not what you want it to be, but what it is in the current state of reality, and how it functions.
  2. Start at the top — Support of company culture needs to happen at every level — most importantly at the top, starting with the founders, board members, CEOs, and other C-level executives.
  3. Evaluate candidates for culture fit — Once you have a clear vision of your true company culture, and that culture is supported at every level of your organization, THEN ensure that culture fit is an essential part of your candidate evaluation.

Even if your ultimate goal is to create change in your organization, any executive you hire to make that change a reality needs to earn buy-in for that change throughout the organization. Selecting an executive that fits the company culture is vital to their success — and the success of your change initiatives.

Making culture fit a “must have” sets the scene for the happy ending you want. Let ASG Renaissance help! Contact Laurie Bradley by email or at 800-238-0890.

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