Whitepaper: Hiring for Culture

Our goal is to move from hiring resources to hiring personalities and finally to hiring people.

Starting from the hypothesis that purely skill-based recruitment is ineffective to build strong teams in complex and adaptive environments, the Business Agility Institute brought together a global team to examine the latest research and trends on recruitment. Learn what is means to hire for culture add, rather than culture fit. Learn how personal motivation plays into the selection process. Learn how to define and quantify your organizational culture. Learn some of the latest recruitment practices shown to improve hiring for culture.

Read the Abstract

Every business, as indeed the whole economy, is ultimately made up of human beings – individuals acting and reacting in ways that build success or failure. And, thus, it is people who make up the true strength (or weakness) of any company.

Having the right set of people for the enterprise, who interact in productive ways and not counterproductive ways, is mission critical. It requires building a positive culture that matches the values and goals of the company, and this in turn requires employees who work well within and bolster that culture.

This process begins with recruitment: Hiring is a key moment in constructing the culture of any organization. New employees bring their personalities, emotions, and habits with them, just as much as their skills and experience, and inevitably influence the company environment.

Traditional recruitment and hiring practices focus heavily on candidates’ technical skills and knowledge, providing insight into how they’d fit into the company’s processes. Too often, however, companies neglect to evaluate the people skills that help them interact successfully – missing how candidates would fit into the company’s culture.

Personnel lacking a specific competency or knowledge can be trained, and even habitual behaviors can be revised to some degree. But to change an employee’s personality is likely to prove next to impossible. Teaching someone to be more of a team player or to have more competitive drive, for example, is much less straightforward than training them on tools or procedures.

Failing to recognize this leads to an all-too-common scenario: A company finds a prospective employee with the right expertise for a job and proven success elsewhere. The hiring managers snap them up – only to discover that their personal style clashes with the company. This kind of mis-hire due to lack of cultural fit wastes a lot of energy, time and money. It is better to foresee possible troubles in fit than to correct them afterward with much effort.

Truly agile organizations should focus more on the skills that help people interact, and less on technical skills. This is the first value of the Agile Manifesto: “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.” In order to transform an enterprise towards greater business agility, a paradigm shift in recruitment is crucial. This means recognizing that the human component is the most important factor in such transformation, and that interpersonal interactions constitute the most powerful energy an organization can harness to master future challenges.

To this end, we argue for proactively developing processes to bring in employees who will positively interact with and contribute to a successful environment. First and foremost, this means working to hire individuals who will fit and succeed within the organizational culture (culture fit). Second, and more difficultly, this can mean striving to bring in individuals who will help stretch that culture in positive directions (culture add).

While it is impossible to prescribe a one-size-fits-all solution, and hiring is fraught with significant variables and unknowns, this white paper presents research to help enterprises revise recruitment to support the transformation towards greater agility. The paper examines frameworks for assessing organizational culture and for determining cultural goals, as well as tools that facilitate hiring for culture. These can equip enterprises to build environments that embody their values and contribute to sustainable success.

Our goal is to move from hiring resources to hiring personalities and finally to hiring people.


With sincere thanks to; Brunello Gianella, Jakub Jurkiewicz, V Lakshmi Chirravuri, and Stavros Papadeas.

Don’t forget the there are many HR and leadership related case studies in the Business Agility Library. You’ll find many fantastic stories there.

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