Blog post

Hiring for cultural fit with confidence - how our Right For model banishes bias

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3 minutes

Alignment with organisational culture is an important consideration when recruiting talent, but "cultural fit" can raise concerns about bias. Spotted Zebra's unique skills and cultural assessment model enables businesses to reap the benefits without risks.

Company culture is a crucial North Star to guide organisations, especially during turbulence and disruption. 

On a recent podcast with Steven Bartlett, the CEO of Spotify declared, "Company culture is the single most important thing that matters."

Bartlett then defined it as "this invisible religion that a group of people operate under, and it decides all the decisions when nobody is watching, and it has become my absolute obsession… As we head into the future [...] where there's a series of headwinds, company culture is going to be increasingly important." 

One of those headwinds is the global skills crisis. With skills, roles and requirements shifting at an increasing rate, employee alignment with company culture will be more important than ever in ensuring staff engagement, performance and loyalty. 

"If you think about the speed of change within organisations, and the impact this has on the jobs people do and the skills that they need, it's super critical to create a culture that people can thrive in, and that remains as the constant, the anchor of the organisation.," explains Nick Shaw, Co-Founder and Chief Customer Officer at Spotted Zebra. 

"It's then equally critical to find people who enjoy working and thrive within that culture because if they are successful in that environment, it will help them to adapt when their roles change, and they need to learn new skills."

Should your hiring process consider cultural fit?

Research from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) indicates that recruiting employees who are poorly aligned with company culture can cost organisations between 50-60% of the person's annual salary due to turnover.

Conversely, good cultural alignment between the company and the employee can deliver multiple benefits. These include greater job satisfaction, greater loyalty and better performance

However, "hiring for cultural fit" has also been the subject of criticism amid accusations that it could perpetuate racism, ageism and sexism in the recruitment process. In particular, numerous studies have demonstrated how hiring employees to fit into an existing culture can lead to similarity bias, with interviewers having a preference for candidates similar to themselves. 

So, if cultural alignment is so important, how can business and HR leaders identify cultural fit without perpetuating bias?

Introducing Spotted Zebra's Right For model

Spotted Zebra's experts have been considering this challenge for years and developed the Right For model in response. 

Drawing on decades of experience building assessment solutions for the world's largest employers, we allow organisations to understand candidates' alignment with their specific needs - including the critical component of cultural fit. 

We collect skills data from multiple sources, including employee feedback, industry data and Manager insight, to build a validated skills profile for each role. These comprise the technical and behavioural skills that are key to success in the role and against which companies can compare candidates to gauge their fit.  

But, crucially, we also work with each organisation to ensure their unique culture and values are reflected within the profile, mapping personality traits to behaviours. This provides a set of values against which individuals can be scored to understand their alignment with the organisation's culture and values. 

This data is then used to build an online assessment for candidates, along with an additional element designed to determine an individual's future potential, measuring qualities such as ambition, agility and collaboration. 

Following candidate assessment, our unique Right For Model categorises the information to provide an overall 'fit' score for each candidate, as well as a score for alignment in three categories:

  • Right For Us - How well an individual's skills align with the organisation's values and culture.
  • Right For Role - Whether the individual has the technical and behavioural skills required to undertake the role effectively.
  • Right For Future - Whether the individual has the skills to adapt, change and grow as the role and organisational needs change.

This gives HR professionals the utmost confidence in their recruitment decisions, being unbiased and right for the company's culture.

The impact of the Right For model

The model has had a transformative impact on candidate selection for our partners. In a recent recruitment programme with a major entertainment company, 70% of hired candidates had a Right For score of 0.85 or above, compared with 19% of the rest of the pool (see diagram below). This is a huge endorsement of the model's ability to predict interview performance and role performance. 

Steven Bartlett emphasises the importance of ensuring hires are "right for us": "I hire the best people I can that fit the company culture. Hire people to live out the company culture, and let someone go - even if they're needed - if they don't fit it."

Another of Spotted Zebra's customers, a global scientific and engineering company AWE, Head of Talent Acquisition Simon Perry, has spoken glowingly about the Right For model. 

"Particularly in apprentice hiring, we put a lot of effort into are they right for the role, are they right for AWE and are they right for the future," he explains. "Looking at that composition of skills and behaviours has been a huge success. Because we've put that additional upfront effort into screening out people that aren't right against those things, we've had a far higher quality of person join our business and stick with our business."

The model can also be used to support the training and development of employees, justifying investment in talent that the model has identified as having high future potential and that is highly aligned with company values. This is important as hiring and developing a workforce around a strong culture is crucial. 

Nick Shaw concludes: "Through our own research, we have found that employees who move internally through reskilling programmes are 3x quicker to competence than external hires. And that's in no small part because they already align with the culture, so they are already 'Right For Us'!

"Our Right For model empowers recruitment teams to ensure that there is cultural alignment, as well as skills alignment, for the best possible hiring outcomes."

If you'd like to review your strategic workforce plan, our experts are available for a Skills Strategy Lunch and Learn. Click here to learn more and reserve a session for you and your team.