Hiring is one of the most critical and challenging responsibilities for small business owners, and there are many important criteria to consider when evaluating a candidate’s potential. Key among these is focusing on candidates whose values, beliefs, and behavior are aligned with those of your organization, making them a good cultural fit.

An employee who is a good cultural fit is more likely to be engaged, productive, and interested in growing with your business than one who is not. Employees who fail to adapt to a company’s culture generally leave to find a work environment that is better suited to their own values and beliefs.

Why Company Culture Matters

Company culture is about creating a set of values that reflect who you are and what your business is trying to achieve in the market place. For companies large and small, it has become increasingly important that their culture be infused in everything they do, from operations and human resources to marketing.

Research shows that culture-conscious companies typically out-earn and outperform their competition. It’s not surprising, then, that a recent study of recruiters found 84% of those surveyed agree that cultural fit, not the time and cost to hire for a position, is a prominent factor in the selection process.

Every company’s culture is different and so is every employee. Identifying people who are a fit with your organization’s personality is no easy task, but it is essential to making a successful hire. You can provide the resources and tools to help employees get better at their jobs, but it is impossible to teach someone to align with your culture. Here are five tips to help ensure that the staff you bring on board mesh well with your current culture:

1 – Clarify Your Mission and Values

As a small business owner, you are responsible for shaping a company culture that will support the success of your organization. Analyzing, documenting, and communicating your company mission and values clarifies what you consider most important and defines the behavior that your employees are expected to uphold.

If you haven’t taken this step, now is the time. If you have successfully established a workplace culture, it’s a good idea to reexamine it on a regular basis to help preserve your values as your business grows.

Once you have clearly defined your company culture, express it on your website and in all of your communication materials. This includes your recruiting tools and job postings. Make sure your job ads connect back to your core values and are as detailed as possible. This will help candidates determine upfront whether or not your company is a possible fit. It is also crucial that anyone involved in the hiring process has a solid understanding of your culture and that they exemplify the behaviors you expect.

2 – Interview with Culture in Mind

One of the main purposes of a job interview should be to assess the potential cultural fit of each candidate. New hires must have the necessary qualifications to perform the job and demonstrate the characteristics that will allow them to work effectively with your existing team.

During the interview process, discuss your culture and mix in questions that relate directly to your mission and values. For example, you might ask candidates to describe their perfect work environment or preferred work style. Someone who appreciates the input of a variety of people is likely to thrive in an organization that relies on collaboration to get the job done. A person who works better independently may not be a good cultural fit in a team-oriented workplace.

3 – Create a Collaborative Hiring Process

Involving your current employees in the hiring process is one of the surest ways to prioritize cultural fit. The perspectives of those who work well within the company’s culture can be an invaluable source of knowledge and insight for you or your HR staff.

Once you have narrowed down your choice of candidates, schedule a time for each of them to meet their prospective teammates. Allow your team to ask questions and encourage a casual atmosphere where everyone can get to know each other. To test group dynamics and working styles, consider arranging a small project where your current team and candidates can work together. Solicit feedback from your team on individual candidates and let them know you value their honesty. This process also gives potential hires the chance to see how they get along with the people they will be collaborating with on a daily basis.

4 – Check References Carefully

When you find the perfect candidate, resist the temptation to skip a reference check. Interviewing references can help you learn a great deal about your potential new hire, including the kind of company culture that existed where they worked in the past. If possible, ask former managers or coworkers what the candidate liked and did not like about their previous job and under what conditions they worked best. Many companies today also conduct a Google search to help determine how potential candidates behave outside of a professional environment. Inappropriate posts or tweets could reflect a poor fit with your mission and values.

5 – Connect New Hires Quickly

An effective and inclusive onboarding process is essential to making new hires feel like part of the team. Even those who seem like a perfect cultural fit can find it difficult to adapt if they feel unwelcome or ignored.

One of the best ways to facilitate a smooth transition is to connect new hires immediately to your internal network and company communications. Have their software and messaging system logins ready before they arrive, and make sure they know where and how to find information on their own. Encourage them to get up to speed by reaching out to teammates or a designated mentor.

When you hire employees for cultural fit, you are setting them up for success, saving yourself time and money to replace them down the road, and driving long-term business growth.

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Summit Financial Resources specializes in working capital financing for small to medium-sized businesses that need increased cash flow. We provide working capital financing through invoice factoring, asset-based lending, inventory lending, and equipment financing.