Quarsh Blog

Cultural Disruption: hiring someone who doesn’t “fit”

Why is this a problem?

Cultural disruption is caused by hiring someone who doesn’t “fit” into a team. The impact is much more wide-reaching than making the wrong technical hire. Skills can be taught and any impact is felt very locally – it’s just one job that’s affected, after all, and there are training courses, or aspects of a role can be delegated. Cultural misalignment is much more of an issue. Whole teams are affected very quickly. Arguments, misunderstandings, lack of trust escalate into team coherence being under-mined, demoralised and stressed colleagues, more sick days, resignations. Without quick and public action, the management team looks like it doesn’t know what it’s doing. Productivity goes down and people are less inclined to work together. The worst part is exiting the problem – it’s so much harder to justify cultural rather than technical mismatch to an arbiter, so all of a sudden there are legal implica-tions to consider too.

Useful tip:

Listen and watch behaviour. If a team’s pro-ductivity changes noticeably, spend more time focussed on them to see what the dynamics are doing, and listen for clues.

How is recruitment involved?

Get the recruitment process right, and fully fo-cussed on cultural as well as competency hiring, and the risk of cultural disruption is hugely reduced. There are two pieces of recruitment maths to get right – technical and cultural – but six times the disruption if the wrong person is in the business. Hire for culture as much as for technical fit; you can teach skills, but not character. Know your culture and be honest with yourself about who you need and why.

People don’t come to work to do a bad job, and no-one wants to join a team where they’re not at home. As an employer, you have a responsibility to hire correctly and carefully. It’s not acceptable to say to yourself “well, if it goes wrong we can always fire them” (which I heard just today from a CEO); that candidate’s life will be in disarray.

Useful tip:

Use a combination of cultural competency assessment tools. Train interviewers, or use trained externals, to interview against cultural frameworks; use psychometric profiling; try different assessment formats such as presentations, site tours, off-duty lunch, team working exercises, whiteboard discussions.

Is Cultural Disruption always bad?

Absolutely not. Sometimes disruption is essential. A poorly performing sales team that spends more time on the internet than making calls might need a shock to change things. Bear in mind though that even intentional disruption will cause issues, so be sure that you’re doing it for the right reasons.

What will happen if you get it right?

I’d like to think the benefits are pretty obvious! A team that works well together drives productivity, inspires creative thinking, pushes new ideas and tries new initiatives without fear of recrimination or reprisal. It’s a positive spiral that keeps on giving.

Useful tip:

Know whether you need a cultural shock to improve performance; if you do, be clear on what results you expect and over what time-frame, where the impact will be felt, and what you’ll do if you need to make a quick change.