Hiring for Culture Fit in 2023

Family Business

Hiring for Culture Fit in 2023

March 21st, 2023 by Amy Suitter

Newsletter header that shows the title and an image of people waiting to be interviewed

Hiring for Culture Fit in 2023 by Bill Benson

Are you struggling to find people who will stay with you long term? Do you have an intentional process to evaluate fit? We still see companies screening and measuring candidates against largely tangible requirements. Most companies see the importance of culture fit, but it hasn’t translated to the interview process. A best practice would be to evaluate both tangible and intangible qualities. If someone fails or leaves after a short time it is often related to how they fit within the company or some other intangible factor. Hiring an employee that fits well with the team and has a baseline of experience to build from is often a better hire than someone who has all the experience but doesn’t fit the company well.

It is easy to attach confidence to a candidate with parallel experience or be infatuated with a specific aspect like a skill set or competitor experience. Many of the factors we see as important are often skills that can be learned. Personality, drive, character, willingness to change, interest in learning and many other factors are inherent and won’t change.

The most discussed aspect of fit is “culture fit.” Culture fit refers to the compatibility of an individual with a company’s values, beliefs, and working style. The idea behind hiring for culture fit is that employees who share the company’s culture are more likely to be happy, productive, and stay with the company longer.

Consider employees within your company who are succeeding. What are the qualities they possess that make them successful? They have a good understanding of what it takes to be successful in your organization. It’s important to take a good look at the factors pivotal to the success of your top employees. This gives you insight on qualities to seek with your new hires.

When considering culture fit in the hiring process employers typically assess an applicant’s values, communication style, work ethic, and personality. This can be done through various methods such as:

Interviews: The interviewer can ask open-ended questions such as, “describe a culture that is a good fit for you?” “What elements or characteristics are you seeking in your next work environment?” “If you could wave a magic wand – what would you change in your current environment?” Here are some additional questions to consider.

References: Speaking to the candidate’s past colleagues or managers can provide insights into their work ethic and how they fit into a team.

Behavioral and situational interview questions: These types of questions can provide insight into how the candidate might handle different scenarios in the workplace.

Work samples and tests: Review a candidate’s previous work or give them a test or project that can give a clearer idea of their skills and abilities, as well as their approach to problem-solving.

Company events and activities: Inviting candidates to company events or activities can give them a sense of the company culture and help determine if they would be a good fit. Having the potential candidate spend some time in your environment will also give you a feel for how they fit.

Dinner or lunch: Having a candidate out with a small group in an informal setting like dinner or lunch will give you insight into their social skills.

Family-owned businesses have unique challenges and opportunities when it comes to hiring and building a successful workforce. Typically, these companies have strong cultures that value people, customers, relationships and teamwork. In the post covid environment, many of these family business values resonate with employees looking for stability in a caring environment. It is critical for these culture rich environments to take extra time to evaluate alignment. Here are a couple of tips for family businesses leaders:

  • Designate a key family member who has strong alignment and passion for the culture of the organization and involve them in the interview process.
  • Have a clear understanding of the elements that make up your culture and use those to help promote your brand. Elements like a focus on safety or employee development are examples that reinforce an environment that is meeting the needs of its employees.
  • Trusting relationships are developed when the employee believes the employer is focused on collective interests rather than profit. Make sure interviews are a two-way street where you ask questions about what is important to the candidate and what is important to you.
  • Develop purposeful opportunities for employees to volunteer and get involved with a community or not-for-profit organization. These activities will reinforce your culture of caring.

Here are some areas of “fit” to check that can contribute to an employee’s success:

1. Readiness to adapt and change
2. Self-Directed
3. Motivation and Drive
4. Values Alignment
5. Interest in Learning – Creative, Inquisitive
6. Capability to Work Collaboratively
7. Emotional Intelligence
8. Pro-Active – Able to “see the work” as well as execute.
9. Leadership Style
10. Character and Integrity

The cost of a hiring mistake can be 3-5 times the amount of the employee’s annual salary. A good interview, reference and assessment process will help you find a great fit for your organization.

Happy Employee Hunting!


10 Strategic Growth Questions for Family Businesses

August 31st, 2021 by Amy Suitter

10 Strategic Growth Questions for Family Business

By Jim Fox

Our guest column this month is written by Jim Fox. I’m excited to share insight Jim has learned throughout his successful career in growing businesses. He is now delivering that same insight to small and medium-sized companies needing his leadership and mentoring capability on a part-time, fractional cost basis. A great solution for companies who could use his extensive tool box!

Some advisors (bankers, accountants, lawyers, consultants, executive recruiters, insurance brokers, EOS implementers, etc.) of family-owned businesses, build advisory relationships beyond their standard services to better ensure their clients’ succeed decade after decade. This can be quite beneficial to family business owners when they are challenged with one or more of the following issues:

  • Market share is shrinking due to competitive changes
  • Sales are decreasing due to an industry disruption affecting customers’ buying habits
  • The owner is considering selling the business and the valuation is lower than expectations
  • The owner is transitioning the business to the next generation and is risk averse
  • The business cannot afford to invest in growth initiatives due to suppressed profits
  • The owner lacks time and/or desire to focus beyond the day-to-day operation

The following are 10 questions which family-owned business advisors can ask their clients to think about the big picture to generate more profitable growth and improve the probability of sustaining the business for generations to come.

What do you ultimately want to get out of your family business?

Understand the unconstrained desires of your family-business owner clients. Probe for clarity on what is most important, both economically and non-economically. Although there are nuisances to family-owned businesses, they should be run like any other business, which is to maximize realized shareholder value. This provides the foundation to support the owner’s goal relative to their family, employees or community. Family business and individual goals should be addressed carefully to keep harmony within the ownership group.

How confident are you that you are on a trajectory to getting everything you want out of your business?

The business owner may be on the trajectory, but more likely there are gaps or risks of gaps. Probe to understand what those gaps are. Regardless of whether the family-business owner wants to thrive or just survive, growth is needed to stay healthy. After all, costs rise, business markets change, and customer demand combined with competitive pressures evolve, often at an increased pace. Also, as a family grows, there are more family members to support.

Businesses that do not grow ultimately go out of business. Businesses that generate good cash flows, despite a stagnant business model, may not make it to the next generation or yield the desired price if sold.

A business mantra to grow forces a business to develop new products and services and deliver a solid value proposition to customers to be competitive. A growth mantra enables an upward performance trajectory which generates the financial resources to reward ownership, employees, and community. Growth needs to be healthy, resulting in incremental profits. After all, growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.

What are your growth plans for the business? How were these plans developed?

Determine how much growth is sought and gain an understanding of the plans to achieve this growth. Understand past plans and growth achievement to inform the confidence level of executing growth plans. Probe how the growth will be achieved through a mix of organic growth in current markets, expansion into new markets, development of new products, M&A, etc. Regarding plan development, ask if these plans were developed in isolation, through brainstorming sessions and/or through using data analytical tools. Was there input from an advisory board? Brainstorming continues to be a best practice to unlock the creative power of a group which outperforms what can be achieved by any individual working alone. A newer technique to identify less obvious investable growth opportunities is to complement brainstorming with data analytics tools. This approach uses algorithms to find patterns amongst hundreds ofunstructured data sources to identify clusters and specific growth opportunities to expand organically or through acquisition.

Engaging an outside facilitator for strategic and business plan development can often improve the results of this planning process. The facilitator can help ensure that the approach used to determine the appropriate business strategies is fact-based and opinions of all team members are respected.

What are the biggest growth roadblocks your business faces?

Discuss the biggest threats to achieving the business goals, both external and internal. These may be legacy issues or unfavorable external trends which, if the business does not adapt, will present ongoing and increased headwinds. Note, competition should not be at the center of their strategy. Focus on external factors, especially accelerating trends, and look for opportunities to reshape industry structure to be better positioned with both customers and non-customers in the future.

How are your customers changing and what might they want in the future?

Examine market dynamics and how your client’s customer base is evolving to inform how this will impact their strategy. Improve the probability of investment success by gaining fact-based market insights versus decisions substantially based on opinions and gut. Extend thinking beyond current customers and brainstorm possibilities to reach beyond current demand. Providing your client with information such as market research builds your credibility. Share your synthesized point of view about what your client should consider to achieve their business objectives.

What could disrupt your organization’s growth?

Examine potential disruptions to the business, whether it is losing market share, increased regulatory requirements, or the effect of potentially industry game-changing technology. These are the sudden shifts that could have profound impact akin to what businesses experienced with the COVID-19 pandemic. How can the business be best positioned to align with favorable trends and mitigate the risk of unfavorable ones? Is there an opportunity to initiate industry disruptions to your client’s advantage? For example, how can a lower cost position and differentiation be achieved at the same time?

What should your business do more of to fuel growth?

Understand the commercial strengths of the business at this time. What are the foundational elements that should be bolstered or minimally maintained? To what extent can relationships and assets be leveraged to grow? Are there synergies with other businesses owned, privileged relationships with customers or industry specific talent, or competitive advantage from distinctive capabilities, assets or processes?

How can products and services be improved from the current offering?

Explore how your client can improve the products or services they bring to the market. What are the opportunities to penetrate further with existing customers in existing markets? What are the product or service opportunities to enable this? What are the logical market adjacencies to current markets and opportunities to win with existing products? Which new products or services grow the bundle sold to existing customers or win more customers in existing and/or new organization where they are part of a “greater good.” Community volunteering or other employee enrichment programs will provide another reason for people to stay.

How is your community? 

One of the reasons people stay in their jobs is due to relationships they have with co-workers and their boss. This has become more difficult through a movement to “remote” and “hybrid” work. Managers will need to find new and creative ways for their teams to build those relationships with each other or they will lose this “stickiness”.

Managers who are spending their time and energy on upward “impression management” or who lack a strong connection with their direct reports, will lose their top performers. A thoughtful and planned approach to management is critical for every leader. Everyone should assume that their best talent is being recruited every day. The truth is the bar has never been higher for leaders in today’s environment.



Do you have a strategic HR function?

August 4th, 2020 by Amy Suitter

Do you have a strategic HR function?

Where is HR in your company? We often hear the euphemism “seat at the table” as a descriptive term to determine whether a human resource function truly participates in steering company strategy. Does your HR function have a “seat at the table”?  The human resources function plays a key role in the operating of a company. These traditional roles include; managing policies and discipline, employee administration, benefits and payroll. They resolve people issues and support managers in hiring, training and managing labor practices. They are often the fixer of other people’s problems. They are often the advocate or voice for employees.  Everyone will agree these are critical functions to do well. Many companies operate just fine with a tactical but not strategic human resources function. Many of these companies get exactly what they want and expect from HR. In order to get to the next level it is likely that a more evolved HR function will be necessary. The need might be driven by increased competition and rising performance expectations or a need for more consistency throughout an organization. Organizational development facilitated by a professional is invaluable from the standpoint of succession planning and talent optimization. Organizational effectiveness and culture leadership can make the difference in sustaining the culture of an organization through these large changes. You may need executive compensation advice, improved HR technology or a more sophisticated performance management system. In reality, you probably need it all. We will further explore by asking questions to understand your current state and then offer five characteristics of a strategic HR function

Start by asking these questions

1.   Where does HR report? It is often the case HR reports to either Operations (largest number of employees) or Finance (budget or compliance reasons). Often in these situations HR is not at the decision table. You may have good reasons for your structure but HR should ideally report to the top of the house for it to carry the right strategic weight.

2. Is your HR leader trusted and respected by the senior leadership team? This person needs to have iron clad relationships with the other senior executives.

3. Is HR primarily a compliance function? Are they obstructing needed change and growth? HR needs to proactively lead talent strategies to help the company move forward.

4. Can your HR Leader perform GAP analysis? Are they using KPI’s to measure success? Are they a business person as well as an HR person? Do the goals within human resources support the overall goals of the organization?

5. Do you view your HR function as modern? Do they look around the corner and at future trends? Do they embrace technology? What is the “employee brand” of your organization? What is their role in advancing the culture of the company?

5 Strategic HR Roles

1. Human Capital Expert – Maximizing the contribution of everyone within the organization. Talent acquisition and management strategies, training and leadership development, succession planning.

2. HR Strategist – Adapts both workforce and leadership structure to align with the future. Organizational development and effectiveness, measure results, survey, correct course as necessary.

3. Culture Keeper – How is the culture communicated? Are we “Walking the Talk?” Is the culture reflective of where the company wants to go? Does it represent what is “right” vs. what is expedient?

4. Change Manager – change occurs via people. Is the HR Leader the change leader (or one of them) within the organization?

5. Advisor/Consultant to CEO – Ensure HR goals and strategies are aligned with organizational goals and strategies. Key consultant and confidante within the senior leadership team.

Information from this article was a collaboration between WilliamCharles and Steve Crandall. Steve Crandall is an Executive HR professional, leadership coach and Master Trainer (L.E.T) Learn more about Steve at https://www.crandallpartners.com/principals-bio.