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How SOPs Can Help to Hire for Culture Fit

how to hire for culture fit

Running a successful organization often comes down to surrounding yourself with the right people. But sometimes, the person you hire has all the right qualifications but doesn’t bring your team’s performance up to where you would like it to be.

When that happens, the reason can be a lack of cultural fit. They may feel they know more than everyone else on their team and refuse to share responsibility with them, creating a bottleneck. Or they might simply have a communication style that doesn’t gel with the rest of your team—a lack of culture fit can have any number of causes.

By now, you may be wondering how to hire for culture fit. A great solution to this is to utilize your organization’s Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). By creating strong SOPs, you can find a great hire that fits your team even if that hire doesn’t have as much experience as some other candidates.

Hiring for Culture Fit vs Hiring for Skills

There is a misconception about culture fit recruiting practices. Some people think that it means focusing on finding people that would be fun to be around outside of work. That’s not the goal—the goal is to find people with applicable skills and an aptitude for learning that will bring a great attitude into the workplace.

The idea is that certain things like skills and tasks are teachable, while things like attitude and a desire to learn and lead from whatever position they have on your team are not. Focusing on existing skills and experience can still result in a suboptimal hire.

One way to judge the effectiveness of hiring practices is by looking at your organization’s stick ratio. Stick ratio is the percentage of candidates that an organization has hired and who are still in the job at a given point. Out of all the people you’ve brought on board, how many are still working for you after a year? What about after three years? Five years?

External factors can influence “stick ratio” to an extent, but generally speaking, if your ratio is low, your hiring practices aren’t working—and that costs money. According to recent studies, hiring someone new can cost as much as four times the salary of the position you’re looking to fill. So you need to hire people that will stick around.

Hiring for culture fit can increase your stick ratio. Again, this is not to say that existing skills are unimportant, but knowing what can be taught easily to an incoming hire will help you find the right people to take your team to the next level. And that’s where SOPs come in.

Making Your Best Use of Standard Operating Procedures

SOPs are guides to individual processes. If a process map is an atlas that details a macro view of your operations, an SOP is a detailed, local road map tracking one process from start to finish. Utilizing SOPs can give you a host of benefits.

For example, in the case of an error, it is much simpler to backtrack and find the problem that threw off the end result when each step in a process is clearly defined. 

Additionally, your team members better understand how their work contributes to the success of your organization as a whole. This is because they can point to how their contributions are tied to other processes.

There are many other benefits to SOPs, but one knock against them is the perception that they limit innovative and creative thinking from team members. This could not be further from the truth!

Having an entire process detailed in an SOP allows your team to look at that process critically to find greater efficiencies or rethink entire aspects of the processes that they complete. In fact, sometimes the first thing a new hire will do is revolutionize an SOP by pointing out something no one else noticed. It allows one to truly take ownership of that specific process.

You can create Standard Operating Procedures for every process in your organization —including an SOP for the training of employees and onboarding of new hires. 

And this is not to say that an SOP needs to be a dry checklist that gets pinned up in a cubicle somewhere. It can be a combination of text, photos, videos, and interactive media. The important thing is that when you focus on how to create an SOP document, you keep it detailed and understandable.

Those thorough SOPs will then help you implement effective candidate engagement practices and hire the best fit for your company culture.

find the right fit

How to Find the Right Fit

Once you’ve determined that you will be hiring for culture fit and you have your SOPs in place for your new hire to learn the ins and outs of the job, you need to actually go about finding the right candidates and hiring them.

The first step any organization looking into how to hire for culture fit needs to complete is defining their culture. What are you and your team members looking for in a coworker? What does your organization stand for ethically or morally? What makes your company great to be a part of?

When you have those answers, you can formulate interview questions to determine cultural fit that can then be deployed as you talk to prospective candidates as part of your hiring SOP. But how do you go about candidate engagement when culture fit is your priority?

The answer is to put your culture front and center—and not just in your hiring materials. Use your social media presence to let the public know what is important to your organization. Highlight your charitable outreach programs, so people researching you as a prospective employer will see who you are as a team and as individuals.

If recruitment process outsourcing is something your organization makes use of, let them know the culture fit you are looking for so that they can filter prospective temp and full-time candidates based on your specifications. 

Don’t be afraid of some informality in the getting-to-know-you period of your candidate search. Bring in members of your team for the interview. Let finalists for your open position shadow team members without supervision from a hiring manager—see how fast they pick up on tasks from an SOP. 

In short, put your prospective candidates into the culture you have created and see who fits. If you know your culture and the priorities of your team and your organization, you will have no trouble when you start looking into how to hire for culture fit.

Striking a Balance Between Soft and Hard Skills

Hiring for cultural fit does not mean ignoring experience. A well-constructed SOP can teach a great deal, but it is important that your candidates have some of the hard skills you associate with your open positions.

That will help them acclimate to your team and learn the new tasks that are part of your Standard Operating Procedures faster than someone with all the soft skills in the world and zero experience.

Focusing on how to hire for culture fit doesn’t mean ignoring experience or so-called hard skills. It simply means that soft, social skills are also prioritized in the hiring process. 

Make Culture Fit Your Standard Operating Procedure

When you know who you are as an organization and what is important to your team, the question of how to hire for culture fit becomes easy to answer. You put a candidate into your culture and see who fits.

If a candidate needs to learn something to do the job for which you have hired them, there’s a good chance that it can be taught via Standard Operating Procedure documentation. 

That learning curve may give pause to some but remember: a happy team is typically more productive and stays with a company over time. That means the money you spend to train a culture fit hire is likely to come back to you through longevity and productivity from multiple members of your team.

So, if you have your SOPs documented and you know who you are, then let that guide you in how to hire for culture fit.