The formerly contentious issue of remote and flexible working has finally been forced to the forefront of business discourse in 2020, as COVID-19 sanctions on workplaces and schools saw an immediate need for agile workforces across almost every industry.
Despite the gloomy outlook many leaders faced leaving their teams to their own devices, businesses have been shocked to discover that rather than the dreaded lack of productivity, output and team performances have often improved.
With a number of big-hitters like Twitter and Facebook announcing that their teams can work from home ‘forever’ and many more reducing office space to encourage flexibility, it would be easy to assume office culture is becoming a relic of a bygone era. Hiring managers the world over rejoice at the sudden freedom this gives them to hire based on skill-set alone, without fear of upsetting the apple cart with the wrong personality. You can finally ditch those ‘culture fit’ interview questions and hire only on talent, right?
In a word, no. Despite your teams relocating to home-offices and kitchen tables, smart businesses understand that in order for a team or a company to thrive, you need to maintain the cubicle culture, and it takes far more than raw talent to find a good fit when growing your teams.
Regardless of location, every member of your team needs to be driving towards the same goals and living the same values in order to maximise success and – importantly – staff-retention. Those people who don’t fit the culture aren’t always the ones that leave, but their presence can cause other people to; with the cost of replacing an employee as high as 60% of their annual salary, can you afford to be hiring people who don’t fit your culture, remote or otherwise?
If you’re still thinking of your culture as what it was when you all went into the office, you’re missing the point. Your culture isn’t whether you all went to the pub on a Friday or held monthly charity bake sales. Your culture is – or should be – about how your teams work together, how your values permeate your business, and how consistent attitudes are towards championing your products and your customers. Essentially, your culture should not have changed just because you left the office.
Hiring for culture fit has actually become more important than ever: now is the time to demonstrate to your teams that nothing has changed in their roles or their purpose. Not only is culture still essential, it is infinitely harder to get right. How can you tell if a candidate is the right fit without ever having met them?
Data is your friend. Before you begin looking, consider current employees who have developed and advanced: do they have similar traits which were highlighted in the hiring process? You can find this data via your Applicant Tracking System (ATS) and HR system’s reporting tools, and these are the qualities you should be championing as successful characteristics throughout your business and in your hiring processes.
Ask questions around remote working; not everybody will have experience in fully remote working, certainly not before this year, but that doesn’t mean they can’t demonstrate their effectiveness to do so. Transferable skills including strong communication and project management experience are a good indicator, as are independence and attention to detail. The qualities that make a high-performer in the office will often translate to those who perform well remotely.
Hiring remotely is arguably easier, if only from a process perspective; it’s far simpler to find an hour where interviewers and candidates are all free than to schedule an in-person interview, factoring in travel time and meeting room availability. It’s not like people are likely to be away at conferences right now either!
Take advantage of this new-found scheduling ease to really get to know your candidates. Meet them for a virtual coffee to review points from the first interview before inviting them to present, or schedule a ‘meet the team’ to explore how they will fit in. Taking the time to factor in these extra steps can guarantee a solid culture fit, just make sure they don’t elongate the process too much; it’s a competitive market-place in both directions, and the best candidates won’t be available for long.
As with any interview, you are only getting a snapshot of who somebody really is, but you will get a feeling of whether they would fit well within your team and contribute to your high-performing culture of trust. When it comes to culture fits, always trust your gut feeling.