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When on the hunt for a new team member, is it better to look for someone to fit the team environment or to chose the best person suited for the role? 

It goes without saying that a candidate that ticks both of those boxes would be the ideal option, however usually there is a compromise that has to be made. 

Today we ask the experts where they feel that compromise should be made – culture or skill?

Jane Bianchini, founder & CEO, Alcami Interactive

To make the right hires and create great teams, the overarching mantra ‘do they add value’ should be the ultimate measurement. This shifts a company’s driver from ‘culture fit’ to ‘culture add’. They don’t necessarily need to ‘fit in’, you want your hires to evolve the culture and raise the performance bar. In this way, it’s far better to adopt competency led recruitment and finesse skills through training.

Ultimately, the debate highlights the importance of clear company values. Two of our 5 core values are ‘blow the customers mind’ and ‘#GSD’ (Get S**t Done). We look for driven people who go over and above to provide an awesome customer experience. Our values create our culture, allowing creative difference and diverse thinking to add value for the benefit of the whole team environment.

Ross Judd, founder of Team Focus and author of Cultural Insanity

Your productivity will improve if you select for “fit”, even if you get someone with inferior technical skills. Why? Because a poor fit for team environment will impact every member of the team. The tension, stress, and aggravation caused will make every person less productive. The net result is that the total output from the team will be negatively impacted. Alternatively, if you employ someone that fits in with the culture of the team your performance will improve. Why? Because a strong team will coach, develop, and support the new team member. They are part of the team and that’s what teams do.

Jen Jackson, co-founder of Everyday Massive

At Everyday Massive, we’ve found team players trump rockstars any day of the week. Our work brings together people with different expertise to solve complex problems, and the ability of that group to collaborate is everything. There’s plenty of research showing high-performing individuals don’t equate to high performing teams. You can have someone who’s ridiculously talented, but if they can’t play well with others and there’s no psychological safety, their team isn’t going to perform as well as one who might not have the same smarts, but works together like a well-oiled machine.

Colin D Ellis, culture change specialist and author of Culture Fix

Picking the best person suited for the role may fill a short-term technical need but ultimately will erode the culture of the team in the long-term. It is always better to take the time to find a person that understands the values that the team has and who can demonstrate how they will uphold and add to these. Technical skills can always be taught, however, values are lived on a day-to-day basis. Finding someone who is a better fit for the team environment will always be better for the long-term evolution of the culture.

Ilter Dumduz, CEO & Founder, Blys

In an ideal world, we would hire someone who is the perfect fit for the team, with the perfect skills for the job. However, we often don’t get the perfect candidate. I usually lean on soft skills and correct cultural fit over perfect technical capability, as I think it’s much easier to acquire aptitude than acquiring attitude. This approach usually works for us as we are a fast-paced startup, we are constantly learning and upskilling and we have a relatively small and close team. However, if you are in a  technical space and need a very specific set of skills that can’t be taught as quickly, you’ll need to take a call and will be more likely to focus on the skills tests.

I think we’d all agree that we’d prefer the most skilled surgeon or mechanic, but when it comes to traditional work colleagues, we’d prefer someone we get along with.

Richard Marr, APAC Regional Director, Auth0

Our focus is on building a great relationship culture. By building strong bonds of trust and respect, passion and transparency, we’ve cultivated a culture that empowers remote working. When you have those things in place, then where you physically work from is less important. This has always afforded us the luxury of really focusing on hiring the best talent for the roles we need.

Julia Poloai, Head of Culture and Talent at video platform Clipchamp:

If a person doesn’t suit a team’s environment, then they aren’t the best person suited to the role.

There are several things that impact an employee’s performance, including values, communication style, processes and informal or unspoken behaviours. If they’re not on the same page as a team that has a strong sense of values and purpose, this would impact their wellbeing and longevity in a role, which has a knock on effect to performance.

If someone was to suit the responsibilities of a role, but struggle in an environment designed to support it – or lack the ability to build key relationships in order to be effective – this would be a clear sign they’re not the right fit.

Rheanna Lawrey, People & Culture Talent Partner at retail logistics platform Shippit:

When looking for new talent at Shippit we focus on and measure culture add.  Finding a balance of what someone will bring to the role through technical skills and how they add to our company culture through their beliefs and behaviours formed through previous experiences. We believe that the people who #makeshiphappen live by the same values, so we incorporate this into our selection process.

Play the Straight Bat, Push the Envelope, Make Good Sh*#, Live by the 80/20 Rule, Have a Laugh, Good Humans, Always Learning. These are our seven values and we constantly seek people who can show us they live by these values too.

It is important that potential talent has the skills required for the role, however, we try not to focus on an exact match to the job description. For us, it is equally important that you believe in our company culture and values and that you get excited about what you can bring to the table!

Fiona Boyd, CEO, ipSCAPE

At ipSCAPE, we consider people who possess a positive attitude and an eagerness to learn as quality candidates. Knowledge – you can learn, Skills – you can acquire, but Attitude is who you are. Therefore; hire for attitude, train for knowledge and coach for skill. At ipSCAPE, cultural fit is essential as it is not always expected that candidates will possess knowledge about our industry. We invest in our team through on-the-job training, mentoring and additional external education as required.

Rudy Crous, CEO and co-founder of Shortlyster 

If you hire the ‘best’ or ‘right’ person for the role, inherently they should also be a good fit for the team environment. Both ideals are embedded with each other. The problem is that many managers usually only consider technical skills when thinking of who is the best to hire. What usually gets left by the wayside is understanding a candidates organisational fit. This includes everything from aligning on a candidates purpose and values, team culture fit, their work behaviours, and their role expectations. In the same way DNA has to match for a heart transplant, the DNA between a candidate and company has to match. To hire successfully, employers need to holistically look at the technical and non-technical attributes together to develop an engaged workforce.

Alex Zaccaria, Co-Founder and Director at Linktree

We launched Linktree in 2016 and quickly learned that it’s all about the team. Hiring is one area where you can’t cut corners and if a business is committed to growth and building an incredible working environment, it’s crucial that culture is front-of-mind when hiring.

We learnt to look for people who shared the same foundational values as the company. These people were interested in learning and keen to hit the ground running. As a result, I’m really proud of the team we’ve grown at Linktree – they are curious, inquisitive, incredibly talented  and are excited to grow the company with us.

Following this advice not only sets new employees up for success in their role, but also has a knock-on effect on broader team morale, productivity and reduces staff turnover.

Lee Martin Seymour, CEO and Co-Founder at Xref

Being a good cultural fit is part of the job, so being able to do the job doesn’t exist without being able to fit in culturally.

We can teach skills, we can’t teach culture. I would never hire someone that could do the job but wouldn’t fit in, but I would hire someone that can do part of the job, can be taught the rest and would be a good cultural fit.

If culture is the number one priority, how can we assess someone’s suitability in an interview? We need to know how they fit in over time, in different environments and that’s why we need to speak to the people they’ve worked with before.

Everybody has a bad month but people stay with companies through bad months or busy periods because of the culture. Culture is retention. Performance is reward.

Sarah Churchill, Head of Human Resources, CareFlight

CareFlight’s employees are a diverse pool of professionals ranging from pilots and doctors, to fundraisers and logistical staff. We strongly believe that the best person suited for a role is someone who can seamlessly fit in the team environment and be trusted by all team members.

While we do have a list of role-specific criteria that needs to be met during the recruitment process, cultural fit and attitude is a key consideration when building trust in a team. Due to the nature of aeromedical work, trust is essential and we need to rely on each other in high-pressure environments to save lives. Across all departments, we also look to develop an internal culture of trust that translates to a positive relationship with external stakeholders, such as donors and the local community.

We are also dedicated to our Reconciliation Action Plan which is lived by our staff, demonstrating our commitment to cultural and social inclusivity.

At CareFlight, we regularly upskill and invest in our people to maximise their professional and interpersonal potential through initiatives like our leadership development program.

Our commitment to stimulating a flourishing, inclusive team culture plays a crucial role in staff retention and overall organisation achievement. Currently, more than 80 members of our staff have been with us for five years or more.

Fintan Lalor, Regional Manager APAC, Wrike

I believe organisations should look for the candidates that will best fit their environment. You have missionaries and mercenaries, and I’d rather work with the former. Lone wolves may knock it out of the park and be really good at what they do, but if they don’t fit into the culture, it can have a negative influence on the whole team. However, people who are genuinely happy to come to work typically thrive, which has a direct impact on performance anyway. Performance can be achieved through training and coaching, but you can’t make someone fit in your culture.

When hiring, I always look in priority for what I call the Five I’s: integrity, intelligence, ingenuity, industry and inquisitiveness. People who tick all these boxes typically have the right attitude for the job, and as long as you have consistency in the values you are seeking in candidates, you will have better performing teams.

Justin Hales, CEO and Founder of Camplify

As we’ve recently expanded our team around the globe, searching for and identifying new employees to join us has been one of my biggest roles and challenges over the past six months. Knowing our company values and culture inside out has been crucial to this process, and has acted as a great barometer in identifying those whose values align and will understand the ways in which we work. Employees’ first two ‘onboarding’ weeks with us are a vital part of the process. No matter the role, each employee follows a two-week programme where they work with and are exposed to all different areas of the business from customer service, web development, marketing and more. This experience enables both the company and individual employee to get a better understanding of our company’s culture and their role within this.

Andrew Brushfield, Director of Robert Half Australia

Workplace diversity is high on the agenda for Australian organisations, and HR teams are responsible for hiring the right candidates to support more inclusive cultures. While technical skills are still important, employers are seeing greater value in soft skills such as the ability to lead, communicate and work together to ensure their workforces are adaptable and their culture is cohesive. In fast paced sectors like technology, for example, creativity and learnability are essential skill for staying ahead of the pack and guiding the workplace to success.

Someone who looks good on paper is not necessarily the best person for the job and the importance of cultural fit shouldn’t be underestimated in attracting and retaining talent. Previous Robert Half research shows that 75% of CFOs and finance directors have lost a staff member because they weren’t a good fit with their organisation’s work environment – a costly oversight that should have been considered during the recruitment process.

It can be tempting to solely focus on skills and qualifications but checking whether a candidate’s personality matches the organisation’s work environment makes good business sense too. A good fit can lead to higher job satisfaction and see employees more engaged in their role as well as boosting loyalty to their employer, potentially enhancing retention rates.

No matter the skillsets, a cohesive and motivated team will always perform better than its disjointed counterpart – that is why team fit should be on every hiring manager’s mind when assessing every candidate’s application.

Chad Gates, Managing Director, Pronto Software

You build a great business by bringing the right people together – and then creating the framework that nurtures them to excel. When we hire new employees at Pronto Software, a large part of our assessment is to understand what drives that person. Attitude is critical because skills can be acquired but characteristics are typically inherent.

People who share our core values – integrity, collaboration and pride – will fit in with our culture and be empowered to perform at their best. Many of our employees have worked with us for a number of years – a few close to or, over 30 years. One of the key factors these employees attribute their loyalty to, is the positive culture we have. Some employees who have left us, choose to come back when the opportunity presents – that’s a testament to the fantastic team we’ve built.

Employees with a passion for what they do and the drive to achieve excellence completely change outcomes for the team – and the business! In our recent customer survey one thing was really clear – our team is a differentiator and a key reason our organisation continues to be an Australian powerhouse in the competitive technology sector.

Jessica Everitt, Talent Manager, Employsure

‘Fit’ which is demonstrated by alignment to values is critical to the culture of your business. In fact, at Employsure the ‘fit’ and ‘values’ of our people has been critical to our success.

We hire on values primarily and develop capability internally. The reason for this is simple: capability can be taught – but alignment to values is harder to create. While it is important to have someone who can deliver the ‘what’ brilliantly, if their ‘how’ is not aligned to what is important to us as a business, this can cause more problems.

By prioritising ‘fit’ for our culture and environment, we are also investing in that person long term as they are more likely to be able to move around and be successful in different roles and progress to more senior levels. If someone is hired as a specialist but cannot then generalise, this can be demotivating for them, and challenging for the employer. If your people are culturally aligned, your job as an employer/manager/boss is to cultivate high levels of capability through their learning and development.

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Loren Webb

Loren Webb

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