Avoid a Culture Clash when Hiring Executives


Avoid a Culture Clash when Hiring Executives

by Doug Seville

DSML Executive Search understands that hiring an executive that doesn’t match the culture can severely impact the company, the employees and the morale.  In fact, the cost of a hiring mismatch to corporate culture can be staggering … some examples are recruitment costs, onboarding, training, compensation, severance, opportunities lost, and morale within the organization.  In the case of a new CEO, President, Divisional leader, etc. the importance of hiring the right person is paramount, as changing leadership has the potential of impacting the entrenched behavior of hundreds, or thousands, of individuals within the organization.

According to a recent SHRM article on Toxic Workplace Cultures, employee turnover triggered by poor workplace culture drained nearly a quarter of a trillion dollars from businesses over the last five years as workers fled managers who they believed created the caustic environment.

“Corporate culture refers to the shared values, attitudes, standards, and beliefs that characterize members of an organization and define its nature. Corporate culture is rooted in an organization’s goals, strategies, structure, and approaches to labor, customers, investors, and the greater community. As such, it is an essential component in any business’s ultimate success or failure.”  Inc.

How a new hire, whether in a leadership role or other position, fits comfortably within a corporate culture will determine how long it will take to adapt and thus how quickly that individual will be able to succeed.  A poor cultural fit can be the cause of poor morale and the potential for negative behavior that could influence sales, productivity, recruitment, turnover, etc.   Have a look at the Glassdoor website for some egregious examples of how some people viewed a very poor culture fit at the company they were formerly working.

DSML Executive Search, when launching a new executive search initiative, strives to first “define the culture” within an organization and then “recruit for it”.  Its’ not always easy though, as many companies haven’t fully defined “what their corporate culture looks like” and consequently, some of them keep making the same hiring mistakes over and over.

What are some of the clues to corporate culture?

  • Is there a rigid hierarchy with a complex organizational chart, or is it quite loose … so much so that many people don’t know what title they should attribute to their LinkedIn profile?
  • Is the power of the organization concentrated at the top, usually within a small group of people, or is this an organization where decisions are made by consensus and a bad decision may not be attributed to any one single individual?
  • Is the organization very strong in terms of principles or is there an element of vagueness? A very strong principled candidate might not fit in an ethically ambiguous organization.
  • If a search is a replacement position, there needs to be an understanding of why the last person is, (in the case of a confidential search), or was not successful. And, if it’s a growth position, an understanding of why the position is required.

At DSML Executive Search we attempt to assist clients in defining their organizational culture, when not already determined, and then have this reflected in, what we call, the “Search Specification” … which is a document sign-off that includes the job description, the reasons for the search, the priorities for the company, the stakeholders, and the interview and finalist onboarding process.  Then, most importantly, during the candidate interview process we carefully observe and, as accurately as possible, predict the match to the company culture.

Our experience has shown us that the skills, patience, and time directed at uncovering the “fit” factors for corporate culture are well worth effort and investment.

If your company is seeking to recruit for a key position, such as CEO, COO, President, VP or other Senior level role, have a conversation with DSML Executive Search to ensure your search includes a “culture match” strategy.