Aligning Culture with What Drives Success

Note: this post is the second in a five-part series on “Navigating Culture Fit in 21st Century Organizations.”

If you think that “culture fit” is about finding people who like the “vibe” in your office, then you’re completely missing the point. And I’m not criticizing your vibe. I’m sure your vibe is lovely, but can you make a direct link between the vibe in your office and organizational success? Does your vibe generate productivity? Quality? Revenue?

Most people can’t answer that. Vibe (and culture in general) is something we consider outside of the inner workings of the business. This is a mistake. If your culture isn’t contributing directly to the success of your enterprise, then you’re doing it wrong.

Here’s a quick example. We studied , a software company called Menlo Innovations in our book, When Millennials Take Over. They have found that in doing their work, using a “paired programming” process works very well for them. Their code has fewer errors when they do it that way, and they are at the point where they can charge more for their services than their competitors, yet still have clients lining up. Their work is THAT good.

So that means that their culture places a heavy value on collaboration. Their work requires two programmers to share one computer, and believe me, if you have to share a mouse with someone, then you’d better be good at collaborating. In fact, when they hire people, they bring candidates in for a group interview and make them work together on some tasks—with the other people who are competing for the same job! Anyone who isn’t good at (or willing to) collaborate doesn’t make it through to the next round. They hire for culture fit first, and they’ll train people on other skills if they need to.

But note that their culture of collaboration is not based on some vague core value. A culture of collaboration is required because their software is better when they used paired programming. If they changed their approach and realized that they wrote better software if everyone just did their work individually, then they could abandon the collaboration piece.

So before you hire for culture fit, make sure that your culture is valuing the behaviors and approaches that actually generate better results for you. When you can align your culture with what drives your success, culture fit will actually matter.

Jamie Notter is a co-founder and culture designer at Human Workplaces, a culture management firm that uses culture analytics and innovative consulting to align workplace culture with success. He can be reached at