Do You Need To Find Cultural Fit For Interims?

Hiring for cultural fit is a frequently debated topic in recruitment. Culture can be the reason high-performance staff go elsewhere. A better alignment, between a senior executive’s personal values and a company’s values, attracts the best talent.

Companies with a strong, positive culture are seen as having a clear competitive advantage. According to a study conducted by the International Review for Business Management and Research of sixty peer-reviewed research papers, based on human capital outcomes from over 6,000 businesses, the impact of culture is clear:

“[An] organisation’s culture helps in measuring limitation to overcome performance measurement. The limitations show that culture and employee performance shows negative correlation as employee performance is badly affected by it.”

These ideas have long since jumped the confines of management theory; with popular wisdom citing the fact that employees leave bad managers and working environments/cultures, rather than companies. Brand values that sound great but stay on paper, rather than influence how a company treats staff, often fail when it comes to retaining the talent organisations need to succeed.

But what about interim managers?

Engaged employees will increase your company’s success

Thankfully, the days of well-intended employee surveys that achieve nothing are numbered. Times are changing and a growing number of organisations, big and small recognize that they need to engage with their employees in a more meaningful way. Why? Because they understand that engaged employees can make a difference to their business and ultimately, their bottom line.

So what are organisations doing to engage with their employees in a more meaningful way? The answer comes in two parts – first, how to measure engagement, and second, how to react and address the results.

Is Cultural Fit Important For Interims?

Do they need to resonate and reflect your brand values? Although we are finding that interim assignments are often extended, sometimes for as long as six months, there is always a shelf life on the amount of time an interim spends with an organisation.

Hiring for cultural fit means those responsible for recruitment can “identify critical characteristics that mesh well with that culture”, according to the Harvard Business Review (HBR). This means that: “Cultural fit is the likelihood that someone will reflect and/or be able to adapt to the core beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours that make up your organisation.”

To a certain extent, this would be a useful trait for an interim. However, what if a poor cultural alignment is part of the problem? What if culture is what they have been appointed to fix? Sometimes, we have found, those inside an organisation are the least able to rebuild a company culture.

Cultural fit sounds great, in theory. But the HBR article has missed a few aspects of what makes fit work, or not work, as is often the case. Assumptions and personalities, mission statements and values sound great on paper, but they rarely stand up when individual personalities change organisations according to their agendas and personal ambitions. This is when reality can too easily railroad culture. Assumptions play an important, if unspoken role, in shaping an organisations culture and working environment.

Too often, “cultural fit” can become a corporate byword for hiring those whose “faces fit.” Taking a look inside some organisations is an eye-opening experience. Employees often resemble, in personality or appearance, those who recruit or manage them. Often without realising it, people hire those who more closely reflect and mirror themselves, rather than the organisation’s values or “culture.”

These are the situations interims find themselves in numerous times. Whether they are undertaking a transformation project or launching new products/services or a new division, cultural fit will impact how they deliver on the goals and targets of their assignment. They don’t need cultural fit, in the same way that a permanent hire needs to integrate with an organisation, but it does influence their daily work, especially when much of it involves working with permanent employees and teams.

Not only that, but they may also need to shape and influence this to ensure they have made a long-term impact on the organisation. This is vital when personality clashes or negative/harmful cultures or practices/policies impact staff or customers.

How can interims fit within any culture?

An interim’s true strength doesn’t come from working in certain types of organisations, or years of experience in one culture or another, or even sector; their strength comes from being able to be dropped into a wide range of operational environments and demonstrating a positive impact almost straight away.

This means they need to get along and work with a wide range of people, personalities and backgrounds, without allowing any of that, including culture, interfere or influence their ability to deliver on the goals of an assignment. Skilled interims are respectful of culture, without allowing it to negatively impact their work. They are mindful and aware, factoring this into how they deliver their services; since the long-term outcomes of what they are hired for should always be baked into an organisation.

Interim candidates that are great on paper, but lack “cultural fit” shouldn’t be dismissed in the same way that it would negatively affect a permanent candidate’s chance at employment. Interims are good at doing what is difficult and needs to be done, which isn’t the same as hiring someone for a leadership role. Interims don’t come with an agenda. They aren’t after anyone’s job. They don’t let politics get in the way; which is why they don’t seek to manipulate using culture or change the culture unless this is within the brief of their assignment.

How does this apply to your organisation?
  • Appointing an interim is not the same as hiring a full-time member of staff. Take “culture” out of the equation, along with the unspoken question of wondering whether their “face will fit.”
  • Instead, think whether their experience, skills and knowledge, which they have gained from permanent work and interim assignments would benefit your organisation?
  • Apply this to the task you need them to accomplish.
  • Assess the impact of “culture” on your organisation before hiring them. Is this one of the things holding your company back? What can an interim do to change or improve this?
  • Ensure these factors are mentioned in the brief or when interviewing interims. Allow them to experience the culture and feedback how to make changes/improvements if this is having a negative impact on your business.