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It’s common knowledge that employees can make or break a business’s success. No matter how great the business idea or the product, without a talented and engaged team to market and sell it to the customer, the company won’t be successful. Finding the right candidates for open positions is therefore a top priority for organizations of any size.
In modern-day recruiting, it’s no longer just about person-job fit, where recruiters assess how well the candidate’s experience and skills match the job description. Instead, additional factors such as cultural fit and how well the new recruit would blend in with the rest of the team have come to play a major role.
In short, it’s all about finding qualified candidates whose work style and values sync with the company culture and who will complement the existing team. However, the problem with this is that it’s difficult to assess whether candidates are a good fit with the other employees when the job interview is conducted virtually and there is no possibility for candidates to meet their future coworkers. So how can companies whose teams are distributed around the world ensure that candidates really are a good match on a personal level? How does hiring for team fit work in remote teams?
In today’s day and age, identifying the right candidate for a position isn’t just about education and skills anymore. In addition, recruiters nowadays assess candidates based on many different factors, including soft skills and how well they fit in with company culture and values and the business’s general way of working. In this context, we come across different terms to describe the different criteria used to select candidates, the most common ones being organizational fit, culture fit and team fit. But what sets them apart?
Corporate culture is a system of shared values, norms and behavioral patterns which exist in an organization and which influence the way decisions are made and how colleagues interact and collaborate with each other. Hiring for culture fit hence means that, in addition to checking whether an applicant has the necessary skills and experience to perform well on the job, HR also considers whether the candidate is a good match for the company in terms of values, work ethics, patterns of thought and other aspects that are crucial for company culture. The practice of recruiting for cultural fit has led to many discussions over the past few years, since critical voices have raised concerns about whether hiring for culture fit perpetuates bias in the hiring process.
The second term used to describe a candidate assessment based on criteria other than just skills and experience is organizational fit (sometimes also called person-organization fit). Although the terms "cultural fit" and "organizational fit" are often used interchangeably, minor differences can be identified between the two concepts. Organizational fit explicitly focuses on whether a candidate fits in with the organizational culture, meaning whether their way of working aligns with the organization. While culture fit is more about corporate values, norms and patterns of thinking, organizational fit focuses on work style.
When a company hires for team fit, on the other hand, candidates are not assessed based on their congruence with the company culture as a whole, but based on how well they match with the team they’ll be working in. Every team consists of different characters who all bring different skills and strengths to the team and who all have their individual personality. Hiring for team fit means analyzing how well a potential candidate would fit in with the rest of the team, whether there is a potential personality clash and in which way they could be an enrichment to the team culture. Assessing team fit during the recruitment process can therefore be seen as an upfront analysis of how well the team would work together with the new recruit.
If HR managers are increasingly trying to assess candidates not only based on their skills, then there’s a good reason for this. Similarly to hiring for cultural or organizational fit, there also is a number of reasons why team fit matters when hiring employees for a globally distributed team – as well as in any other corporate set-up.
First of all, making sure a candidate fits in nicely with the rest if the team (and the overall organizational culture, for that matter) can help reduce employee turnover. In an article published on Forbes entitled “Why Do Employees Leave Their Jobs?”, the author points out that “relationships of all kinds have a major impact on retention”, referring to relationships between co-workers as well as to relationships with managers and the general company culture. In other words, the relationship with supervisors and peers is a common reason why employees quit their job. And since employee turnover is estimated to cost a business between 1.5 and 2 times the employee’s salary, it’s in every business’s interest to reduce turnover cost to a minimum by eliminating as many potential reasons for which employees may leave the organization.
Second, basing hiring decisions not purely on person-job fit but also considering soft factors such as team fit improves the quality of hire. Quality of hire describes the extent to which an employee has contributed to the company's success since being hired, and is therefore directly related to various other key factors such as productivity, performance, motivation and engagement. Employees who feel like they fit in well with the rest of the team and the workplace culture, will not only be happier and satisfied with their job, but also more productive, more motivated and more engaged than team members who don’t feel “at their place” in the organization. Deborah McNeese delivers an on-point summary of the positive impact of cultural and team fit in the workplace, stating that “[e]mployees are not the only ones who benefit from a good cultural fit. Organizations get a happier, more productive person who is more likely to stay with the company for longer and work hard to help achieve their goals.”
Last but not least, checking whether potential recruits would fit in well with the rest of the team is essential to guarantee team success, which is also the reason why team fit is so important for distributed companies. The dependence on good communication, collaboration and job commitment is far greater in remote teams than in local teams, meaning that if there is a mismatch between team members, the negative impact on the business is of a major nature.
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Checking for team fit during the hiring and recruiting process is always a challenge, but especially so when hiring a new member for your globally distributed team. If the team is distributed all over the world, asking potential new hires to come into the office and meet the team in person simply isn’t an option - unless the time of hiring coincides with the annual team workation. Here is how to successfully hire for team fit as a distributed company.
Similarly to hiring for culture fit, screening candidates for team fit requires a good understanding of the environment they need to fit in with. In other words, before assessing whether a potential hire would be a good fit, it’s important to know your team. This means analyzing the different personalities of the team members and which roles each of them assumes within the team.
Belbin distinguishes between nine different team roles in the workplace, ranging from the coordinator to the specialist to the implementer. Looking at which of these roles are already filled will give you a clear view of which vacant team roles the new hire should ideally fill. Also, knowing each team member’s personality and the strengths and weaknesses that are present in the current team set-up helps get a better understanding of what a new recruit should be like to work well together with the rest of the team and to balance out any weaknesses within the team.
Since you are hiring for a remote workforce, the candidate’s experience with and suitability for remote work will be your starting point during the job interview. Although remote work comes with many benefits for companies, research shows that remote work isn’t for everyone; therefore, it’s especially important for distributed companies to check upfront that their new hire will perform well in a remote working environment. To do so, you can ask questions on how they organize and manage tasks, what they do to stay focused and what aspects of flexible working they struggled with in the past.
After an initial assessment of the candidate’s remote-readiness, you can move on to asking pointed questions about their individual work style and the kind of workplace environment they need to thrive. If you get the feeling that a candidate prefers working alone, they might not be a good fit for a team where tasks are mainly carried out collaboratively. Similarly, a candidate claiming to need a lot of independence to perform well might not fit in well with a remote workplace that is managed by a strong leader who is highly involved in the team’s activities.
In a next step, you should try and figure out how the new recruit will impact team dynamics by asking them which roles they usually assume in a team and where they think their personal strengths and weaknesses are. Together with your initial team assessment, this information will allow you to decide whether the candidate would take on a new role in the team or whether hiring them would mean risking a clash with another team member who assumes a similar role. For instance, having two team members trying to assume the “shaper” role in the team could quickly lead to unwanted tension.
Always try and look for team roles and qualities that are underrepresented or missing in your current team set-up. For example, if your team already consists of several members who are strong on detailed work, it’s a good shout to hire someone who sees the bigger picture and can put the different pieces together on a larger scale.
Admittedly, organizing a virtual meeting with a globally distributed team whose members are spread across different time zones is a challenge, but maybe it’s not too long before your next monthly all-hands meeting and you can schedule a little virtual meet-up before or after the actual meeting to give your team the chance to meet their (potential) new colleague. Or maybe you have an online social hangout coming up as part of your virtual team building efforts, in which the candidate could participate. If neither of the two options are possible, you could try and arrange a quick videocall with the immediate teammates the new employee will be working with most closely.
So, you’ve gone through the lengths of not only assessing each applicant’s skills, but you’ve also checked how well they would fit in with the rest of the team, and finally, you’ve managed to find the perfect candidate who will be a great asset for the team. All that’s left to do now is to share your decision with them and sign them on.
What seems to be a simple, straightforward task for a local team whose members all work at the company headquarters can become a real challenge for a company with a global workforce. Companies that hire remote employees in different countries have to be careful to comply with local labor laws, and may even need to set up a local legal entity before hiring employees in a particular jurisdiction. This is where a global employment solution like Lano comes into play.
Lano’s global Employer of Record solution allows you to compliantly hire remote employees in over 150 countries worldwide, without having to set up a single foreign entity. Choose from our network of top tier EOR partners and have your new hires onboarded and ready to start working in two weeks. Book a demo with our expert team to find out how Lano can help you build and manage your distributed team in full compliance.
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