Hiring and firing based on cultural fit

Post written by Chris Spagnuolo. Follow Chris on Twitter 5 comments

This week I’m tuning in to listen to Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, talk about the unique culture he and his team have built at Zappos. That got me thinking about corporate culture in general and just how important it really is.  Many traditional companies believe that there too much emphasis placed on fun and creativity in the new Web 2.0 corporate cultures. I personally think that these new, forward thinking, culture-focused companies have got it right.

Witness the bottom line of Zappos or Facebook or Twitter and I think you’ll see the picture very clearly.  Build  a great corporate culture that incorporates fun, respect for employees, and creative thinking and then stick to it. In fact, make every decision based on your corporate culture. If you do that, I think you stand a great chance of being successful and creating brands and products that customers will not only recognize but love.

And, I believe that the most important decisions you can make based on your corporate culture is hiring and firing. Zappos, Netflix, and many other successful companies hire and fire based solely on cultural fit.  Tony Hsieh has said “If you get the culture right, then most of the other stuff, like great customer service or building a brand will just happen naturally.  We’ve actually passed on a lot of really talented people that we know would make an impact to our top or bottom line,” says Hsieh, “but if you know they’re not a culture fit we won’t hire them. Similarly, the company will fire people even if they’re doing their job perfectly if they’re bad for the culture.”  Now, you can go ahead and dismiss Hsieh as a quirky anomaly, but judging by the fact that Amazon bought Zappos for $1.2 billion in 2009, I’d say corporate culture is a worthwhile investment.

So, how do you make your hiring/firing decisions? Do you hire someone regardless of their cultural fit with your organization and hope they’ll work out? Do you hire someone with the wrong cultural fit and hope you can force a square peg into a round hole? Or, do you look for someone who is the perfect fit for your culture and do everything you can to bring them on board? And most importantly, would you be willing to fire someone who just didn’t quite fit with your team culturally?

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  1. Tweets that mention Hiring and firing based on cultural fit | Chris Spagnuolo's EdgeHopper -- Topsy.com said,

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Chris Spagnuolo ? and Alltop Agile, IamBlessed&Belovedr2. IamBlessed&Belovedr2 said: RT @ChrisSpagnuolo: New blog post: Hiring and firing based on corporate culture http://bit.ly/dXvclw [...]

  2. sachin kundu said,

    Will I fire someone who does not fit culturally ?
    Most definitely YES, but why will I hire him in the first place ?
    If the recruitment is done well, keeping culture in mind then the situation should not arrive. That’s the reason I always recommend recruiting people on a behavioural based tests instead of demanding easily learned technical skills.
    Culture is so important, that if you employ someone detrimental to the current culture they may influence others breaking the culture down. Sometimes the whole business model is culture, as in the case of Zappos
    Always try the person in team setting and see the culture emerge. Spend heavily on recruiting right and keep your culture alive

  3. Gem Webb said,

    One of the best places I have ever worked with a strong sense of corporate culture was IMAX corp.  I remember what my supervisor told me “we don’t just want talent people around here that do great work, we want to build a family who get along and can enthusiastically accomplish projects together.”  I was in awe, after 10yrs in the digital industry, I worked for someone who valued people, not just the bottom line.  This made me work harder and be more encouraging to my team (of 15) whom all had a great time.
    This is the one area that makes or breaks a job for me.  The worst is when you start working somewhere where you like your job and work, yet the people around you are out to get you, one up you or, just have a lack of human compassion.  Wish people could communicate their issues and try to work them out.    It really impacts a person wanting to stay at an organization and bottom line which is supposed to be like the Chinese quote “if you love your job, you never work a day in your whole life”.
    Remember everyone, hang in there.  Just don’t hang to long!

  4. Guy Farmer said,

    Great post Chris. I’ve heard so many leaders and HR professionals bemoan the fact that they can’t find great employees and the word “culture” pops in my mind. When we interview candidates and learn about what they value and deeply enjoy doing we increase the chances they will fit well in the organization. The idea is to figure out what kind of culture we have and identify people who really love that type of approach.

  5. Legal Dificulties said,

    Corporate culture has a very subtle meaning which makes it possible to hire and fire on very own predispositions towards an employee, and moreover to justify inner to the organization discrimination based on culture, as culture is inherited with nation origins, ethnicity, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc. This could work easily to both all minority groups or just some of them as corporate culture in the way it is used today may have the meaning of everything and nothing. Culture is a very broad concept but at the same time its relation to identity and politics of identity makes it actually illegal to hire, treat and fire upon it, with this opening such practice by Zappos will involve further litigations in cases when the idea of “hiring and firing on base of corporate culture” does not include enormous compensations as companies will try to adopt the practice on their own grounds when not always the enormous compensations will be possible. However high firing compensations do not justify firing with base on culture only because they are financially suitable to employees.

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