Measuring Intangibles

An executive candidate’s cultural fit can determine success or failure

Smart Business
Matt Mooney interviewed by Adam Burroughs

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Culture fit is a major factor when determining success or failure for new hires at every level, particularly at the executive level.

Someone who is a good fit to a company’s culture is typically given a longer runway to prove his or her capabilities when joining a new company. A person who does not align with a corporate culture, regardless of skills and capabilities, will not get the same latitude.

Misalignment of culture leads to organizational rejection and they are allowed to struggle until they leave or get fired. That is why determining culture fit during the interview process and a well-crafted onboarding process are critical steps in getting newly hired executives indoctrinated.

Smart Business spoke with Matt Mooney, a partner at ON Partners, about the importance of culture and how interviews and onboarding can be used to ensure new hires hit the ground running.

How can a company, through its search and interview process, determine how well a candidate will fit within the company’s culture?

There is a formal approach and an informal approach to determining culture. The formal approach incorporates psychometric testing and behavioral interviewing to determine how candidates fit with corporate values. Candidates who do not match the established corporate profile have a tougher time getting through the hiring process, regardless of experience or skills.

Other companies rely on soft skills, or intuition when assessing a candidate. While there is a place for this informal approach, it is not scientific, scalable, or easy to replicate, which makes it harder to apply to larger companies.

What do assessments include and how can that information help with onboarding?

A well-structured assessment is a valuable piece of the candidate interview process. Used to measure intellectual capabilities, behavioral norms and tendencies, assessments combined with interviews and references provide a more complete picture of what makes candidates tick.

Unfortunately, companies often obsess over assessment data prior to hiring, but do not use it when onboarding the executive. Smart companies will consult the assessment data in the weeks and months after an executive starts to better facilitate a smooth transition and assimilation into the business.

In what ways does onboarding differ when applied to executives versus employees?

When onboarding an executive, the process needs to be more structured and thoughtful than it is for lower-level employees. The executive onboarding process cannot just be part of the first day orientation. It should be a series of conversations and meetings that take place over the first three to four months of employment.

It is more involved, more collaborative and offers the new executive feedback and coaching through a two-way, constructive dialogue. Even the most self-aware executives may not tune into the nuances of a company’s culture. A well-constructed onboarding process helps with that transition.

How much does onboarding matter? What impact does it have for a company and its employees?

Companies that embrace onboarding tend to put more thought into human capital and have a well-rounded program that explores all aspects of that investment, such as retention and employee engagement. Those companies that put a premium on human capital have a significant advantage in a market that is short on top talent.

Consider onboarding as maintenance on a major investment. Companies spend tremendous time and energy hiring a great executive. They collect significant data that is needed to show they have made the right hire, so it is smart to use every resource available to optimize that hire and ensure success.

New executive hires typically have 100 days of latitude when joining a company — the honeymoon period. If that is squandered because the new hire missed nuances of the company’s culture, he or she loses good will and momentum that could have been used to make a greater impact on the company. ●

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Resources: Smart Business Online

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