Talking to recruiters from other functional disciplines, it seems that cultural fit is still a “nice to have.” A candidate may have a slightly left-field personality, but they have an impressive track record of delivery, so that is enough. Their CVs are all about the achievements and less about how they achieved them. Cultural fit will always be an afterthought.
Recruiting for HR teams, the “who” and “how” are equally as important as the “what.”
HR is the guardian of the corporate culture, they set the tone for how people go about their business, and it is imperative that everyone in the HR team are aligned in their approach. Much of this comes down to personality, and without suggesting that you should hire a load of clones, whenever you meet a few HR people from a successful organisation, you definitely feel that they have some strong attributes in common.
Part of this is down to their internal camaraderie – HR probably spend more time collaborating and communicating with each other than any other internal team. If you spend enough time around a bunch of people, you tend to adopt a certain amount of common characteristics and almost by default you will start to look in the same direction.
Secondly, it is the role of HR to live and breathe “who” they are. There are hours of soul searching about vision and values, endless meetings about development goals and daily incidents with their people which require their urgent attention. The whole HR team are utterly engaged with the people around them, and that is why their personalities and approaches to work have such a direct impact on the business. This can’t help but have a knock-on effect to how they do things.
Now, here is where it gets interesting, and it is a question about the flexibility of human behaviour. Can an HR leader move from an innovative and “risk-on” start-up to a more traditional blue-chip environment where management by committee rules the roost? Do people have the capacity to adapt their personality to fit with their environment?
I’d love to sit on the fence with this question and listen to your views, but my feeling is that this is possible in many circumstances, but not all. We all have depths of personality that we can tap into should the need arise, and in most HR people these depths are especially profound. You could argue, therefore, that any HR person could walk into any environment, but I would say that it is preferable to tap into those traits that are nearer the surface. This is what I mean when I mention the word “cultural fit.” However, there are a few circumstances when the cultural gap is that little bit too far – someone moving from a manic start-up may not do so well in the public sector for example.
Recruiting for HR is so enjoyable precisely because it is all about personalities (of the people and of the companies). To understand whether someone will thrive in a certain business, you have to have an intimate understanding of both sides.
If you bring the right HR personalities on board, your culture will flourish.