In an era of talent shortages and skill gaps, organizations are continuing to face the same hiring challenges they did ten years ago: how to find talent that stays and performs.

Trends have continued to drive potential solutions to the process, such as trying new hiring technologies, the expanding presence at key conferences or online communities and the multi-billion dollar engagement survey industry. Companies also started relying heavily on culture fit—shouting values from rooftops and searching for the right words, images and marketing strategies to bring those values to life.

It all started to feel forced and all to similar. Candidates were left wondering: "do I really ‘fit’ in that culture or do I just want to work there because it sounds cool?"

Earlier this year, our friend Lars Schmidt wrote about the notion of culture fit in Forbes:

"Companies are beginning to drop the idea of culture fit altogether. As more companies shift their recruiting focus towards intentional diversity and inclusion efforts, they’re reframing their thinking to how diverse candidates can add to their culture – not fit into it."

And that’s the rub—diversity and inclusion don’t always pair with fit. Especially when we’re trying to keep up with the Joneses. There’s only one Google, one Netflix, one Container Store. Candidates may have the skills for a job, but can they stay and grow in the organizational culture that exists? (<-- Click to tweet!)

At its core, culture is about the way we behave. And every organization has a set of behaviors that drive, culturally, how work gets done. You may admire or appreciate your employer, but the way work gets done isn’t comfortable for you.

As my team will tell you, I’m an open book. I try to be transparent, clear and upfront. I don’t like pretenses, back door conversations or passive aggression. I’m comfortable with and embrace conflict and love the passionate exchange of ideas. These behavioral tendencies are aside from my skills or ability to do my job.

Yet, I once worked in an organization where conflict was avoided and every deal was done behind the scenes or before the actual meeting. I remember colleagues being shocked when I got into heavy, yet respectful debate with my boss one afternoon. We both appreciated the exchange and it bettered our relationship (and the project). Others were horrified by it.

This is culture. While I admired the organization and my colleagues, and I performed well, it wasn’t comfortable to me. Ultimately, I knew I couldn’t thrive there without disrupting a well-embedded and tested culture for them.

Many group in society has ways of getting things done. Families, clubs, congregations—they all have specific norms and values. Ever go on vacation with another family and find yourselves so incompatible it makes the vacation difficult? It’s probably not because you don’t get along, it’s because the way their family operates and gets things done is different from yours.

The million dollar question then is this: how do you find candidates who add diverse ways of working and thinking, without changing the DNA of your organization?

You focus on who can thrive in your culture. And you get really specific about what that means. I call it “culture comfort.”

Consider any large employer with well-known business and organizational practices—from the workload at Amazon to the rallies at Wal-Mart to the humor and fun at Southwest. You have to look closely at how work gets done in these organizations to know if you’d want to work that way.

At exaqueo, we’ve helped our clients think with this lens by focusing on specific behaviors that tie to how work gets done, and as a candidate, how to evaluate if you’d thrive in that environment.

Long known as the "Fun Ships," Carnival Cruise Lines is a place where employees have to embrace fun, energy and positivity every minute of every day. This attitude and way of working isn’t for everyone. There are plenty of talented candidates who have the skills for a shipboard career, but wouldn’t want to have to embrace those behaviors in every aspect of their job.

In order to help candidates decipher this at the outset of the hiring process, we developed a self-assessment with no ties to selection. The questions are structured to uncover specific behavioral tendencies to help a candidate better understand: will I thrive at Carnival Cruise Lines? And that simple question doesn’t have to conflict with diversity. Carnival has a workforce with employees from over 115 countries around the world.

All of that said, organizations still have a responsibility to ensure their culture and behaviors don’t discourage diverse groups from age to gender to ethnicity to ways of thinking. They have to be clear how diversity can be supported through their established culture.

And the best way to show that established culture? Be authentic. (<-- Click to tweet!)

Be clear about how work gets done and what it takes to thrive and be successful. Whether your organization requires employees who exhibit innovation, transparency, care, commitment, passion or any combination of these (or an unlimited number of other descriptive behaviors), focusing on culture comfort can be a big step forward in finding candidates who will thrive in your organization.

If you liked this post, check out this one: Culture Expert Kevin Richeson On Company Culture And Why It Matters

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