Why the “Cultural Fit vs. Functional Fit” Debate Matters in Creative Staffing

By Kelly McMahon on June 14, 2016 in Uncategorized


Unlike many other occupations, the creative field is one that depends heavily on soft skills (namely, creativity). And since soft skills are a major component of what is considered “cultural fit,” it stands to reason that cultural fit is more important than technical skills in placing the right creatives in open positions.

However, there’s danger in that assumption. We explore both sides of the “cultural fit vs. functional fit” scenario below.

Why Is Cultural Fit Such a Buzzword?

Whether it’s a product of the generational shift in the business world or simply a subtle change that has organically sprung up over the years, there’s no denying that the concept of cultural fit has overtaken the business world when it comes to hiring.

In creative staffing, cultural fit is a vital metric. It requires an emphasis on hiring individuals whose personality traits, communication skills, values and interests blend in to the existing team and company culture. Ostensibly, this creates a more highly performing workforce. There’s less tension or conflict to get in the way of achieving and delivering the best work.

Hiring for cultural fit is also an answer to high turnover rates. The more comfortable and satisfied an employee is in their work environment, the less likely they are to leave. This is particularly important in light of the fact that the youngest working generation has a tendency towards short employee tenure.

The Problem with Cultural Fit

The typical thought process behind hiring for cultural fit over functional fit and technical skills is that it’s easier to train an employee on various tools and technologies than it is to teach them creativity or communication. While this is true to an extent, there’s a glaring problem with this practice.

Here’s the problem: Creating a hiring profile based primarily on cultural fit – on character traits, interests, personality, and values that match your existing culture – is detrimental to diversity.

Do you really want a workforce that consists entirely of the same type of people? A diverse range of personality traits and interests within your creative workforce is much more likely to spark greater inspiration and innovation. When different worldviews, experiences, and opinions come to the same table, the team perspective gets wider, opening them up to new ideas that benefit the company in an untold number of ways.

Hiring for the Right Amount of Cultural Fit

With that said, how do you know what to look for if want to avoid building a generic workforce? It starts with an understanding of how your current company culture has been built and how it has evolved with the coming and going of your employees.

Furthermore, it’s essential to understand how the physical work environment, your employee engagement strategy, and the array of perks and benefits you provide impact the type of person who’s attracted to your workplace.

With this understanding, you can begin to determine which cultural qualities are most important. Ideally, the list should be short and not overly detailed. A candidate’s interests, hobbies, experience and values rarely define their ability to achieve their job responsibilities, so neither should they define your requirements.

Finding a Balance in the Cultural Fit vs. Functional Fit Debate

Cultural fit obviously has its merits. Undoubtedly, you want to avoid hiring employees who create a toxic work environment. You need team members who can communicate effectively and stay motivated. Ideally, they would respond well to your current employee engagement and appreciation strategies.

Likewise, ensuring a candidate’s capabilities on a functional level is key. However, it’s important to be aware of which skills you consider truly indispensable. A laundry list of technologies and tools isn’t going to do you any favors. Neither is an uncompromising number of years of experience. The main objective is to find a candidate whose achievements and accomplishments prove they can fulfill the job. Acknowledge that training may be necessary for more minor technologies that don’t immediately or directly impact the candidate’s primary duties.

At the end of the day, it’s important to recognize that the cultural fit versus functional fit debate does matter in creative staffing. And it’s even more important to understand how to find the right balance for your unique workforce and work environment.

At KORE1 Creative Staffing, it’s a balance we’re very familiar with, and we’d love to share our insight with you. Let us know how we can help you execute your hiring initiatives today.