The Importance of Cultural Fit

Over the past 20+ years we have placed close to 800 professionals, and we have seen firsthand how imperative it is that the professional’s values and the firm’s values are aligned. Recently, I have had long conversations with two senior level professionals whom I consider “superstars” in their fields. They both left their firms after many years (average of 11) for new jobs and found themselves very unhappy. How can this happen, and what can we learn from the situation? Well, during our conversations I learned that the most distressing aspect for them was how incredibly different their new firm’s culture was from where they had been before. Furthermore, they did not realize this contrast existed prior to the move. The situation was such that even if they loved their role, the lack of cultural fit was very difficult, if not impossible, to overcome.  Even if you have been with your firm for while, the culture can shift drastically when there is a change in leadership or you inherit a new boss – suddenly, it’s not the same place you signed up for.

So, what is cultural fit, and why is it so important for it to occur?   Examples of work values include:

  • How decisions are made – For example, by group consensus or by one or a few leaders
  • Openness to new ideas – Does the organization or its leadership have the mentality of “this is how we have always done it” or are they open to suggestions?
  • Whose expertise is valued – Does the firm value the expertise of their non-legal professionals or are all important decisions made by Attorneys?

While culture and values are significant to every organization, they are rarely visible on a job description. Here are a couple of questions you may want to ask in order to ascertain if the new culture is right for you:

  • How do you measure a professional’s value to your firm?
  • What 3 words best describe your firm’s culture?
  • Describe your firm leader’s style and which factors drive important decisions?

For you to decide whether the culture and values of this new firm coincide with your own, you need to identify what resonates and what has kept you at your current firm.  Don’t make the mistake of assuming that all firms value the same things from their professionals. If you can identify what is most important to you, you are much more likely to find it!

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