“If you can’t smile, you can’t work here.” That’s the bottom-line hiring principle employed by one of my favorite long-time clients – a specialty retailer that has had tremendous success by delivering a customer experience that steadfastly focuses on emotionally connecting with customers. Of course, this company looks for other qualities in its employees, but when it comes to front-line employees who directly interact with customers, the ability to smile is a big one.

While it’s seemingly so simple, this one employee skill can make or break the customer promise for this brand. Not only does a smile work to build that connection with a customer, it’s directly supportive of this company’s brand culture – one that includes “fun” as a key brand value.

A candidate might have the right experience or skills, but this smile rule points to the bigger question: is it more important to hire for the right experience or hire for cultural fit? Depending on the position, hiring for cultural fit may indeed be more important than the details of a candidate’s resume. Many skills can be trained to the right person who has the drive and willingness to learn, but if someone doesn’t suit the culture, then he or she will be a square peg in a round hole from day one.

Every Hire is an Opportunity to Build Culture

Every employee hired represents another opportunity to build brand culture. This is a fine example of internal-external brand alignment, which is the practice of aligning every element of an organization to empower flawless delivery of the customer promise. Organizations that emphasize cultural fit during the hiring process are setting themselves up for brand alignment and successful delivery of the customer promise.

Here are a few big reasons why hiring for cultural fit is so important for your brand:

Brands will be stronger. Culturally suitable employees will “get” your brand in a way that others don’t. They’ll be more engaged in the brand story and will eagerly contribute their own passion and personality in support of the customer promise.

Business results will be greater. Especially when there’s a big effort to hire for culture at the front lines, sales will increase. Employees who directly interact with customers will naturally exude energy and enthusiasm that are contagious. Customers will enjoy doing business with you, making purchase decisions easier and building even stronger brand loyalty.

Turnover will be lower. Employees who suit the culture will be happier in their positions and have a greater commitment to the organization. They’re more likely to stay longer and to possibly work their way up in the organization.

Change will be easier. Every forward-thinking brand has to undergo change on a fairly regular basis to remain competitive. Employees who are aligned culturally are likely to be more open and accepting of change, especially when they are given context and an understanding of how the change supports ongoing growth of the brand.

Culture will flourish. Hiring the right people for the culture will automatically help that culture thrive and flourish. Some companies have to put a lot of effort into supporting and developing culture. When the wrong people are in place, it can feel like an uphill battle. When you hire for cultural fit, employees often take on the role of self-policing their own culture – making sure that every action is supportive of the customer promise.

The first step in hiring for cultural fit is to be sure your company has a strong, brand-aligned culture in the first place. Of course, every organization has a culture. The question is whether it’s one that is detrimental to the brand or one that aligns with and supports the customer promise. Kennedy Communications Global has worked with companies around the globe on building and sustaining culture programs that support and strengthen the customer promise.

About Alice Wright

As Director of Content Strategy, Alice directs projects while also designing program strategy and instructional content. She has more than 22 years of experience managing integrated strategic marketing, communication and training programs for globally recognized brands. Some of her current and past clients include Nike, Sunglass Hut, Safeway, Banfield Pet Hospital, Office Depot, Unilever, LensCrafters, EMC, Intel, Microsoft, Dell, adidas, Joann Stores and others. Alice earned her bachelor’s degree from the School of Journalism and Communication at University of Oregon. She lives with her husband and teenage son in Portland, Oregon where she loves exploring the outdoors and being a soccer/band mom.