A look at the importance of cultural fit and how to boost productivity with fewer emails

The Harvard Business Review’s article The New Analytics of Culture’ by Matthew Corritore, Amir Goldberg, and Sameer Srivastava explored the insights of company culture as revealed by email, Slack, and Glassdoor reviews. They posit that those who fit within a company culture are more successful in a company but also that hiring the person whose immediate cultural fit was apparent in an interview might not always be the best choice. Let’s explore the importance of cultural fit (as we look at some of the article’s main ideas) and talk about email productivity. 

Cultural adaptability

Why is the immediate cultural fit not the best choice? The best candidates, the studies conclude, were those who could adapt to “cultural fit” over time. The article notes, “Employees who could quickly adapt to cultural norms as they changed over time were more successful than employees who exhibited high cultural fit when first hired. These cultural ‘adapters’ were better able to maintain fit when cultural norms changed or evolved, which is common in organizations operating in fast-moving, dynamic environments.” Adapting to environments was more important than understanding the cultural fit and relevance immediately. How many times have you hired a candidate based on likeability or personality, thinking they’d fit with the team better, than suitability, experience, or skill?

The outliers

If everyone “fits in” to a company, what is lost? Companies may suffer from a lack of cognitive diversity in their teams–too much of the same sort of thinking. The authors explain, “Hiring managers should also not overlook cultural misfits. They can be wellsprings of creativity and innovation. But to make sure they flourish inside the organization, managers should consider assigning them to roles in which they are likely to develop strong connections within particular social groups. That’s because misfits need the trust and support of colleagues to be seen as quirky innovators rather than outlandish outsiders.” Ironically, this section even concludes that even “misfits” have to find their fit. But that’s true of any person in a company. You may have a genius (i.e. a figurative Nikola Tesla) in the mix, but if they don’t have the right promotion skills (i.e. like Thomas Edison), that person’s ideas might fall flat yet could have been important.

Too many emails and meetings?

The cultural fit ideas are incredibly important to note, but the fact that the researchers used ’email’ to discover cultural fit was interesting to me. It led me to think about the link between emails and productivity. I was thinking about how many emails have been sent at my current day job and in previous companies I’ve worked for. I might be a little guilty of sending ten short emails with my quick-fire response instead of one slightly longer well-thought-out email. Or, conversely, how many times I’ve had to go to a meeting which also could have been an email. In both instances, I’ve either had my time wasted (where I could be getting my head down and working) or I’ve wasted someone else’s time (where they could have opened my one response instead of half a dozen). 

It led me to wonder if we could be more productive with fewer emails. Would you like to receive fewer emails? The HBR article notes of the study on ‘cultural fit’, “By studying the language employees use in these communications, we can measure how culture actually influences their thoughts and behavior at work.” Are our email patterns and meeting behaviors also influenced by our coworkers and could this behavior be improved? I think so.

Mixed messages, stress, and low productivity

I have a former coworker who is also a freelance writer and she has one client who meets with her every week, sets an astronomical workload (like a quarterly marketing campaign’s amount), and then changes her mind the next week in a semi-panic. This client doesn’t allow my friend to do her work, to get results from the marketing efforts outlined in the previous week (or the month before), to see if the content strategy is or isn’t working. This working relationship would benefit from fewer meetings, letting my friend get on with the work, and then analyzing the results down the line. The haphazard way of working leads to lower productivity in my usually very productive former colleague. And too much information overload leads to workplace stress. Does this working relationship sound familiar? Does your workplace plan in an overload of work and then throw other bits and pieces your way, leading to that sort of overwhelming sinking feeling? 

Workplace planning

This musing is just a general thought on how workplaces would all work better with forethought and planning. Everyone should know what they are doing at work for the next month and the potential risks that could be thrown at you last minute, but that shouldn’t be every month! 

Email hacks, setting goals and setting expectations

Similarly, with emails, if it could be an email, it shouldn’t be a meeting. If it can be outlined clearly in an email and then discussed in a five-minute catch-up for clarification, that’s fine–some people are audible learners and need the extra cues. But, overall, employees could be more productive with fewer emails clogging up their inbox. 

I’m highly organized with my emails, a point of pride. I read every email. I categorize it into a folder once I have dealt with it. I reply immediately giving a timeframe of when I will do the work and I only move the email into a folder once it is done. I follow these Lifehacks without even realizing it! That way, I prioritize my workload and don’t miss things. But sometimes there are those workers who get so many emails that you never hear back from them. You aren’t even sure if they ever read their emails and their inbox has hundreds of unread messages (even the thought gives me nightmares). Some of those emails are important and did need to be addressed but chasing someone who doesn’t read emails can lead to lower productivity too. Many colleagues have work dependent on others and if they have no idea when that work will get done or be addressed, then the workload hangs in limbo.

What do you think?

What are your feelings on these three topics: cultural fit, emails, and meetings? Let us know in the comments on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. What are your musings on ways to increase productivity in the workplace?

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Elaine, an SEO Specialist and Content Writer

Elaine Frieman holds a Master’s Degree and is a UK-based professional editor, educational writer, and former marketing agency content writer where she wrote articles for disparate clients using SEO best practice. She enjoys reading, writing, walking in the countryside, traveling, spending time with other people’s cats, and going for afternoon tea.