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New recruits, culture and conformity

By Niel Jacobsen

Numerous management courses, business articles and blogs espouse the benefits of recruiting new employees. External recruitment advocates say that new employees bring different ideas and talents and that recruiting externally opens
up opportunities to diversify existing teams. Stimulating change and bringing innovative ideas are often cited.

Reinforcing the perils of recruitment from within is the Peter Principle – the selection of a candidate based on performance in his or her current role. The risk being that they are promoted above their level of competence and ability.

So you toss the coin and decide to recruit externally. As the new person settles in they learn more about their job and company culture. In just a short time, you'll feel like they have always been there.

Shared values are an intrinsic part of organisational culture.

As your new employee is drawn in ever deeper into the corganisational culture, they unconsciously follow and adopt team norms, Over time and through continuous interaction, team members come to share similar characteristic, including values and beliefs.

Newbies are unaware of their high level of conformity and the chances that well-established systems processes will be altered because of a ‘new guy’ are low.

Inertia towards change is deeply rooted. In extreme case, GroupThink with its high degree of bias stifles the potential for creativity innovation simply evaporates. In this situation, changing group behaviour because of one new individual is nearly impossible.

The message is clear, getting the right workplace culture is the magic business dust[1]. As identified by Lance Walker, CEO at Loyalty New Zealand “Creating and encouraging the right organisational culture is indeed one of the most important tasks for any leadership team…culture can’t simply be imposed from the top down. It’s an organic process that relies on, and comes from, the whole organisation. It’s an ‘outcome’ rather than a ‘thing’ in its own right”.

Whether you recruit externally or promote from within, the culture within the organisation is the deciding factor. Culture has a huge impact on productivity, innovation and even business sustainability. Therefore it is critically important to understand organisational culture cause and effect.


Niel Jacobsen

Workforce Development, Innovation and Collaborative Practice Specialist. Niel developed Employment Proposition to help businesses understand what motivates, inspires and energises people at work.


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