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Cultural fit and diversity: can they go hand in hand?

Cultural fit and diversity: can they go hand in hand?

Diversity is a hot topic and no longer just a compliance measure but a key in fuelling innovation in organisations. Organisations agree that you need diversity of thought to solve problems in an effective way.1

At the same time, hiring for cultural fit is increasingly becoming important as employers see the benefits of a cohesive work culture. Research suggests that when employees fit the work culture they are more engaged, which leads to better performance, retention, customer service and happier employees.2

However, too much emphasis on cultural fit can lead to a lack of diversity and organisations missing out on innovation, creative thinking and risk great cost to the business.3 Therein lies the dilemma. How do you hire for cultural fit without reducing diversity?

In my experience, I find that hiring managers and HR directors know the values of having a diverse organisation, but they get a bit scared as they feel they must sacrifice one for the other. This is especially the case in organisations with a strong culture. Although managers know the importance of having a diverse team, they tend to put cultural fit as the top criteria as they think diversity and inclusion are problems to be addressed later.4

Yet, high-performing teams rarely have clones. Instead, each member brings different views and the capacity to challenge one another to solve problems in a way that is only possible due to their differences.

So how should hiring manager go about hiring for cultural fit without reducing diversity? Here are four rules to get started.

Start by understanding cultural fit

Defining your workplace culture is where you need to start. There is no universal cultural fit, so you need to understand what it is that makes someone the right “fit” at your organisation.

The Harvard Business Review describes cultural fit as the likelihood that someone will reflect and/or be able to adapt to the core beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours that make up your organisation.5

There are lots of ways you can develop a better definition of your culture – from exploring it in a team meeting, surveys, assessments and talent analytics. Another way you can understand your organisational culture is by looking at the way employees are recognised and rewarded. For example, in a performance-driven culture, those with a high drive to succeed will rise up the ranks more quickly.

Hudson often works with organisations to find out what it is that makes someone successful in their role. When mapped right, it’s like a blueprint for cultural fit and can help make the right hiring decisions

Understand what isn’t cultural fit

Just as important is knowing what doesn’t count as cultural fit.

While having a team that goes out together can be good for engagement, if the culture doesn’t drive innovation or lead to organisational goals being met, it’s not really a cultural fit variable.

Often hiring managers make the mistake of thinking that cultural fit can be determined at surface level readings of resumes. They think that experience, age, even schools and affiliations are a good indicator of whether someone would “fit”. Furthermore, they think that they are the best people to spot cultural fit in a candidate. For example, some tech companies hire only young people as they think only young professionals are capable of innovation.

Yet, it’s too simplistic to think that certain traits are found in just one demographic. You will miss out on a lot of good potential candidates with such a simplistic view. Just as you can be an innovator at 50, you can have cultural fit in a team made up of diverse backgrounds, skills and experiences. Furthermore, disagreements among team members don’t mean there isn’t a cultural fit. On the contrary, it’s a sign that the team may be able to come up with out-of-the-box solutions.

Set up a scientific and objective selection process

If you are serious about achieving diversity and cultural fit, you need to forgo gut feels in favour of a more scientific approaches to hiring. This means looking at multiple data points that provide objective talent insight.

From psychometric tests, competency scans, job simulations and behavioural interview questions, there are various assessments available to help you find the talent that possess your organisation’s values.

Unlike resumes and interviews, talent assessments can provide deeper insight on the talent, their skills, attributes and motivation.

Hudson works with organisations to do just this, and through a suite of assessments, we are able to delve deeper into how a person thinks and behaves instead of just relying on their work history and prepared responses.

The use of talent analytics is a chance to see if the talent really possesses the attributes they say they do. In addition, it makes more subjective measures like experience, background, age and interests redundant.

Scientific talent data takes the personal variables out of the equation and helps you concentrate on the values and traits that you are looking for. This in turn will help you open up your selection talent pool and prevent you from hiring replicas of people already working at the organisation.

Make sure have a diverse judging panel

To hire for diversity, you need to also have a diverse panel of interviewers asking an array of questions. Two brains are better than one and three are better than two. Essentially you want to have as many number of gates and steps to make sure that you can check and question each stage of the decision-making. This will ensure that the interviewee is asked a variety of questions and also the chance for interviewers to discuss their thoughts.

Some companies prefer to have different interviewers every step of the way. The more people involved, less room there is for partiality and gut-based decisions. It’s also a good idea to have one person on the panel who is not from your team or department to bring a fresh perspective.

Injecting diversity into the hiring process is by no means an easy task. It can be overwhelming, time consuming and a lengthy process. It’s a long-term strategy and there will be mistakes made along the way. Yet not addressing diversity in your hiring process is costlier to organisations in the long run.

In today’s cutthroat market you need more than a harmonious team culture to gain an edge over the competition. You need a team culture where members can challenge one another and bring different perspectives and experiences to see, frame and solve problems in a new way.6 As a result of having such “different” people working together, you might find that your workplace culture will be diluted.

This is a small price to pay for the long-term benefits.

Once you have instilled diversity into your hiring process, you might be surprised at a few things. Firstly, you might find that when you really select for the right cultural fit, variables, diversity is taken care of.

Secondly, you might find that despite the surface-level differences, your team members are a “fit” in ways where it counts the most.

1 Giles, S. 2018, ‘Diversity Isn't A Compliance Issue--It's Essential For Innovation’, Forbes, April 9, 2018
2, 6 Croswell, A. “Culture Fit and Diversity - Can They Work Together?”, Culture Amp ,
3, 4 Florentine, S. 2017, “How to keep ‘culture fit’ from killing workplace diversity”, CIO, Sep. 6, 2017, [How to keep ‘culture fit’ from killing workplace diversity]
5 Bouton, K. 2015, “Recruiting for Cultural Fit”, Harvard Business Review, July 17, 2015
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