Put a group of people together and you will discover there are many corresponding and contradicting characteristics, believes and opinions in that one room. These can level, reinforce, but also sabotage a situation. If you want to strengthen your business, how can you ensure that the first two values, the ones that create synergy, will dominate within your organisation? It’s all about behaviour and the culture that is steering that behaviour.
Recently I read an article on Linkedin about Michael Jordan’s attitude as a ‘jerk’ and how that was actually empowering his team, not sabotaging it. The writer states that hiring for cultural fit is overrated. Is it? In sports you often hear outrageous behaviour from leading talents. What happened first, their success or their jerky, arrogant outbursts? So you could question what causes what in these cases. How does this work within companies?
One of the biggest issues within companies is gender diversity. Why is the largest part of executives boards still male? Why are man and women paid unequally for the same jobs? A study of the Dutch business intelligence company Graydon has concluded that having women in the management board mitigates the risk of bankruptcy. Also at McKinsey’s they concluded that women on boards are a real advantage. More and more large American enterprises hire women for executive jobs. For example General Motors, IBM and PepsiCo have female CEOs. They don’t hire women for such executive jobs to meet KPIs of a diversity program. It is more likely these women got hired because – besides their leadership skills – of all candidates they fit the company culture best.
What does cultural fit actually mean?
Well, the probability that a candidate will be able to adapt to your organisation. The adaptability is based on the beliefs, attitudes and behaviours that are characteristic for your organisation. Eventually this set of cultural pillars is defined in core values, that only last if they are lived by every day, top down. So, like most organisational dependencies do, this starts with leadership.
Culture is a strong influencer of people’s views, values, hopes, respect, loyalties and fears. Not only the culture you were born in has affected you, the cultures you are part of due to social or work activities will affect of have affected you too. Whether you are male or female, Dutch, Italian, Chinese or American, gay or straight, it influences the way you interact in life. So when you are working with a diversity of people, it helps to have some perspective and understanding of each other’s cultures in order to build relationships. However, the question is, will this hinder cultural fit within an organisation that aims to achieve an certain level of diversity?
Culture encourages diversity
In addition to the interesting recruitment suggestions in the article ‘Recruiting for cultural fit’, it also mentions that culture fit could lead to discrimination against candidates and a lack of diversity. Such assumptions arise due to misunderstanding the concept of hiring for cultural fit. It is not about only hiring people that are the same. Diversity will not be confined by values and believes. There’s still a wide range of possibilities within the boundaries of these pillars. The cultural behaviour of the workforce needs to allow differences in the way people deal with operational issues. Trust people in their judgement within the boundaries of their ‘playground’.
Although multicultural work environments can be a challenge, it’s also important to remember how much people have in common. We all see the world differently, but we all know what it is like to wake up in the morning and look forward to or maybe look up to the challenges of that day. We all love, learn, hope and dream. We all have experienced pain and have overcome fear in our lives.
If you create a company culture that encourages employees to be broad-minded, it will create a platform where diversity is widely accepted. A place where executives, male or female, have the opportunity to steer their employees towards the same results.
Therefore HR needs to enable hiring for cultural fit by translating the organisation’s culture into terms of values, goals, and practices and then incorporate this understanding into the hiring process. This way recruitment can attune their search for talents.
Gender, ethnicity or age are not the detrimental factors of fitting in. When employees fit the company culture well because they thrive within an environment that is tolerant on differences , it increases job satisfaction, performance and creates a solid base for diversity. Benefits that will have a positive chain reaction on the company results.
If you have anything to add to this blog, please feel free to do this in a comment below.