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Hiring for organisational cultural fit: does it hurt diversity and innovation?

When it comes to creating an effective hiring strategy, the term “cultural fit” is often used. And while most managers would agree that it is important to hire people who fit in, in practice hiring with organisational culture in mind can result in a homogeneous workforce. This is perhaps why hiring for organisational cultural fit has garnered criticism for diminishing diversity in teams.

However, the definition of “cultural fit” today appears a far cry from the old, and instead should be seen as a predictor of whether an applicant will accept a job offer, as well as their happiness and success when hired. Before a hiring manager starts measuring candidates’ culture fit, they need to be able to define and articulate the organisation’s culture – its values, goals, purpose and practices – and then utilise these within the hiring process. Getting organisational cultural fit right reduces turnover, increases performance and ensures there are shared values and goals between an employer and employee.

The shift in the definition of what cultural fit means has given rise to a number of common misconceptions, however when implemented strategically and without bias, it is a useful tool for hiring managers to onboard employees who are more likely to succeed and thrive in the role.

Here are four common myths about cultural fit that could help to improve your hiring strategy.

Misconception #1: it diminishes diversity

Some hiring managers may consciously or unconsciously interpret hiring for organisational cultural fit to mean hiring people they’re most comfortable around, people they’d like to become friends with, or remind them of people they already know. This approach sets in motion unintentional hiring bias and may lead to a workforce becoming homogeneous, seeing individuals from different genders or social, economic, cultural and educational backgrounds not fully represented. While unconscious bias is definitely an issue within hiring, it shouldn’t be confused with hiring for a cultural fit.

Conversely, truly hiring with organisational cultural in mind should be used to find the match between the core values and goals of an organisation and those of an employee.  For example, employees who value giving customers a great experience will likely be a good cultural fit for a company that includes this in its mission statement and regularly asks employees to provide feedback on how this can be improved.

A good way to ensure unconscious bias isn’t creeping into your hiring process, is to first be very clear on your organisation’s values and purpose, and then match these with prospective employees.

Misconception #2: it’s all about values

Another misconception about hiring for a cultural fit is that it is only about values and personality. That is, hiring employees with the same values to that of the organisation and with similar personal characteristics to others in your workplace.

But while these are definitely something to consider, there is a more balanced way to approach this, as only paying attention to values could see you let ideal candidates slip through the cracks. For example, an organisation that might have the value of ‘collaboration’, may hire more extroverts over introverts because they more effectively demonstrate this throughout the application process.

This is why it is also beneficial to focus on the purpose of the organisation and how aligned a potential employee might be towards this purpose. Let’s consider the above example and say the same organisation also has the purpose of finding sustainable housing for disadvantaged youths. If the same introverted candidate is exceptionally driven by this purpose, a manager might find they are more motivated and innovative, thereby adding the most value to the team and organisation. According to Netflix’s Chief Talent Officer Patty McCord “making great hires is about recognising great matches – and often they’re not what you’d expect.” This statement exemplifies the idea that someone who has different values and personality traits might can bring new insights. Research shows diverse team and organisations, if driven by a common purpose, perform better.

Misconception #3: it’s not that important

While there’s no doubt that hiring for skill and experience is a critical consideration of the hiring process, cultural fit can be just as important. Meta-analyses have found that people whose values are more aligned to those of their organisation are more committed to the organisation, more satisfied with their job, and less inclined to leave.

Furthermore, studies show that value fit also relates to actual job choice decisions, in the sense that employees with values that align closely with their workplace not only stay longer, but also perform better than those people whose values don’t align. So if leaders want to have an engaged and motivated workforce with lower attrition rates, then hiring for cultural fit will be an important step in the hiring process.

Misconception #4: it hurts organisational innovation

While lessening innovation is definitely one of the pitfalls of a hiring process that ignores the importance of diversity, hiring for a cultural fit can actually aid in innovation, not detract from it.

This belief comes from the idea that “if everyone’s similar, how do we generate different, creative ideas”. But this ignores the crucial element of hiring for cultural fit, based on the current principles that are, as discussed earlier, based on values. After all, people can have different ways of thinking, problem solving and life experiences but still have similar values.

According to a study of 346 members of 75 health care teams, when members perceived that their values were more closely aligned to those of their team, team leaders rated the team as being more innovative. Importantly, the effect of value fit on innovation was due to team members identifying more strongly with the team, which led them to be more accepting of the diverse ideas and approaches of the other team members. Further to this, it made them feel more comfortable within the team itself, giving them greater confidence in speaking up about their own ideas.

If you are looking to find staff who are the right cultural fit for your business, contact Bayside Group today.