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Culture Fit Versus Diversity: Where’s the Balance?

Young coworkers gather for a meeting in hip office

Culture fit is all the rage in hiring these days. And there’s good reason: It’s critically important. After all, employees who fit well with their organization’s culture have greater job satisfaction, are more likely to remain with their organization, and show superior job performance.

But blindly hiring for culture fit can lead to a workplace devoid of diversity. It’s easy for a company’s executives to fall into the trap of hiring those who look like them, talk like them, and think like them under the guise of hiring for culture fit. “[But] in looking for that cultural fit, organizations end up with just one type of person—a mold of those that came before,” says Patrick Cournoyer, VP of Customer Success at Peakon, an employee engagement platform. “And without diversity, you don’t always find the most productive team, or the ying to each other’s yang.”

You also end up with an abysmal record for inclusion, which can diminish the quality of talent you attract and retain. We compiled several resources to help you understand and address the culture fit versus diversity paradigm:

  • Peakon gives examples of how to engrain diversity into your hiring process, beginning with your job descriptions. The company reminds us that men tend to apply for a job when they meet 60% of the qualifications, whereas women tend only to apply when they feel they meet 100% of the prerequisites. If you want to fix a male-dominant environment, review and consider editing what you list as “requirements” in your job description.
  • Thanks to bottom-line based relocations and other factors, some workplaces do not resemble the communities in which they operate at all. The Wall Street Journal offers this guide to matching the demographics that you serve.
  • AIGA, the professional organization for design, has an extensive diversity and inclusion initiative in place that offers step-by-step suggestions for hiring and retention. One of its main goals is to help those charged with hiring be aware of the effects of unconscious bias.
  • And speaking of unconscious bias, Paradigm offers this white paper with additional strategies to manage bias and build more diverse, inclusive organizations. It points out the key times during employment in which unconscious bias can affect retention, including missed opportunities for mentorships and professional development.
  • This Stanford Business article suggests looking beyond culture fit to adaptability. The article points out research that shows “for human resources departments… hiring questions should perhaps revolve around how adaptable people are as much as they do around how much their beliefs align with the company’s beliefs. Have applicants lived in other countries or environments? Have they readily moved between multiple and varied work environments? Have they smoothly adapted to each of these environments?”
  • The Human Capital Institute found diverse teams only drive business value when inclusive behaviors are shown, when there is strong leadership, and when there is balanced diversity with no strong sub-groups (i.e., individuals do not group themselves based on diversity sub-groups such as age, gender, ethnicity, etc. in their teams).

Instead of finding job candidates who are “just like us,” stop and consider whether your efforts to create a unified culture might be, instead, creating an atmosphere devoid of inclusion and diversity. It’s not easy, but it is possible to have at all.