I wonder whether decision makers have a common and consistent internal understanding of what they mean when they invoke the ‘cultural fit‘ card when making employment decisions.
“They aren’t like ‘us’; they won’t fit or be happy here”.
Have you ever said or heard that?
I say a business rarely has only one culture. Depending on its size it can be made up of many, many subcultures – like finance, engineering, sales. Where a person falls on the org chart places them in a subculture. Is the person part of the international or domestic group? So just what is the criteria being used for determining fitness?
I say creation of a one size only fit mono-culture does not provide any business with a competitive edge but can bring a business to the edge through creation of mono-vision, depriving the business of new insights critical to solving problems and finding new opportunities. Businesses talk about their talent shortages yet too many are letting promising talent slip through their fingers, dismissing them based on that nebulous term – cultural fit.
This makes me further wonder. Why is collaboration such a highly sought out competency? If hiring is heavily influenced by cultural fit, how hard can it be for people who are alike to collaborate?
Learning comes from encounters with difference and challenge. Growth comes from leveraging what is learned and applying it to new and ever more complex problems. Vision gets sharper. How do we sharpen our employees and grow their abilities – and our businesses- if we have nothing around us that is a bit abrasive or different? More possibilities are seen and more is learned when there is an element of managed tension present. Leading in such an environment might be a little tougher. Maybe that’s why we unconsciously default to that cultural fit assessment.
Beware for the sake of the success, vitality and competitiveness of your business of accepting dismissal of talent based too often and too heavily on ‘cultural fit’.
Here are some things you might want to be sure to think and talk about with those filling your business’s talent bench:
What is a cultural fit in your business? Know what you mean by that and why you hold to it when you do. (and I agree there are times when that is the right thing).
- What subcultures do we have? How should this matter in our decisions ?
- Is the culture you have created, intentionally or not, working for you or against you as the world continues to spin and change and you must spin and change with it? How do you know?
Don’t be stymied, be stimulated. It starts with awareness.