On several occasions, we’ve heard business executives and HR professionals say that hiring for culture fit is only a cover for hiring bias. Again, another school of thought argues that hiring a candidate without looking beyond their resume is a fatal mistake. This second argument holds that there are important factors beyond skills and experience (as listed on the candidate’s resume) that are important to the hiring decision.
If we look at this objectively, you’d easily agree that an outstanding resume doesn’t always translate to an outstanding hire. But in a conscious effort to avoid misusing the “culture fit” factor, where should HR professionals and hiring managers draw the line? From our experience, we believe that culture fit should not undermine your efforts at creating an inclusive and diverse workforce. Have hiring managers misused culture fit in hiring processes? Yes. So, based on this, should hiring managers desist from using culture fit assessment in making hiring decisions? The answer is No.
How Important is Culture Fit?
Here is it: if HR executives do not assess a candidate based on how well they fit into the work culture of an organization, it means more focus is placed on the individual’s competence without considering their ability to perform within the company’s work environment. For instance, if your organization emphasizes innovative and creative contribution, it means that you may be making a mistake by considering a potential employee solely on the fact that they have the requisite skills for the role. The talent acquisition manager, in this case, must also take care to assess the candidate based on how well they can innovate and contribute to team goals.
This does not in any way undermine diversity and inclusion. Whether the candidate is American, African, or European, their success in the role is a factor that determines if they get hired or not. This approach doesn’t say, “You know, this candidate doesn’t think like us, so he doesn’t fit.” That statement shows that there may be some bias in the hiring decision. Conversely, the approach says, “This candidate has the knowledge to fit into the role, but does not value innovation and creative contribution, and so may not fit into the team.” Making culture fit a pivotal hiring factor does not stand in the way of diversity and inclusion.
Studies show that employee retention is higher when employees share the same values and work culture with their company. Also, such employees have higher job satisfaction and superior job performance. However, to avoid confusing things or allowing bias to taint the hiring decision, it is best to define what culture fit means for your organization. This is important because the conflict between culture fit and diversity and inclusion is partly due to a lack of definition of what “culture fit” is for a particular organization.
Defining Culture fit
We simply cannot do away with culture fit just because it can be misused in hiring decisions. Instead, we need to make sure that it is well-defined and clear to HR executives and talent acquisition managers. If we define culture fit in terms of personality traits, maybe favoring specific candidates because they “are outspoken” or “have a cheerful disposition,” we deprive the organization of the opportunity to build a diverse and competent workforce. Everyone cannot be the same, but their approach to work must reflect their competence, experience, and shared company/work values, despite their individual personality differences.
However, when organizations define culture fit in terms of the values and qualities that matter to them and keep them in business, then it is easy for talent acquisition managers to recruit and build a diverse and strong team that does not only possess the skills to succeed but is also diverse in profile and innovation. According to Mel Hennigan, vice president of People for Symplicity Corp in Arlington, Va, culture descriptions like “low structure” and “high autonomy with a complex matrix,” give organizations a better chance of pulling in a diverse set of people with the right skills and abilities.
Misconceptions Around Hiring for Culture Fit, and Diversity and Inclusion
Hiring for culture fit kills diversity and innovation: Unfortunately, many people believe this. Hiring for culture fit can actually bolster your quest for diversity and build an innovative workforce. Contrary to popular opinions, this approach helps organizations to gather top talents based on the alignment of their skills, experience, and values with the job role and, of course, the values of their organization. In essence, culture fit does not suggest hiring people based on personality traits, such as sexual orientation, age, origin, religion, creed, or political background.
Research also shows that large organizations can better afford the cost of hiring with diversity and inclusion in mind than small businesses. This does not mean that small organizations perpetuate bias, but fewer SMBs have the resources to invest in this process.
Culture fit is not a necessity: well, seeing how important culture fit is to an organization, it will be incorrect to say that culture fit is a “nice-to-have.” As a matter of fact, culture fit is essential for making quality hiring decisions. Hiring for culture fit focuses on how well a candidate’s values align with the organization's. While we promote culture fit, we should also ensure that it does not get the most attention. We need to give as much or more attention to diversity and inclusion. Studies show that when hiring managers hire for culture fit, the chances of employees performing better and staying longer with the company are higher.
To ensure that your efforts on diversity and inclusion do not suffer, HR managers need to ensure that the concept of culture fit is defined. While talent acquisition managers have used the idea of hiring for culture fit to screen out candidates that would otherwise have been hired, it is not enough reason to outrightly disregard the relevance of culture fit in making quality hiring decisions.
Openly discussing bias awareness and stressing the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace will help organizations and candidates tap into the benefits of culture fit and diversity.
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