“Hire for cultural fit, train for skill.”

In recent years, the concept of cultural fit has emerged as a key component of effective and strategic hiring. A study by Cubiks revealed that 84% of hiring managers believe having cultural fit is one of the most important factors in recruitment. What’s more, 90% of recruiters have rejected a candidate because they felt they weren’t well-matched with the company culture.

While it’s important to hire candidates that will complement your existing team culture, it’s equally as valuable to build a diverse workforce that brings different opinions, life experiences and skills to the table.

RELATED: How to build a positive company culture

Recently, culture fit has become the source of controversy as key HR opinion leaders suggest it undermines cultural and gender diversity in the workplace, instead leading to the creation of a homogeneous organisation.

Can hiring for culture fit limit or harm diversity in the workplace?

One of the biggest challenges hiring managers face is finding a person who not only has the right experience and skills for a role but who also matches a company’s values and culture. The concept of culture fit looks at how well a candidate’s personality, values, skills and work ethic suits the organisation’s existing mission, values, work dynamic and team culture.

Studies have proven that hiring someone who is a good cultural fit increases team productivity, job satisfaction, and employee retention. Because of this, culture fit has become a priority for hiring managers, with some start-ups even asking a potential hire to interview with the entire team before making an offer.

However, one of the biggest challenges hiring for cultural fit presents to diversity in the workplace occurs when organisations lack a clear understanding of what culture fit is.

Without a specific definition of what makes candidates a good cultural fit, teams risk making a hiring decision based on the “similar to me” effect. They mistakenly believe that a candidate who is similar to themselves is also a good fit for the organisation. This limits workplace diversity and gender diversity as it results in unintentional hiring biases, and leads to organisations trying to clone their existing workforce.

But cultural fit doesn’t have to — and shouldn’t — come at the cost of cultural awareness in the workplace. Culture fit, diversity and inclusion in the workplace can co-exist within an effective hiring strategy, provided a company is clear and deliberate in their hiring process.

How to hire for culture fit while managing diversity in the workplace

· Look for culture-add candidates

One way to effectively hire for cultural fit without limiting workplace diversity is to hire for cultural add. Instead of asking your hiring committee, “Do you think they’re a good culture fit?” ask questions like, “What can this candidate add to our team?” and “How can they enrich our existing team culture?” as opposed to, “Do you think they’re a good cultural fit?”

These questions force your team to evaluate how a potential hire’s cultural differences in the workplace can enrich the company in the way of skills, experience and viewpoints.

· Have clear evaluation criteria

To escape the “similar to me” effect, you need to be clear on what you’re looking for. Revisit your company’s mission statement and core business values – include these when listing the position on job sites. This way, candidates know what they’re being evaluated on when it comes to cultural fit.

It’s also important to establish an objective barometer for measuring a candidate’s fit with the team. Send out a poll asking what your current team members value in the workplace is. Is it hard work, integrity, or collaboration? Using this information, build a standardised set of workplace values for your team. This can then be used to review how a potential candidate’s values aligns with your overall organisation’s principles.

· Provide guidance to other team members

Adopting a collaborative interview approach is valuable, provided you understand how to effectively extract interview feedback from your team. If you’re going to invite your team to be part of the hiring process, it’s important to be specific in your request for feedback. Ask questions like:

  • How would they add value to the organisation?
  • How well do you think they align with our company values and mission statements? Why?
  • What challenges do you think they would face in the role?
  • What benefits do you think you (or the team) would gain from working with this person?

· Go outside your hiring comfort zone

Get creative on where you look for talent: source candidates from different recruitment agencies, local universities, or try out a social media recruitment campaign.

The same applies during the screening process: make a point of meeting with candidates with experience in different industries, or who are from different generations or different walks of life. Consider how these attributes could enrich your organisation, as opposed to worrying about how well they would fit in.

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