Why culture fit doesn’t always fit

15 Mar 2019

Why culture fit doesn’t always fit

How organizations are working to move past unconscious bias and hire for culture contribution.

In the recent Inspired Leaders Podcast, Partner and Ottawa Office Head, Susannah Crabtree shares some ways that organizations are combating bias to create more inclusive cultures and build effective teams.

A few months back, I was working in my living room while my son watched the hockey game. I wasn’t paying much attention until I heard the announcer mention that the night’s theme was Love is Love, part of the NHL’s Hockey is for Everyone initiative. The announcer spoke for almost 5 minutes about how the NHL is committed to supporting the LGBTQ+ community and fighting homophobia in sports. My eight-year old son and I listened attentively, and I was blown away by how far we’ve come since I was eight.

Major organizations like the NHL are closely watched by the public and are making a huge impact; so are many others that we work with at Odgers Berndtson. We are all looking to build talented and diverse teams that are driven by a common mission, but we aren’t always sure of the best way to do it.

This was the basis for my recent conversation with Terry Lipovski, Certified Executive Coach and founder of Ubiquity Inspired Leadership, on the recent Inspired Leaders Podcast.

In the podcast, we discuss the commonly used term of “culture fit” and why it may be actively working against the goal of diversity and inclusion. Many interviewers struggle to move past their unconscious bias during the hiring process; quite simply, most people naturally gravitate towards people that they naturally relate to. Sometimes this is based on a shared hobby or alma mater, or just relating better to a way of dressing or speaking. And don’t get me wrong: wanting to work with people that we more easily relate to is not a bad thing and is, in fact, human nature – we instinctively look for “fit”.

But it can also get in the way of us hiring the best talent for the organization.

Most organizations that I speak with are looking to hire people who can manage teams through change and disruption, and who are innovative problem solvers. They want people who can bring new ideas to the table, and that sound different from other contributors. And research continuously shows that diversity of thought is the ultimate competitive advantage to drive innovation.

So how can organizations move past their unconscious bias and hire for cultural contribution over fit? Here are three trends I’m seeing:

  • Running bias awareness training before interviews: With increasing frequency, organizations are running short workshops with hiring committees before candidate interviews. This invites people to have an open conversation at the forefront and helps identify and move past our natural inclination to judge people based existing bias like gender, social status, clothes, hobbies and more.
  • Objective psychometric testing: This type of testing is becoming more popular and is a great way to reduce subjectivity during the interview process. It is an extra tool in our assessment toolkit and allows us to compare candidates in a completely objective way before presenting them to hiring committees and to remove bias from our interview process.
  • High potential identification assessment: Leaders have a natural tendency to promote internal talent that they naturally get along with. But promoting people that are too similar can create a culture of clones, rather than innovation. At Odgers Berndtson, we help organizations use assessments to identify and promote talent to create balanced teams with different strengths and weakness and avoid the culture fit trap.

If you’re interested in learning more, you can listen to the full podcast recording here. If you’d like to learn more about unconscious bias training, search or assessment, we’d love to connect.