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Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

The Hiring Dynamics of Culture Fit vs Strategic Fit

5 min read

The term "fit" has long served as a guiding principle in the executive search industry for practitioners to assist clients in the hiring process. Yet, today, the term faces scrutiny, with its implications of exclusivity, bias, or uniformity being called into question.

Culture fit

In executive search, “culture fit” has been heralded as the secret ingredient for identifying an exceptionally matched hire, but the term carries ambiguity. When some organisations refer to culture fit, they are describing how a candidate aligns with their own corporate values. For example, an entrepreneurial organisation will value candidates that are innovative, conceptual thinkers; often this is referred to as “values fit” or “contribution fit”. Others understand culture fit as personal experience - how they connect and work with colleagues, which creates bias or potential feelings of exclusion.

This is where companies can run the risk of hiring in their own image or hiring teams of people that share common characteristics. Leaders may vary their appointments, but for the most part believe their team will be more engaged due to their commonality. Not only can hiring for cultural fit be ambiguous, but there is the added problem of it being extremely hard to measure. Engagement surveys might point to misleading data, especially when considering the above example.

Strategic fit

Diversity should be any organisation’s top priority when making a new hire. This requires the consideration of “strategic fit” where companies need to identify their business objectives, alongside their diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) goals and environmental, social and governance (ESG) approach in order to understand their talent gaps and identify candidates who strategically fit these objectives. Many organisations are reassessing and reshaping their workforce strategies through a diverse, equitable and inclusive lens - this is no longer about hiring what looks and feels the same or choosing individuals that are connected to similar ecosystems.

Organisations are increasingly looking for cultural add, asking the following questions during the hiring process:

  • What will this individual bring to our organisation beyond the job description?
  • Will they be a role model of inclusive behaviour?
  • Will they be a constructive disrupter?
  • Will they foster cross-company collaboration and working, unleashing innovative potential and complex problem-solving ability?

The Inclusive Recruitment Diagnostic (IRD) is an evidence-based service designed to assess the inclusion maturity of an organisation’s recruitment processes and philosophy, completed by over 120 organisations to date. Part of the IRD’s assessment is identifying the importance of the candidate’s ‘team fit’ vs ‘team add’ during the decision-making process. This can be achieved by determining whether an individual candidate could contribute to an organisation’s culture, i.e. enhance processes, have fresh perspectives, and challenge the status quo with a view to elevating the business. An example of this in action is during the reference check process to understand how the individual added value to that organisation. This process could show if the candidate is an active ally, mentor of talent, ERG lead or manager of an external partnership, all beyond their job remit.

As organisations strive to cultivate inclusive workplaces, it is now more important than ever to look above surface-level similarities and prioritise candidates who bring diverse perspectives and experience. Odgers Berndtson’s expertise and bespoke solutions supports organisations accelerate their DE&I journey.



Get in touch.Follow the links below to discover more, or contact our dedicated leadership experts from your local Odgers Berndtson office here.    

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