“You did not get the job because you are not the right cultural fit” is a statement I have heard before which has always confused me.
How is it possible if:
✅Skills and experience
✅Roleplay and presentation demonstrating attitude, values and beliefs
Cultural Fit is defined as the individual’s attitudes, values and beliefs being in line with the core values and culture of an organisation.
Personally I have understood the term “cultural fit” as “my background, culture and colour does not reflect what we have and are comfortable with so even though you tick all the boxes we cannot hire you”.
Culture fit has become a tool used to discriminate.
One Danish study, published in the American Economic Journal, found that personal biases lead to people picking colleagues of the same ethnicity even if they are less productive.
“What most people mean by culture fit is hiring people they’d like to have a beer with, You end up with this big, homogenous culture where everybody looks alike, everybody thinks alike, and everybody likes drinking beer at 3 o’clock in the afternoon with the bros,” Patty McCord, Former chief talent officer at Netflix.
Instead of hiring for cultural fit, business should be hiring for culture add.
Culture add is a term used to describe people who not only value the company’s standards and workplace culture but also add a different perspective from her or his own culture, background, experience, and education which positively contributes to the organization.
Cultural add enhances innovation within companies as well as providing a better insight, understanding and communication to the wide range of demographics companies serve.
For example in 2018 H&M created an advert showing a black child modelling a jumper with the words: “Coolest monkey in the jungle.” They did not see an issue until they faced uproar on social media as people called H&M “racist” and were forced to issue an apology.
Brands like Prada, Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana have all had similar incidents which can be avoided with cultural add but the more brands and companies keep on looking for cultural fit, “mistakes” will keep on happening which in the long run will prove costly for companies.
“Unless you have someone inherently part of the creative team to call out their crap and give different viewpoints — ie a person of colour, and I would go further to say black folk in large decision-making positions — it’s pointless”- Georgina Johnson, founder of The Laundry Arts
FYI if you are wondering why I have not included reports and research from the likes of Josh Bersin, McKinsey, Harvard Business Review which present the business case for diversity, I believe businesses have a moral obligation to address this issue.
There is also the fact that the business case for diversity has not worked which Hanna McCloskey founder and CEO of Fearless Futures articulates perfectly in her article Stop making the business case for diversity
Practising cultural add will require changes to your recruitment process to reduce bias (conscious and unconscious) and to make sure the right questions are asked which allow you to evaluate potential candidates properly.
Practising cultural add will require changes to your organisation where there are no glass ceilings in terms of promotion, to create a truly inclusive environment where employees feel safe, welcomed, valued and do not suffer from emotional tax.
As a Catalysts’ report found creating an inclusive environment can be connected to higher creativity and a higher likelihood to speak up and contribute.
“By building a culture of belonging, underrepresented employees can feel more at home in the workplace emotionally and culturally — so that they’re more likely to stay, be engaged and creative at work.” — Glassdoor Chief Economist Dr. Andrew Chamberlain
Cultural add is future-proofing the organisation as the business landscape changes but cultural fit is stagnation leaving no room for innovation.
Supporting leaders in creating an inclusive and highly productive culture through nurturing winning relationships