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March 2021 | Recruitment

Inclusivity and cultural fit

Pete Gwilliam is director at Virtus Search

The culture of a business is made up of the shared values, attitudes, behaviors and life experiences of its employees.

Culture is especially influenced by a firm’s executives and leaders, because they are the decision-makers, the people who set the strategic direction, and it is they who use various rewards and recognition systems to reinforce what is valued and expected.

Just like there are variations in individual personalities, business culture naturally varies from one company to another.

This is why some people ‘fit’ into a particular working environment, but not in others.

Company culture is a powerful driver of business success. It is the key to employee engagement, performance and productivity.

Employees who identify more with their company’s values experience greater job satisfaction, are more engaged, perform better and are more likely to stay with their organisation.

However, cultures can be determined by legacies, and therefore fail to reflect changes in society and the communities that the business serves.

Investing in people has to start by creating a working environment in which everyone can bring their most authentic selves to work, without fear that their differences will impact upon their ability to contribute and succeed.

Cultural fit is often used in a loose way, by reference to some nebulous criteria about shared values, unsupported by evidence of what the culture is like in practice.

The unintended consequence of these vague assertions, and of simply hiring people we feel will ‘fit’ at a subconscious level, is that we will pick those with whom we have something in common.

However, the notion of a cultural fit should mean shared values in terms of work ethic, collaboration, problem-solving and common purpose, not just having shared similar previous experiences as someone.

Screening and selecting for a values-based fit demands a deep understanding of the company’s culture. A cross-section of views from people within a business best describe its culture – how are these values personified in terms of specific, measurable behaviours and traits?

Any business can have a politically correct mission statement, but what are the behaviours that directly reflect of this cultural commitment?

At the heart of any progressive business is openness and integrity. For example, transparency of pay scales, inclusive succession planning, mentoring, and opportunities for genuine employee involvement in decision-making. All of this must inevitably make for a more attractive place to work, but these are not elements that are often included in the actual selection process.

While psychometric testing might help provide a picture of the behaviours of an individual, to be more substantive the behaviours of a firm, managers, the team around an individual and the business’ customers and suppliers must be evaluated before any conclusions can be drawn about the ‘fit’.

At least it can be said that psychometric tests do not make assumptions based on where an individual has worked previously – either positive or negatively.

Organisations should be sure to have policies in place which confront bias. A simple step is to anonymise CVs – they can be reviewed without the hiring manager seeing the name, age, schooling, or gender of the applicant.

The new working model we have all adapted to has surely created discussions about whether job descriptions are still fit for purpose, and maybe affirmed or realigned the values that underpin a business.

You find out more about yourself and the business you work for in challenging times than you do when all things are going smoothly!

When the skills and behaviours that are required for new working practices are being determined, there is a perfect window to re-engineer sourcing and selection.

As an industry, we can ensure that at all levels we are transparent, fair and inclusive, celebrating diversity and varied experiences.