Is ‘culture fit’ leading to discrimination?

Typically, when companies are on the search for talented candidates, one variable that is assessed is the job applicant’s fit with the organizational culture.

Culture fit can be thought of as how congruent an individual’s values are with the organization. There is little debate regarding the importance of culture fit, but improper procedures for assessing culture fit can lead to bias and discrimination.

Focusing on culture fit during the hiring process can lead to a lack of diversity because organizational leaders often feel like those who fit the culture best are individuals who are similar to them, according to Patty McCord, who served as the chief talent officer at Netflix from 1998 to 2012.

It is critical to hire employees that are congruent with the corporate culture, but because culture fit is such an ambiguous variable to assess, companies must come up with effective strategies to assess culture fit. How can organizations accurately evaluate and assess the culture fit of job applicants while avoiding unconscious bias and discrimination?

More than a feeling

It is important to establish clear and quantifiable indicators that can be used to measure culture fit. Culture fit cannot simply be a feeling. If a manager does not feel like a person is a good fit for the company, they should be able to justify why.

To evaluate the culture of your company, look at your organization’s key performance indicators (KPIs). How does your company gauge its performance and success? Evaluate how well aligned a job applicant’s background is with the KPIs of the organization. Does the applicant have what it takes to help the organization reach its strategic goals? Why or why not?

The evaluation of whether an employee fits the company should be made by a search committee or team, consisting of diverse individuals from varying backgrounds. One individual should not be the deciding factor regarding whether an employee fits the culture. If, however, the structure of the organization does not allow for multiple people to assess culture fit, there should be quantifiable measures used to assess perceived fit.

It may be beneficial to have current employees evaluate and assess the company culture and come up with definers of what the corporate culture actually is, rather than relying on one or two managers’ definitions. This will create a more realistic and holistic definition of culture fit from individuals working in the positions being filled.

Assessing factors such as individual personality traits is one way to objectively measure culture fit. Tools such as the International Personality Item Pool (IPIP-NEO) assess the personality traits that have been associated with cultural fit dimensions.

While using a personality test as the sole indicator of culture fit can be problematic, using a test to supplement an in-person interview and performance indicators can be a great way to assess fit.

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