Should You Hire for Culture Fit or Hire for Inclusion?

“Diversity is being asked to the dance. Inclusivity is being asked to dance.”

This was probably the best quote we heard at our HRTX Dallas event in March. The other one was: “Just because you work in sourcing doesn’t mean you’re a sorcerer.” Both were said in the context of a much bigger discussion around talent acquisition and the hiring process: Should you hire for “fit” or hire for inclusivity?

On the surface, these seem to be diametrically opposed concepts. “Fit” often refers to hiring people similar to your pre-existing team. This can create a culture of “same thinking,” which tends to be an enemy of growth. (It can be hard to pivot and develop new ideas when most of the team thinks the same way.)

In fact, in 2017, well-known industry thought leader Lars Schmidt wrote an article for “Forbes,” calling for “the end of culture fit,” noting:

“Most interviewers are more likely to hire people like themselves and discount those who are different. This type of thinking hinders diversity and leads to homogenous cultures.”

Paradoxically, perhaps, Lars used the example of Facebook, which is not a place known for having great diversity. However, since Facebook moved from a hiring model rooted in the abstract “fit” to one based on inclusion (and implemented managerial training on unconscious bias), the numbers have improved. In July 2016, representation in senior leadership at Facebook (in the U.S.) was 3 percent Black, 3 percent Hispanic and 27 percent women. Contrast that with new senior leadership hires from 2016-2017, which were 9 percent Black, 5 percent Hispanic, and 29 percent female.

So inclusion is better, right? But there’s one issue: measurement.

Most companies only know how to use the word “inclusion.” They don’t know how to measure it. In business, “what’s measured is what matters.” If the top decision-makers can’t see the impact of inclusion on a balance sheet or in terms they understand, a push for inclusion won’t make a dent.

There are approaches to measuring inclusion, however, including employee surveys designed to gauge feelings on the company’s cultural progress. According to that Fast Company piece, the results of these surveys can be broken down across demographic lines “to see whether members of particular groups—for example, transgender employees, people with children, or Latinas—are responding to particular topics differently from other groups in the organization.”

Such efforts, the article continued, “can help you transform ‘inclusion’ from a vague concept into something that can actually be evaluated and addressed.”

If you begin with your current employees, you can see how inclusive your current culture is. But how do you bring inclusivity into the hiring process?

A few approaches:

Microsoft, perhaps sparked by CEO Satya Nadella’s commitment to empathy, has one of the most comprehensive inclusive hiring programs in the world. (They are also one of the global leaders in hiring autistic people.) Microsoft has tremendous access to fiscal resources and planning, yes, but Nadella has even admitted all of it begins from a place of caring and making these efforts a priority. Any organization can do that.

The Bottom Line

“Culture fit” is often a vague term that can screen out good candidates because they’re not similar enough to the current crop of employees. While you want someone who won’t scrape against your culture, do away with the idea of “culture fit” and focus more on inclusion. Some approaches have been listed above, and we’d welcome any other thoughts. Where have you seen inclusion work, both during the hiring process and post-hire?

Noel Cocca is the founder and CEO of RecruitingDaily and its merry band of rabble rousers. He aims to produce at the sweet spot between content and actual awareness by creating great work for living, breathing human beings in recruiting and hiring. He works to ease problems, both large and small, from startups to enterprise.

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