How to Achieve “Culture Fit” in an Inclusive Organization

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By Molly Penn and Sofiya Cheyenne

“They’re a great culture fit.”

Have you truly considered what you mean when you play the culture fit card?  The notion of “culture fit” has been exposed for what it is – a way of upholding white supremacist, ableist culture in organizations.

By definition, culture refers to the collective norms and expectations of employees in your company. Culture is not what you say it is, but what you actually do. You could point to your organization’s values as hallmarks of your culture, but unless they are practiced, these values have not infiltrated your company culture.

Examples of culture include:

  • Remote work and office hour policies
  • Team camaraderie
  • Dress code norms
  • Decision making practices, based on the leadership design
  • Social interactions outside of work hours
  • What is rewarded and what is punished

Culture fit and bias

Someone’s race, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, ability, or any other categorization is not an indication of culture fit. Inclusive and just organizations strive to rid culture of bias.

  • Unconscious bias or implicit bias results from a tendency to organize and understand social worlds through categorization. People can form quick opinions of others based on these biases without being consciously aware of doing so.
  • Affinity bias is a form of unconscious bias when people tend to gravitate to those who are like them. The brain sees similar people as familiar and relatable, and therefore favorable.

Both unconscious bias and affinity bias can manifest during the hiring process. For example, someone is presumably a good candidate because they have the same hobby as an interviewer, they went to the same university as the hiring manager, or they share a hometown with their prospective new supervisor.   Without recognizing the historic marginalization of people of color from these hallmarks we could easily find ourselves gravitating to white candidates without realizing we were being biased.

Culture fit in a DEIA organization

To ensure your organization is upholding diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout its hiring process, consider the following:

  • Write inclusive job descriptions. Remove gender- or race-coded words or references. Ensure the job description includes accommodations for people with disabilities if needed to practice the job.  Consider eliminating educational requirements (given that so many people of color were historically excluded from higher education institutions) in favor of lived experience.
  • Test your interview questions: check with diverse people in the organization to review your interview questions for bias. If you have an internal DEI working group, run the questions by them.
  • Involve diverse people in the hiring process. At least three people should comprise the interview team, representing different roles, functions, and personal preferences. Ideally these people should be diverse – of different races, abilities and/or ethnicities.
  • Focus on values. Ask behavioral questions that elicit comments about organizational values such as honesty or integrity. Seek confirmation that the interviewee has acted out these values in past job scenarios.
  • Describe the “how” of your organization. After you get a sense that the candidate is committed to your values, give them a chance to decide if your organization is a good fit for them, too. For example, describe how people work, make decisions, and interact with senior leaders.

Use the above best practices to determine if a prospective new employee is willing to assimilate to the overall norms, behaviors, and expectations of your organization. The goal is not for this person to be like everyone else; rather, the intent is to find the right person for the role while building a DEI organization.

Get started today

It is time to assess the processes you use to hire new talent. One easy place to start is to assess how much white supremacy already is baked into the culture of your organization.  Contact us for an assessment to get started!

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