“Culture” is a term that organizations often use to evoke a determination about their general values, beliefs and behaviors. It is also exemplifies a company’s mission statement and even some formal policies that inform employees about internal standards. The term “culture fit” refers to how employees or potential employees reflect those values, beliefs and behaviors. The term also speaks to informal practices such as the ways in which employees engage with each other and management. Office culture, for example, can determine if the environment is team centered or competitive. If you are a job seeker, these are important things to know about a company before you accept an offer. Sometimes this can be challenging if the company has not yet figured out what its culture really is. Most often employers are screening candidates to assess if the potential employee has shared values and will blend in well with team members.
Are the efforts to seek out a culture fit when interviewing potential employees indirectly preventing companies from becoming more inclusive? How can we prevent organizational practices such as onboarding from being influenced by individual biases? Are companies unintentionally hiring people who “think like us” and “look like us”? It’s more common than you think. It’s easier to work with someone who has similar interests. It also might be that you come from similar cultures or have the same political views or tastes in music. It’s a no brainer right? Well maybe, if you are looking for a new friend. However, if you have onboarding responsibilities for your company or organization, your focus is on building a strong workforce and factoring in the bigger picture. Building a workforce that is skilled, dedicated, and eager to help the company stay competitive can only be achieved by hiring a diverse team. A diverse workforce should reflect different educational and cultural experiences resulting in employees that can offer broad perspectives. Diverse representation should also reflected by age, gender, race, ethnicity, ableism, and sexual orientation. In your public postings, let it be known that your organization embraces diversity and welcomes inclusive practices. Research continues to provide evidence on how groups that all look the same and think the same produce limited results.
Another way to ensure culture fit embraces inclusion is by evaluating your organizational practices. Are there formal or informal barriers preventing inclusion? Review the screening questions that are being asked. Evaluate who are the candidates being interviewed. Are we indirectly making judgments about academic institutions, class, race, gender or sexual orientation? Consider presenting conversations like this at team meetings where the questions are raised. Help the team articulate their desired organizational culture and then ensure that it also includes the principles of diversity and inclusion. A purposeful team meeting is where learning should occur – it does not always run smooth but the experience has value. Respectful debates that bring out conflict are not always a bad thing. Effectively listening to others is where you may learn something new by hearing another perspective. To better ensure that a productive discussion occurs start off by setting the tone letting the team know the importance of the conversation. It’s important to let everyone know that their voice is welcomed if it is done respectfully. Change takes time and comes with growing pains, but employers who champion transparency and inclusion will find that they have happier employees, stronger retention, and a more dynamic workforce.
A frequent contributor to the Poughkeepsie Journal, Pawling resident OBED FIGUEROA is the author of Marcus Learns About the Different Types of Doctors, soon to be published by Austin Macauley Publishers. He is also a published researcher and doctoral candidate at Northeastern University.