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4 Steps to achieve BOTH cultural fit AND diversity


Organisational culture and diversity in the workplace are topics never far from the headlines. In our recent articles does your recruitment strategy encourage diversity and attract the best with a killer employee brand, we talk about the importance of both. A correlation has been proven between diverse leadership teams and improved innovation and performance. Take a look at this study by McKinsey. At the same time, organisations are investing heavily in creating strong employer brands with a belief that hiring employees who have a cultural fit with the business will lead to more employee engagement, less employee turnover and a happier and more productive workforce. This begs the question, how do you put emphasis on cultural fit, while at the same time achieving diversity without going to lengths of PwC?

Throughout most of the assignments we work on, cultural fit is placed high up in our client’s list of requirements. Most at some point in the past have had their fingers burnt through making a bad hire who was not a good fit for the organisation, didn’t last long in the position, and was then costly to re-hire. The topic of diversity however, rarely comes up, but is often a bi-product of executive search and definitely something we encourage in our clients’ searches. We believe that it is possible to achieve cultural fit and diversity and know that high performing teams perform well because of their differences and experiences, but also because they have a shared belief in the direction and success of the organisation they work for. What is key is ensuring their buy in to this direction very early in the search process, ensuring it fits with their personal objectives and aspirations, and understanding that culture doesn’t have to be static. Here are four ways you can achieve cultural fit and diversity when hiring.

  1. Define your culture

Businesses often talk about their culture, but do you know what your culture is? The Harvard Business Review describes cultural fit as the likelihood that someone will reflect and/or be able to adapt to the core beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours that make up your organisation. It isn’t about how many times you take your team down the pub each month, but more about defining what long-standing employees’ value most about their workplace. You could start by surveying existing employees, or by reviewing how employee success is recognised and rewarded. This will help you define whether you have a performance driven culture based around targets or a collaboration culture focused on innovation and creativity. People with a drive to succeed and who thrive under pressure are more likely to do well in a performance culture. Remember too that as your company grows, its culture may develop and change.

  1. Keep an open mind

When recruiting in-house, it is very difficult to avoid unconscious bias in the hiring process. Before even meeting someone, you will have formed ideas about what they’re like based on their background, schools attended, experience, even their name. Upon meeting them, it only takes 100 milliseconds to form an impression. It’s a survival instinct to quickly assess a person to determine if they are a threat. Things such as how they dress or their initial behaviour help you to make a quick judgment upon meeting someone. The reason why our brains try to connect this new information with previous experiences is so that you can quickly assess the value of this new person and if they are worthy of meeting again. Key to successful recruitment is to take a step back from our past experiences and to keep an open mind. Assuming for example, that because you are looking for an innovator you need to hire someone under 30, could be ruling out a huge amount of talent and experience. Sometimes the people you think are strongest on paper actually turn out to be the weakest performers at interview and vice versa.

  1. Be scientific and objective, not personal

By taking a more scientific approach to recruitment, you can avoid becoming too personal and again letting unconscious bias creep in. There are many ways to gain insights into potential employees beyond gut feel. Behavioural interview questions, psychometric testing and other competency based assessments can all be used to form a more rounded view of cultural fit and suitability. By looking at how a person thinks and behaves when faced with particular circumstances, more subjective measures like experience, background, age and interests become redundant. Newman Stewart carries out psychometric assessments for many of the roles we hire, and in fact, we believe so strongly that they help to not only encourage diversity and indicate cultural fit, but also identify top performers, that we use them for all of our internal hires.

  1. Bring in a third party

Not only does working with a third party executive search agency take the stress out of what can be a very time-intensive and complicated process, but they are also able to offer advice about the sorts of candidates to target and the avenues you should consider in your search, many of which you may not have thought of. Already, this is going to lead to a more diverse group of applicants. An executive search firm will also vet the candidates and carry out first round interviews, bringing with it experience from years of filling vacancies and not just the experiences from within your business. They know what to ask to ensure there is a cultural fit from the beginning, and that the individuals’ and companies objectives are aligned.


By following these guidelines, it is possible to achieve cultural fit and diversity at the same time. In today’s fast moving, digital world, the successful organisations will be those whose culture encourages debate and where employees are challenged to bring different perspectives and experiences to the fore to push boundaries. If you achieve this and your workplace culture changes, then that may be a good thing in the long run. If culture is about beliefs and attitudes, then it’s normal for them to evolve as the company matures, and a healthy sign that your business is moving in the right direction.

Download our FREE Recruitment Toolkit for tips to encourage diversity and achieve culture fit in your hiring strategy or get in touch to discuss your current challenges.



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