In today’s fluid business environment, diverse teams can help make your company more innovative, creative and competitive. But cultivating diversity isn’t a matter of ticking the boxes. We’ll explain how recruiting the people that make your company more diverse and dynamic has everything to do with culture fit. This article explains how value fit can eliminate bias and help you benefit from diversity.
Diversity drives success
Diversity has been a hot topic among HR professionals for a while, and for a good reason: companies really do benefit from it. Harvard Business Review cites numerous studies that show diversity — both inherent (e.g., race, gender) and acquired (experience, cultural background) — is associated with business success. For example, a 2009 analysis of 506 companies found that firms with more racial or gender diversity had more sales revenue, more customers, and greater profits.
Yet many companies struggle to adequately attract diverse candidates or to encourage their retention. Harvard Business School’s emeriti professors David A. Thomas and John Gabarro found in their in-depth six-year study of leaders in three companies that people of color had to manage their careers more strategically than their white peers did, and to prove greater competence before winning promotions.
Out of awareness of the benefits of diversity and under increasing scrutiny, companies of all sectors are making more of an effort to recruit and retain a diverse workforce.
How bias stands in the way
Despite the millions of dollars invested toward increasing their diversity, organizations often fail to seize the benefits that diversity promises. Why is this? First of all, many companies focus their efforts on diversity training and putting bias-limiting measures in place such as performance ratings and grievance mechanisms. These tools are mainly aimed toward preemptively controlling the actions of managers to avoid lawsuits.
Another factor is the bias people have toward diversity itself. For example, they may believe that diversity increases discord and conflict. The result is a natural tendency to hire people who are similar to themselves. It’s important to understand that putting together a diverse team doesn’t automatically bring benefits. It’s how the company nurtures difference that really has impact. People often seek to ignore differences in the interest of getting along. But to really drive productivity and innovation through diversity, it’s important to be open about and embrace difference.
Diversity isn’t synonymous with race. Among the many types of bias employees struggle with, there is also gender discrimination. Although the professional world has progressed in advancing women, many women still face subtle discrimination at work in the form of implicit biases. Research by Barbara F. Reskin and Debra Branch McBrier published in the American Sociological Review shows that certain hiring practices, including unstructured interviews and gendered job descriptions, can lead to the unequal employment of women. This is a good example of how implicit bias can influence behavior and decision-making. Company leaders have the tendency to think that women leave because of family responsibilities or lower ambition. But they often fail to take into account the extent to which women feel subject to biased feedback and performance standards, leading to frustration and lower job satisfaction.
Value fit truly fosters diversity
Although many companies are eager to overcome the obstacles to hiring and retaining a diverse team, they often don’t know how to approach this effectively. The key is to focus on how employees fit into the company culture. Although most companies are looking to hire people who fit in, there are misconceptions about what culture fit really is and how it relates to diversity.
Hiring for culture fit hurts diversity is one of them. Culture fit does not imply simply replicating your current workforce. Rather, it is an emphasis on the alignment of the candidate’s and the company’s values. Values do not include personal characteristics such as gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or mental profile, among others. On the contrary: similar values allow for a wide array of perspectives and backgrounds. Twegos’ R&D directors, professor Joeri Hofmans and professor Timothy A. Judge, wrote an article explained in Harvard Business Review about these misconceptions.
Read our Harvard Business Review article: “Hiring for Culture Fit Doesn’t have to Undermine Diversity”