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Leadership Advisory

Culture Fit vs Diversity: Finding the Leadership Sweet Spot

By April 18, 2024No Comments
Diversity and inclusion | DEI

Have you ever scrolled through a company’s team portfolio and spotted a distinguishing pattern? They’re all brilliant, experienced, and… eerily similar. Same Ivy League background, same Silicon Valley pedigree, same cultural and ethnic background. Is this the recipe for market dominance or a blueprint for disaster?

The truth is, the traditional obsession with “culture fit” in leadership can be a double-edged sword. While it promises a seamless team and a cohesive vision, it can also lead to a homogenous echo chamber, stifling innovation and overlooking the very talent that could propel the company to the next level. 

So, is cultural fitment a friend or foe? Let’s dive in and discover the sweet spot where diversity and cultural alignment can co-exist.

Culture Fit: The Glue that Holds Teams Together

Let’s face it, a cohesive team is a happy team. Culture fit ensures everyone’s on the same page, fostering smooth communication and faster integration.

culture fit in workplace | diveristy and inclusion

But hold on – a culture fit that’s too rigid can morph into a “clone club.” Imagine a team of brilliant minds, all cut from the same mold! While they might be chummy at the ping pong table, the lack of diverse perspectives can stifle creativity and innovation.

Relying heavily on cultural fit assessments can perpetuate unconscious biases in the hiring process and lead to the formation of homogeneous teams.

If homogeneity comes to hold sway over genuine diversity, each unit within an organization could eventually become what I call a “personality silo.” This is a silo based on personality type rather than the business unit. 

This already happens to some extent – think about how people in your company talk about “the IT department,” or “the marketing people.” It’s not that uncommon for a team or department to have its own personality as a group. But in most cases, there are still individuals who are different and most people adapt to working in new units.

– Celia De Anca

Deputy Dean for Ethics, Diversity and Inclusion at IE University

HBR Publication 

Diversity – a Quota to Fill?  

Diversity in leadership isn’t merely ticking a box. Teams with a mix of backgrounds, experiences, and ideas are proven powerhouses. 

A Harvard Business Review study revealed that companies with diverse leadership teams outperform their peers by a whopping 78% on key business metrics. Why? Because diverse viewpoints challenge the status quo, spark out-of-the-box solutions, and help companies better understand their customers.

workplace diversity

Striking the Balance: Redefining Culture Fit

So, how do we unlock the power of diversity without sacrificing cultural fit? It’s all about redefining what “culture fit” truly means. 

Instead of focusing on personality quirks, let’s shift the focus to core values. Does the candidate share your company’s commitment to excellence, innovation, and collaboration? Do they value open communication and respect diverse perspectives? That’s the cultural fit we should be striving for.

    1. A Tool for Inclusivity

Culture fit assessments, when used thoughtfully, can serve as a strategic device or tool for promoting inclusivity rather than perpetuating biases. Broadening the definition of culture fit encompasses diverse perspectives, working styles and backgrounds. Identify core values and behaviors that contribute to a positive and collaborative work environment. Companies adopting such assessment processes are on an inclusive and equitable journey. 

Workplace Core Values 

  • Innovation 
  • Communication & Collaboration  
  • Integrity & Transparency 
  • Customer Focus 
  • Growth Mindset 
  • Accountability

    2. Alignment Necessity

To enhance diversity and inclusion, companies must align culture fit evaluations with broader diversity and inclusion initiatives. This involves integrating diversity metrics and objectives into culture fit assessments, ensuring that candidates are evaluated based on their ability to contribute to a diverse and inclusive workplace. 

Culture Add over Culture Fit 

The concept of culture add encourages hiring managers to look beyond surface-level similarities and evaluate how a candidate’s unique background and experiences can complement and strengthen the team. Rather than seeking out individuals who neatly align with the status quo, this approach celebrates the value that diverse perspectives can bring to the table for all.


Authored by Soumi Bhattacharya

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