This is the question going around and around in my head at present. It’s a conundrum.

We know that if you recruit individuals who are a great cultural fit they identify with their surroundings, they share the purpose of the organisation and are more likely to be able to get things done. According to research by Spencer Stuart:

Wow! Let’s think about that.

In the work I do, I take pride in finding great people and placing them within great organisations where there is a “cultural fit”. This also means that they have lasted and made an impact. It seems a very good approach. So, it works, but how does recruiting culture fit impact on diversity?

The premise of discovering a “culture mis-fit” is that you potentially bring in people who are different and will stir things up. They will shake the bedrock and demand new ways of thinking and doing. In situations where divergent thinking has been welcomed, the facts are compelling; Businesses with a healthy balance of men and women are 15% more likely to outperform their competitors, while those with employees from a good mix of ethnic backgrounds are 35% more likely,” Katherine Early in an article for The Telegraph.

A recent report from executive grapevine* suggests that three in ten (29%) senior managers admit they hire people just like them, so clearly there is some way to go before companies are ready to welcome difference.

The study found that employers place significant importance on educational attainment (86%), cultural fit (77%), tastes and leisure pursuits (65%), and even social background (61%) – raising concerns about diversity. Data discovered by Cornerstone OnDemand, claims that only 25% of UK companies said that diversity was a priority in the process. British companies give greater priority to education over diversity in the executive search process, a new study has revealed (Executive Grapevine 2nd April 2019).

We can’t lay change at the door of one recruit, that is not possible. For “cultural divergence” to take roots and grow you need to develop behaviours congruent with a culture of diversity, and it must be driven from the top. The intent needs to be genuine, otherwise the organisation will not have the framework to develop the behaviours which lead to greater diversity and inclusion in the first place. This isn’t about what you say, it’s all about what you do that makes a different. Developing a culture, which encourages more diversity and inclusion, if you are not already there, means working on the most critical element of change –  behaviour.

In the 10 Principles of Mobilising Your Organisational Culture the authors identified three dimensions of corporate culture which affects alignment to change; symbolic reminders, keystone behaviours and mind sets. They went on to say that “behaviours are the most powerful determinant of real change”. Boiled down, if you change behaviours then mind-sets follow.

They observed several organisations doing this well and they had several behaviours in common. They empowered employees by “reducing the number of approvals needed for decisions”, encouraged collaboration through getting people to work together across the organisation at different levels, and having good interpersonal relations, through devising mutually respectful practices for raising contentious issues or grievances.

 I’ll leave you with a quote from Jennifer Brown, a well-known author in the field:

 “If you are a great leader for inclusion, you have figured out how to embrace and galvanise diversity of voices and identities.

What are you doing about it?


Suzi Fox, Executive Search Lead April 2019

References and more to read:

https://www.spencerstuart.com/research-and-insight/the-role-of-culture-in-search-and-succession

*https://www.executivegrapevine.com/content/article/2018-07-06-is-it-time-to-ditch-hiring-for-cultural-fit

 https://www.strategy-business.com/article/10-Principles-of-Organizational-Culture?gko=71d2f