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Culture-fit or culture-add?

Core to your company is its mission, principles, and values. To keep them intact, you have to bring in people who believe in all of those things. But how do you do this without working against the goal of achieving diversity in the workplace?

In this blog I invite you to consider some tangible actions.

1) Define what diversity means for your company. Then audit whether you meet this definition and whether the definition stands up to scrutiny.

If you find yourself saying that you have diversity of thought. Look around you. Are teams made up of people who look the same, have a similar education background, similar lived experiences, and do they tend to agree with the Chair, CEO, or other execute with very little conflict? Then, YOU DON'T HAVE DIVERSITY OF THOUGHT!!! (Sorry for the caps but I have to emphasise this.)

Diversity of thought comes from bringing together people from different walks of life:

  • Personality

  • Lived experience

  • Education

  • Socio economic background

  • Geographical location

  • Language, linguistics and accents

  • Neurodiversity

  • Race and ethnicity

  • Age

  • Gender identity and expression

  • Sex

  • Sexual orientation

  • And much much more....

( source: which is a great article covering each of the above.)

2) Great, your company has diversity in the workplace, your company stands up to scrutiny. So, what now?

YOU MUST PROTECT THAT HARD WON DIVERSITY. The challenge, the risk is that your company culture begins to encourage assimilation so that teams sound alike, behave the same, begin to think similarly as well as do things in the same way...diversity becomes lost in the weeds of getting the job done.

How do you protect diversity in the workplace? You could do the following:

  • Bring in the principle of 'culture-add' in to your workplace. For example, if you're reviewing your interview techniques as part of your recruitment process revamp, a simple solution is to look at the nature of questions being asked and question the assumptions behind those questions. Culture-add questions look at asking questions that identify what a candidate brings in terms of individuality and differences - this means adding to your workplace culture because your company values diversity. This is instead of culture-fit, which tends to hire those that sound, look and think similarly to those within the organisation. And, be open with your candidates, get them thinking in advance of the interview how their differences will add to your company's culture. Most candidates are coached to demonstrate that they will fit-in, and frankly this needs to change.

  • Build in expectations and sacred spaces to enable diverse conversations to take place. If you want different views then you must create safe spaces where conflicting ideas can be shared, without creating offense or hurt. When individuals feel hurt or offended they are at risk of feeling excluded, even when there is an attempt to create an inclusive environment. Create safe spaces for perceptions, assumptions, bias and feelings to be explored. Ultimately work towards a culture where diverse ideas can be celebrated and ALL contributors and contributions are welcomed and therefore valued. This takes effort and willing, so be prepared to put in the time - it is worth it.

  • Bed-in check-ins that continually audit whether all voices were heard and ideas shared. And then check which idea got taken forward. Audit which ideas are being valued and where they are coming from. This should tell you if you're protecting and valuing diversity in your workplace. Think about your team culture, your preferred ways of working. Be honest with yourself and your team, uncover that which is entrenched and discover new ways to respect each other.

  • Be serious about cultural transformation around diversity. To be truly successful at this, you need to put in the time, the effort and the will. This is not meant to put you off from doing the work, but be realistic - this is not overnight project but a lifetime's work.

Kami Nuttall, is Founder and CEO of Culture Lab Consultancy Ltd, she's passionate about creating inclusive spaces where true belonging is experienced. She is serious about creating workspace cultures that are inclusive, psychologically safe and enable people to safely speak up.

©2021, Culture Lab Consultancy

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