Are culture and diversity incompatible?
Hiring the “right person” who fits in well with the surrounding cultural context is becoming highly controversial. What’s at issue is a poor definition of cultural alignment.
While recruiting clones is a big mistake, nothing should stop you from hiring individuals with compatible or even similar values. Diverse personalities and experiences bring new ideas with them as well as complementary skills, while shared values foster commitment and collaboration.
Why, then, is it such bad form to talk about “cultural compatibility”? Hofmans and Judge have dissected four popular misconceptions:
- Misconception no. 1: Culture is something that’s “nice to have “but not a necessity; it’s for people who think that only competence should play a role in recruitment.
- Misconception no. 2: Recruiting based on compatibility is detrimental to diversity. Yet this idea confuses a person’s values and characteristics with their gender, ethnicity, nationality and so forth.
- Misconception no. 3: Recruiting based on compatibility is detrimental to innovation. But why couldn’t diverse individuals who think differently share the same values?
- Misconception no. 4: Recruiting based on compatibility is an art, not a science. Relying solely on intuition to make a decision leads to biases such as recruiting people who are “similar to me” rather than “aligned with the culture of the organization.” However, in fact, this type of recruitment cannot be improvised but must have proper criteria established.
By Joeri Hofmans and Thimothy A. Judge (Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation, September 2019).
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