The Latest Fb Discrimination Criticism Reveals a Enormous Flaw in Hiring for ‘Cultural Match’
When it comes to team building, cultural fit is important. At best, the cultural fit assessment helps determine whether individuals have the qualities, perspectives, and attributes that will help them thrive in a particular business environment and with its customers.
In the worst case, the assessment of cultural fit can be discriminatory.
This is the basis of a recent complaint by four people to the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) about racist hiring practices on Facebook.
One of the complainants, a black woman, claims that she heard from someone on Facebook: “There is no doubt you can do the job, but we are really looking for a culture that fits.”
Perhaps she was actually the best candidate; Maybe it wasn’t. We cannot know from the outside when we look inside.
However, with more than 13 percent of the U.S. population being black and only 3.9 percent of Facebook’s nearly 60,000 employees being black, the suit is clearly not looking good for the company.
Or for the importance that is often attached to attitudes towards cultural fit.
For some, “cultural fit” means people who think alike. Who share the same interests. They are fun to be with and hang out with, even outside of work. For example, those who like to “work hard, play hard”.
It makes sense: the smaller the team, the “fit” it can be.
Or not – because few teams, no matter how small, need more of what they already have. People who make great teams are constantly trying not to add more, but to add what is missing. Rather than picking people who fit the current form, smart leaders ponder what’s missing from a team and look for qualified candidates who can bring those elements to the table.
Granted, some elements of cultural fit can be important. If you expect your team to work long hours and be available all the time, a candidate who firmly believes that giving an employer eight hours a day (not that there’s anything wrong with that) may not be good for Suitable for your environment.
Or, if you’re running a fast-growing startup, a candidate who craves persistence and a stable environment may have problems with yours. On the flipside, a candidate who loves wearing multiple hats and trying on new ones all the time can thrive.
Or, if you are adding your first hires to your small business, a candidate who cares about job titles may not be a good fit. A candidate who cares about his or her job duties – the things to do, the decisions to make, the scope and freedom to envision and implement change – can thrive.
Or in practice, if you’re selling a product that requires salespeople to provide key explanations and training during the sales cycle (think “evangelical” sales), a candidate whose only experience is responding to bids, or who just does worked in technical sales (think “features and functionality”) may not be a good fit for your needs.
When assessing cultural fit, forget about impossible-to-measure, even less defined intangibles. (When for no reason other than attitudes towards cultural fit, without establishing clear definitions and guidelines for determining and evaluating a cultural fit, is at best myopic and at worst discriminatory.)
Then there is this: A study published in the American Sociological Review in 2012 found that “cultural matching” can have a significant impact on applicants’ ratings and “often outweighs concerns about absolute productivity.” In short, “fit in” had more evaluation weight than actual performance.
Instead, focus on tangible qualities that are required to be successful in your workplace. Work habits. Working styles. Values. Settings. Ethics.
The behaviors that lead to success.
Then select the candidates who can get the job done – because that always comes first – and who also bring in some elements, qualities or perspectives that your team currently lacks.
Because this is how you build a team: By adding the kind of people who can help your team be even more successful.
That way you are also building a great culture – because we all want to feel valued for who we are as individuals.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.