The "Culture Fit" Straightjacket: Transforming Tech Culture

Take Three: Diversity & the Workplace

Diversity and Inclusion in Tech Hiring and Team-Making Means Rethinking Where Innovation Emerges

Begin with an Assessment of Your Company Culture

One of the biggest mistakes we make as people-in-the-world is assuming that we already have a clear view of what our own personal values, habits, and hopes are; this becomes even more difficult when trying to understand a diverse group of people. Hiring into an unquestioned company culture can lead to problems with retention, worker satisfaction, and productivity. Using an anonymous company poll, a focus group, or participant observation--consulting firms like CultureEncode are at the ready to help with these--you can come to understand what the company culture is as it stands. An assessment provides the following, which can lead to rich and productive cross-comp[any conversations:

  • Values
  • Practices
  • Transformations

This can help you to see weak spots (a value of familiarity where diversity should be, for instance) that may inhibit diversity; it can identify certain company practices (failing to maintain an all-women's restroom or holding weekend-long retreats that are difficult for parents to attend); and it can help you to expand your collective imagination around where diversity, global thinking, and inclusion across the board can take you. 

Follow with Equal Opportunity and Targeted Hiring

In a recent Forbes article, execs and HR departments alike are documenting the end of the notion of "Culture Fit"--or the idea that a potential new colleague, or project somehow vibes with the "feel" of the workplace as it stands. Citing the role of unconscious racial, gender, class and ethnic bias in hiring people who "seem like they would fit in with us," it states: 

Companies are beginning to drop the idea of culture fit altogether. As more companies shift their recruiting focus towards intentional diversity and inclusion efforts, they’re reframing their thinking to how diverse candidates can add to their culture – not fit into it. Source

Institutions can become so concerned with the question of inclusion, even with the best intentions at hand, that they tend to forget that the very landscape upon which inclusion happens–the workplace (and its practices, discourses and culture)–must also transform.

I use the term "minoritized community members" to describe people who may not be statistical minorities--women, for instance, or people of color in the US, where more than half of the children born are  of color--but whose access to resources reflects a history of systematic disadvantage.  

Concrete Steps Toward Transforming Workplace Culture

The key is to ready a new environment for diverse workers, projects and audiences by:

  1. anticipating the need for support for minoritized community members using social sciences research, attention to the standing work environment, and personal narrative,
  2.  preparing the community landscape for the kind of flexibility that will accommodate unanticipated needs for growth, training and enrichment,
  3. putting into practice secure modes of feedback and discourse that will allow minoritized community members to voice their ideas, hopes, experiences and needs, and finally
  4. contributing to transforming the pipelines that have served to exclude minoritized communities.

At CultureEncode, we are prepared to help you assess your workplace culture, both in its stated form and the way it maps onto day-to-day interactions and broader dynamics. We can help you understand when recruiting and retaining a diverse workplace has been a challenge, or we can open up a workplace dialogue, using our proprietary workshop series, that will help workers renew their passion collaboration and innovation: a powerful company depends its ability to escape the culture-fit straightjacket.