Conducting research to write this post, I feel it is ironic that the rise of “cultural fit” appears to move at a similar rate to the decline of job performance reviews. This trend could make it easier to hire and terminate “at will” based on personal bias.
At one time performance reviews were the norm, and, perhaps in some companies this method of employee evaluation still exists. An article in HBR, November 2016 issue, Let’s Not Kill Performance Evaluations Yet, notes that by the end of 2015, 30 Fortune 500 companies eliminated performance reviews. Below is a quote from this article, which defines performance and the benefit of evaluations.
“Performance is the value of employees’ contributions to the organization over time. And that value needs to be assessed in some way. Decisions about pay and promotions have to be made. As researchers pointed out in a recent debate in Industrial and Organizational Psychology, “Performance is always rated in some manner.” If you don’t have formal evaluations, the ratings will be hidden in a black box.”
Job evaluations provide employees and corporate leaders the opportunity to gauge achievements based on mutually agreed to expectations. Sometimes performance is easy to measure and other times it can be more difficult when tangible results are not as obvious. Cultural fit is one of those intangible results that could be hard to measure and more subjective rather than objective. Clearly defining “organizational culture” and communicating this verbally and in writing leads to the effective use of the term, cultural fit, and how it supports corporate vision. Only then can employee reviews effectively include discussions about homogenizing with “fit” along with suggested modifications, if any. One would think including cultural fit as part of an employee evaluation is time well spent considering the costly investment of hiring, training, pay and benefits.
“Once the company culture has been defined, ideally every action, strategy, decision and communication should support the cultural beliefs, including all HR mechanisms from recruitment and hiring processes to performance review systems.” How Important Is Culture Fit For Employee Retention
When culture isn’t clearly defined, termination (or not being hired) could be perceived as a decision based on personal bias which may include non-compliance with the Federal protected classes. And, it’s possible one might conclude the decision was based on having different political opinions or lacking common (recreational) interests.
“And I’ve observed this. Some executives I’ve dealt with over the past few years have used the phrase “not a cultural fit” in exactly this negative, let’s-maintain-the-status-quo way; to mean “that person is too black/female/old/young/non-degreed/linear/non-linear”…in other words, “that person is not enough like me.” Is Cultural Fit Just a new Way To Discriminate
We are experiencing a political polar divide today, which may be impacting working environment morale, affecting people functioning in close proximity sharing different viewpoints. It appears for this reason political views, personal and religious convictions might be on an invisible checklist for determining cultural fit. These reasons are not justifiable to measure a candidate’s potential or current employee(s) ability to succeed. Cultural fit should include performance, team member contribution, thriving as a team player, shares corporate vision, well qualified in skill, experience and communications. And, it is indeed possible to hire based on such qualifcations, without bias, reflecting richness of diversity. In the article, How Important Is Culture Fit For Employee Retention, the author, a former Navy Seal, writes…
“That’s not to say that all SEALs are cut from the same mold. We have an extremely high level of diversity. Which brings me to an important point. Culture fit doesn’t mean that an organization is recruiting the same kind of people with the same backgrounds and experiences. Or at least they shouldn’t be.”
Here are possible considerations to safeguard against personal bias.
- Clearly communicate company culture during the interview process as well as in employee handbooks, corporate mission statement and anytime the strategy of the company and its goals are shared. Identifying “culture” should include diversity of thought, perception, and experiences.
“Inclusive leaders understand that personal and organizational biases narrow their field of vision and preclude them from making objective decisions. They exert considerable effort to identify their own biases and learn ways to prevent them from influencing talent decisions. They also seek to implement policies, processes, and structures to prevent organizational biases from stifling diversity and inclusion. Without such measures, inclusive leaders understand that their natural inclination could lead them toward self-cloning, and that operating in today’s business environment requires a different approach.” 6 Characteristics of Inclusive Leaders
- Schedule outcome focused performance evaluations. Include company culture in the review and note “fit” expectations to the business strategic model the company is pursuing for its success. The focus of the review to be on business skills, performance to goals, and style of communication/engagement with staff and customers (if applicable), which aligns with the description of corporate culture and fit. A signed copy to be kept by both manager and employee.
Keep performance review standards simple and consistent throughout the company. Managers and employees might avoid complicated reviews.
If your company practices informal “coaching” rather than management style reviews, keep record of discussions and suggestions that support performance and cultural fit – employee and manager.
“The future of the workplace depends on how successful these companies become at building out new systems that incorporate frequent feedback, open communication, and coaching.” Why The Annual Performance Review Is Going Extinct
“High turnover or lengthy open positions? Could there be a “bias” hiring the best when hiring managers perceiving “best” as a threat to their own corporate status?” 3 Unconscious Biases That Affect Whether You Get Hired
Short term employment and sudden termination is costly to corporations. Consider the expense for employee search, interviews and hiring process, training, pay and benefits. Now imagine the cost of resulting lawsuits if sudden termination is not backed by documented performance and “cultural fit” is not defined and/or termination is linked to the protected classes? Can companies then become vulnerable to litigation? “Well, sometimes it’s whatever a hiring manager wants it to mean. And that can be a big issue, leading to poor hiring decisions fraught with bias or even legal liability.” Hiring For Company Culture, Here’s What You Should Know,
Just because litigation resulting from “cultural fit” may not have happened, doesn’t mean it won’t. Imagine the increase to corporate bottom lines if employee turnover and the risk of lawsuits could be avoided? If you are a C-Level Exec reading this post, do you know the $$$ your company spent on employee turnover in the past year, two years, 5 years? How does your HR Department view “cultural fit” and what is their active role to standardize hiring and termination throughout all subcultures in the company?
One would think having a diverse corporate culture best represents the customer/consumer/client audience being served. A diverse workforce can anticipate and strategize how best to meet needs and purchasing habits of ALL people, across the spectrum. So, why limit success through the narrow “cloning” lens that could accompany “cultural fit” misuse?
“Curiosity and openness are hallmarks of inclusive leaders, who hunger for other perspectives to minimize their blind spots and improve their decision-making.” WSJ Article, 6 Characteristics of Inclusive Leaders
Bring performance evaluations back or identify effective “coaching” processes and its documentation. Include cultural fit in the employee review AFTER your firm has defined culture, which is understood throughout the organization; hiring process, employee handbook, communications where corporate vision and strategy is discussed. Hire and maintain a workplace representing a wide audience of views and styles to cover all blind spots. Protect against personal bias. Create a healthy work environment, which role models the effective use of cultural fit in a dynamic way because diversity and success work in tandem.
6 Characteristics of Inclusive Leaders WJS, by Bernadette Dillon, director, and Juliet Bourke, partner, Human Capital Consulting, Deloitte Australia, May 4, 2016
“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home. So close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual persons; the neighborhood they live in; the school or college they attend; the factory, farm, or office where they work. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere.” Eleanor Roosevelt Former First Land and U.S. Delegate to the United Nations