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What actually is “Fitting In”?

By Craig Hiskett

I see it all of the time, companies who write down in their job adverts, managers who give feedback and write on social media; "they didn't fit in" or "it wasn't a good cultural fit". But what does that really mean and are you making that definition crystal clear?

If you scroll through open job adverts today, there will be a sea of phrases such as 'cultural fit' written down and often scored against in job interviews with feedback attached to unsuccessful candidates, it's almost too easy a way out for a lot of Companies. Without having to justify much of their scoring criteria (assuming they have some) and completely disregarding any biases they possess, it's sold to candidates as a soft way of letting them down; a way of saying they were 'ok' but just not for this Company, but somewhere else they'll do fine.

Have you ever seen a Company rigidly define what Cultural Fit really means for them?

If so, great! But many don't and I believe it's holding people back, especially those from ethnic and racial minority groups.

Consider a typical Company today, you could name almost any and from checking them out online, you'd see most of the Senior Leaders are white, middle aged men. When you have such dynamics in Companies (which is not a surprise by the way considering the history of societies in which the white men have always held the 'power') I am not surprised we don't see more talent from ethnic minorities coming through development programmes. After all, they aren't like those already in power, and if the Company is doing well, why would they need to change that?

If you add on to this seemingly smaller and trivial policies, such as dress codes that favour a white European way of dressing, it's no surprise a lot of Companies, especially at the top, fail to look any more diverse than they did 10 or 20 years ago, despite very public statements supporting Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) initiatives.

So what can be done?

Well, to start with, Companies need to align their internal operations and day to day conversations with those very public statements they make, often on social media. If you like a Company today, with a little hard work you can scroll through their historical timelines of posts and comments on social media to unearth trends in the messages their putting out on topics such as D&I. This transparency, that didn't exist previously, will mean that Companies have set out a very public stance, a stance that if it isn't backed up by not just internal policies, but internal practises, will do them harm over the long run.

A quicker approach that can make an impact is within recruitment. If Companies choose to broaden their recruiting networks they can give themselves access to new job markets and thus, new and different people than before. When, for example, predominantly white Companies hire through selected Universities (that are also predominantly white) and encourage referrals of connections of current employees, they will get people who are very similar to those they already have, surprise surprise, predominantly white.

On an individual level, you can always (and I'd recommend trying it) question yourself and your own beliefs. When you think about black people working on senior leadership teams, do you automatically think they don't have the soft skills that are nuanced enough to operate at that level? If so, ask yourself why you think that way. You might end up being surprised at how narrow your perspective truly is.

There are many things that can be done on a micro or macro level to make Companies more racially equal, here are just some pointers. One thing is for sure though, in the age of political and societal unrest, Companies will come further under the microscopes for their stance online (just look at Ben & Jerry's reacting to migrants coming to the UK....) and they will need to align those messages with their internal actions.

Craig Hiskett

*Craig offers a wide range of learning solutions focused on your tasks & problems, including helping organisations with their Diversity & Inclusion programmes to create impact.

Search 'Craig Hiskett - Learning Solutions' or contact

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