In modern corporate America, cultural fit has become one of the key components of the hiring process. Businesses recognize how important strong cultural cohesion is for productivity, employee satisfaction, and ultimately the bottom line. One of West Monroe Partners’ greatest strengths and differentiators in the market is its fantastic culture. However, as cultural fit gains importance in the hiring process some important questions can arise. Is it possible that hiring for cultural fit can actually be working against a firm’s inclusion and diversity goals?
It really is only natural for companies to want new hires to fit in with the established culture. People are naturally drawn to others with similar values, backgrounds, and interests. It also seems to makes sense that employees who enjoy spending time with their coworkers will be happier and remain at the firm longer. Most people who have gone through the hiring process can recount a moment when they really felt chemistry or clicked with an interviewer or interviewee. Finding that personal connection makes both participants excited about the prospect of a new hire joining a firm. So if cultural fit and personal chemistry feels natural and is good for the company, what’s the problem?
We know from academic studies that embracing inclusion and diversity in the workplace leads to new ideas within teams. For a consulting firm, the ability to look at a problem with a fresh perspective can be a valuable asset. If all team members have similar backgrounds and experiences, it can be difficult to achieve this diversity of thought. The great news is that cultural fit does not necessarily have to mean shared experiences or hobbies. As an eight-year US Coast Guard veteran, my experience entering a summer internship at West Monroe was certainly different than that of my fellow interns, most of whom are 20-22 years old students. However, despite the age and experience difference, I felt totally accepted by the intern class. When an open mind is kept, similarities often reveal themselves in unexpected places. For example, during early conversations I realized that my travel adventures during port calls on Coast Guard ships were actually similar to other students’ study abroad experiences. Although it may not have been initially obvious, we were able to connect and find that we had quite a lot in common. Defining cultural fit really is more about making sure new team members share the firm’s values and goals. West Monroe’s Dare to be Great culture values ambition and work ethic, qualities that can be shared regardless of the college a candidate attended, the neighborhood they live in, or the hobbies they enjoy.
Embracing inclusion and diversity within company culture can create the best of both worlds. New employees will have the valuable cultural fit that firms are looking for and the company can harness diverse individuals to embrace innovation by providing a variety of experiences and skills to clients. Rather than competing, cultural fit and diversity can work in tandem to create a stronger business.