Virtual Teams

How to balance cultural fit and diversity

We have seen an increase in demand in recent months for our cross-cultural training. It seems that while people have been working remotely there has been a tendency to connect more with colleagues in other cultures. Perhaps now we don’t naturally automatically collaborate just with the people in the same office, we are tending to connect more broadly.

I was also reading this interesting BBC piece on what being a “cultural fit” actually means. Although it is primarily aimed at corporate culture you could make the same point about national culture.

Many organisations recruit for cultural fit. I have worked in environments where cultural fit was the most important hiring criteria, and to be honest it was very effective. People who share common values can build trust and execute more quickly. Most great companies have strong cultures.

At the same time, it’s unarguable that this may lead to us missing out on diverse talent and developing too narrow a set of cultural perspective. This could be a problem in times of change or when working with diverse customers and marketplaces. This is the main thrust of the BBC article.

I could easily make a strong case for either corporate fit or for diversity. The challenge is how we bring them together and still stand for something – we need our corporate cultures to be both coherent and capable of coping with diversity.

I know many successful corporate cultures who have made great efforts to attract diverse employees without at the same time making their cultural profile broader and more inclusive. Diverse employees either leave or get squeezed into the same way of behaving as the dominant culture.

Part of the solution is certainly giving people the skills to understand and manage differences without trying to squeeze them out of existence.

If we are not aware of cultural differences, or if we don’t have the skills to reconcile different approaches, we tend to think that our own approach is naturally the best one or that people who don’t do it the same way as us are just being difficult.

It’s always fun to guide participants into a better understanding and even enjoyment of each other’s cultures and to find ways to reconcile these differences into even better solutions for their organisations.

You can find out how more about how we do this in our cross-cultural training path.

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