Home Thinking Aloud Building A Culture Of Diversity In The Workplace

Building A Culture Of Diversity In The Workplace


work team office

by Patricia Reed, mentor at Female Founders

Recent revelations on the alleged abuses of Harvey Weinstein and other powerful Hollywood figures have pushed the pitfalls of organizational culture into the limelight.

Company culture is a key factor in the talent selection process and plays an important part in the success and growth of major firms; but is ‘culture fit’ really the right answer to diversity and inclusion in the workplace?

Diversity as a competitive driver.

Research published by McKinsey and Company in 2015 points out that companies which are more gender diverse are 15% more likely to outperform others; those which are ethnically diverse are 35% more likely to outperform others.

Today’s digitalization connects the world, companies and workforces, resulting in an increasingly competitive business landscape which demands continuous innovation in order to stay ahead. One would expect companies to actively seek out a diverse workforce in their efforts to establish a culture of innovation and competitive effectiveness.

The changing cultural landscape.

The majority of companies have a global footprint that is larger than their origin operations, far removed from HQ. Such a global workforce may not mean a diversity of thinking or local adherence to with the ‘company culture framework’.

Companies like Salesforce and MasterCard take a proactive and public approach to driving a diversity agenda. Their efforts through workforce councils, resource groups and communities, (which SalesForce calls its “Ohanas”), or families proactively drive the governance of company culture.

Hiring and retention in such a context can then move away from ‘fit’ to the actual culture with an ‘addition’ to the aspired culture in order to celebrate diversity and more importantly add to the company’s reputation and attractiveness.

Reconsidering cultural ‘fit’ in the hiring process.

A recent article from Feld referring to a HBR study points out that there is a direct relationship between the hiring pool and the actual hiring decision. Simply put: to increase the diversity of your workforce you will need to have sufficient minorities as part of your interview pool.

Cultural fit implies a perfect company culture to which new hires are expected to blend in and adopt. it suggests a ‘correct’ status quo where diversity and competitiveness are boxed in and optimal company culture and competitive performance are blocked. There is a major risk that fit and bias will take over at the cost of diversity and cultural breadth.

Cultural add is  a relatively new concept that has gained momentum in the last few months. It emphasizes how fresh and unique, not boxed ideas, allows individuals to contribute more to company  culture and values. It is not limited to new hires; the concept likewise implies that leadership in embracing this new concept and embedding it are critical.  

The benefits of ‘cultural add’ over ‘fit’.

Company culture can be described as a number of factors such as vision, values, norms, systems, symbols, assumptions, beliefs, and habits. An evaluation of these factors helps to drive a concise and cohesive company culture, and move away from any bias and ambiguity especially concerning ‘unwritten rules’.

The principle of ‘fit’ is often undefined and based on gut feeling, and is even as simple as whether people like to go for a beer after work or go for karaoke depending in what part of the world you find yourself.

The differentiation and the benefits of a cultural ‘add’ versus a ‘fit’ can are becoming very obvious now and are shown in the below model.

Cultural Fit vs Cultural Add

Model 1 – differences of a company’s ‘cultural add’ and ‘fit’ to underpin diversity

The way people can contribute to add to the company culture and objectives can be more easily identified and valued if the culture is clearly defined and driven by concrete examples and specific principles.

Companies like Salesforce publish their diversity metrics annually, as well as their approach and governance to their cultural framework and diversity, allowing people to understand and achieve the aspired culture.

Embedding a diversity.

Hiring for ‘cultural add’ can only be effective when the cultural framework and its aspirations are embedded throughout the company communities, its partners and customers.

A proactive approach to company culture with a focus on ‘cultural add’ will make companies more innovative and employers more attractive to a diverse talent pool in return.


patricia reed

Patricia Reed, founder at Reed Estate, is a results-driven and strategic technology sales, business development, and sales management professional adept at driving innovative technical solutions, advising C-level executives on business transformation and technology integrations, and developing and mentoring sales teams to provide exceptional customer outcomes and consistently exceed expectations. She is also a mentor at Female Founders