HR Expert Asks, Is Your Culture Hurting Diversity?

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A positive culture is considered a company's secret to success. But can you get too much of good thing?

The answer may be yes. A new article by Horizons Workforce Consulting's (HWC) Lucy English says all the dedication to building a strong culture might be actually costing in another important area; diversity.

"Culture tends to govern the way companies hire and operate," wrote Lucy on Diversity Best Practices. "But the very nature of seeking cultural conformity can threaten inclusion."

A sociologist and managing director of institutional research at HWC, Lucy calls diversity equally essential to culture, together providing the solid foundation for process, and the multiple perspectives for innovation. But benefitting from both requires avoiding what she calls the three cultural traps:

The Monolith

Defining your culture as a single entity. One business leader told Lucy her company's overly prescribed touchy-feeliness might be chasing away important IT and finance hires who are uncomfortable with the vibe.

The One-Way Street

Pressing people into behavioral boxes. Such rigid behavioral edicts may suppress conflict, but they also squelch innovation. What you need "Is a diversity of thought and perspective in which all ideas are valued," wrote Lucy.

The Conformer

Hiring strictly for fit. Pandora's new "hiring for add," on the other hand, bestows diversity while showing existing employees that multiple perspectives are welcomed. "This will free all employees to speak their views more comfortably," wrote Lucy.

If it seems impossible for culture and diversity to work together, Lucy says, it isn't. But like anything, it will require an evolution of thinking, making culture a foundation for an organization, not a rigid mold.

"To invite truly inclusive organizations, we need to give up the ideas of one culture, the way we do things and hiring for fit,'" Lucy concluded, and "instead open our doors to diversity of perspective, background, and thought."

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