Creative business team eating lunch together in canteen

A guide to inclusive cultures

By Renay Lloyd

Integrating strengths-based processes into talent management systems can help companies manage biases and drive innovation and inclusion. At Bailey & French, we’re seeing more of our clients across the public and private sectors wanting to allocate more time, resources, and budget, to building inclusive cultures – and rightly so! 

Diverse and inclusive companies outperform competitors in a global market and have a greater capacity to innovate and solve complex problems. Inclusion is also critical to retention – creating an environment where people can be who they really are, that values their unique talents and perspectives and makes them more likely to want to stay.

Working across the talent lifecycle, we spend a lot of time talking to clients about how their hiring practices can support their people strategy in creating inclusive cultures. Often, we see an extreme variability in how different organisations understand and approach hiring decisions – but one theme that remains consistent is the desire to hire for ‘culture fit’. 

The idea around ‘culture fit’ is to hire people whose values, beliefs, and everyday behaviours align with the existing workforce to protect the current culture. This idea came to fruition in the early 1990s intending to find coherence between the values of the people and the organisation. The goal was to improve productivity, engagement, and retention by encouraging belonging throughout the workforce. 

On the surface, this concept seems reasonable, but in practice, it’s more often than not riddled with biases that actively work against intentions to make the culture more inclusive. Without intentional hiring process management, we can focus more on people ‘fitting in’ instead of role-modelling the company’s values.

Values can become equated to personality traits and social interests and hiring decisions can be made based on shared personal backgrounds, experiences, and preferences. This could lead to a homogeneous culture where people are likely to share similar thought patterns, which limit a company’s capacity to problem-solve, innovate and appeal to a global market. It can also cause additional challenges and costs as retention is likely to suffer when people feel that they can’t fit in or succeed in the company while being their authentic selves.

To help solve some of these issues, leaders should adopt an inclusive, strengths-based approach that focuses on adding and enhancing the culture rather than moulding people into it. Findings show that companies using a strengths-based approach to hiring and development achieve 72% lower turnover and a 29% increase in profits.

Here are a few of our top tips for building more inclusive, strengths-based cultures and retaining diverse talent: 

  • Develop senior leaders who role model and champion a strengths-based approach
  • Make hiring and development decisions that celebrate uniqueness and potential
  • Develop managers who are competent strengths coaches, supporting teams to develop in alignment with individual strengths
  • Integrate strengths into performance management systems
  • Give people the opportunity to discover their own personal strengths

To learn more about strengths discovery – download our strengths discovery guide