Organizational Culture and Talent Management


Many think of culture as a singular phenomenon that varies only across geographical barriers. However, in the field of cultural competence, we acknowledge that culture exists on six distinct levels, and that taking these levels into account can help individuals adjust to different cultural surroundings as they encounter them at work, at home and abroad. The six levels of culture are: national/societal, identity group, organizational, functional, team, and, finally, individual.

Organizational culture is, in brief, what is expected, reinforced and rewarded within an individual company. It is both organic and intentionally created by the organization’s leaders. That is, some behaviors and practices arise from the employees’ individual work-style preferences coming together, and some grow from the leadership’s system of rewards and establishment and enforcement of rules.

Many see organizational culture as most important in terms of the daily interactions among employees, and during mergers and acquisitions. However, one other area in which organizational culture plays a major role is in the domain of talent management.

For instance, many organizational leaders have recognized that “cultural fit” is the most reliable predictor of an employment candidate’s success within their organization. Most frequently, though, they only think of this along the lines of, “Does this candidate fit our organizational culture?” Instead, what if leaders looked at it from a different perspective, asking, “Does our organizational culture fit this candidate?” In other words, what if they asked themselves what they could learn from the candidate, and what changes the candidate could bring to their organizational culture that would help it grow?

When leaders only think of how a candidate could fit him or herself into their organization, they are limiting themselves to a stationary and rigid organizational culture. This also leads to systemic biases against certain behavioral characteristics or propensities among employment candidates. It is not an accident that individuals or groups with certain cultural traits often find it difficult to survive and thrive in organizations. In order to leverage diverse talent and achieve the meritocratic system to which most organizations aspire, leaders should think about the potential positive impact the candidate could have on building a more dynamic company.

That means looking at hiring – and at the state of an organization’s culture – not as, “Do you fit us?” but rather, “How can we grow together?”