I usually find the cultural fit conversation to be pretty humorous. In my experience, it seems that the people using it as a reason to not hire someone are also the people least capable of actually describing the aforementioned culture and the most clueless about what culture is and how it evolves.
There is really a lot of stuff involved in this issue, but I think there are at least three big underlying issues.
- Most organizations do not have a clear, consistent, logical definition of talent or a methodology for identifying it…same thing goes for culture…so they become these vague ambiguous things that get used to rationalize decisions.
- Most organizations do not have any real understanding of human decision making and the numerous blind spots that are involved.
- Existing models of both the organization and the thing we call management are designed for control, stability, predictability (minimization of variance, minimization of diversity).
So no, I do not think that most organizations are good at hiring the best people for the job, and part of this is about organizations lacking the capacity to make well informed hiring decisions about people that are different. And when people that are different are actually hired, there is a great deal of pressure on them (explicit and implicit) to fit in…to not actually be different.
And this is also at the root of a great deal of corporate dysfunction and why most change initiatives fail and why organizations have a relatively short lifespan. Conflict is the genesis of change and diversity is the genesis of conflict. Change is life. We talk a good game about change but most things in the world of work are actually oriented away from difference and away from conflict.
I think that at least part of the solution to this is about having some very honest conversations about what talent means today. We create value differently today than we did when these organizational and management models were built. We create value differently today and because of that talent is a different thing today. Difference, deviation, disruption, curiosity, the ability to deal with and thrive in the face of conflict and tension…these are things that need to be central to a new definition of talent. Without doing that its simply too easy (and natural) to dodge them…in the name of culture or whatever else is handy.