Is fitting into an organization’s culture important?

Is fitting into an organization’s culture important?

I decided to write about this topic after Mr Nolan’s talk about Unilever’s culture. During Mr Nolan’s talk, he mentioned that Unilever is a company that focuses a lot on giving back to the society and the company looks for people who are interested in giving back to the society as well. Thus, one can infer that individual-organization fit is a criteria he uses when deciding whether or not to hire a certain individual. The importance of individual-organizational fit can be illustrated in the fact that many companies, not just Unilever, do look for people who they believe can fit well into their organization culture and hold the same values as their company.

One of the reasons why individual-organization fit is important can be explained by the attraction, selection and attrition (ASA) model. This model posits that (1) Individuals are attracted to organizations whose members are similar to themselves in terms of personality, values, interests, and other attributes; (2) Organizations are more likely to select those who possess knowledge, skills, and abilities similar to the ones their existing members possess; and (3) Those who do not fit in well are more likely to leave over time.

This model implies the importance of organizational fit to companies as those who do not fit in will leave. Thus, if companies do not hire people who fit into the company, turnover rates will likely be high as people are more likely to leave a company where they do not fit in. Gelfand et al. (2007) found that congruence between an individual’s values and the organization’s values predicted turnover. Individual-organization fit is also correlated to organization commitment (Kristof-Brown, Zimmerma & Johnson, 2005). Individuals who do not fit into an organization may feel less loyalty and attachment to a company and may be more likely to leave.

I was also curious as to whether the importance of organization fit may differ across cultures. While person-environment fit remains important across all culture, fit might be less important in developing countries such as Kenya where unemployment rates are high and strong norms suppress individual preferences (see Gelfand et al., 2007). In collectivistic cultures, fitting in with others in the organization may be more important as compared to individualistic cultures, thus individual-organization fit may be more important to collectivistic individuals.

Across different cultures, the idea of what constitute individual-organization fit may differ as well. Chaung, Hsu, Wang and Judge (2013) highlighted that Chinese employees’ idea of individual-organization fit differs from their Western counterparts – Chinese employees care about their competence at work, harmonious connections at work, cultivation and balance between work and family. Thus, HR policies should be culture-sensitive. For example, Chaung et al. (2013) suggests that since competence at work is a criterion that is used for Chinese employees to deem whether or not they fit into a workplace, they suggest that organizations should recognize employees who excel at their jobs and provide employees with feedback regarding their work.

Since we know how important organization fit is to companies, should it matter to us job seekers? I argue that yes, I think it is important. A meta-analysis by Kristof-Brown et al. (2005) found that individual-organization fit is correlated with job satisfaction and other outcomes such as organization satisfaction and negatively correlated with intention to quit and strain. However, I also recognize the fact that it may be difficult to ascertain what an organization’s culture truly is until one starts working at the company. Thus, one possible way of finding out about a company’s culture is talking to people who have worked at the company before or are currently working in the company to ascertain if the company is a company you wish to work for.


Chuang, A., Hsu, S., Wang, A. C., & Judge, T. (2013). DOES WEST” FIT” WITH EAST? IN SEARCH OF A CHINESE MODEL OF PERSON-ENVIRONMENT FIT. Academy of Management Journal, amj-2012.

Gelfand, M. J., Erez, M., & Aycan, Z. (2007). Cross-cultural organizational behavior. Annu. Rev. Psychol., 58, 479-514.


Diversity training – yes no maybe?


Diversity and creativity

This week, during our expert of the day presentation, the team reviewed an article by Shin, Kim, Lee, Bian (2012) called Cognitive team diversity and individual team member creativity: A cross-level interaction.

The two main schools of thoughts regarding diversity are the “similarity attraction” argument and “value in diversity” argument.

The “similarity attraction” argument is based on the assumption that people are attracted to similar others. Diversity may therefore relate negatively to individual creativity because of possible emotional and relational conflict resulting from being different (Shin et al., 2012).

The “value in diversity” argument assumes that diverse groups have more relevant information and perspectives available than homogeneous groups. Team diversity may therefore relate positively to creativity because it provides team members with an increased range of knowledge and perspectives (Shin et al., 2012).

Increasingly, organizations (and even our MNO class) are made up of people from diverse nationalities. Thus, how can we best attain value from diverse teams while at the same time, avoid falling prey to the “us vs. them” mindset?

Recognizing the challenges as well as benefits of diversity, many organizations have invested in nationality diversity training programs that aims to build the skills of their employees to allow organizations to tap onto the potential of team diversity.

However, a review of the literature on diversity training has produced mixed conclusions. It seems like diversity training effectiveness is often assumed, but not always found. Some studies report benefits of diversity training while other report diversity training to be ineffective. This seems counter-intuitive, isn’t training supposed to lead to improvements? But wait, there’s more. Paradoxically, diversity training may actually lead to detrimental effects.

It seems that diversity training can increase team creativity, BUT only for teams with less positive pretraining diversity beliefs and teams that are sufficiently diverse in nationality Homan et al. 2015(Homan et al., 2015)

According to Homan et al. (2015):

(a) Diversity training benefits those with less positive diversity beliefs

Diversity training had less impact on teams with more positive diversity beliefs. This was because teams with less positive diversity beliefs would be more receptive and attentive to the ideas explicated in the diversity training as the training is seen as having high instrumentality (Mathieu et al., 1992). In addition, because the team with less positive diversity belief is more likely to scrutinise the information during training for relevance and usefulness, this would lead to more systematic information processing compared to teams with more positive diversity belief (Smith-Jentsch et al., 1996).

(b) Diversity training benefits those with less positive diversity beliefs and high nationality diversity

In addition, diversity training increased creative performance when the team’s nationality diversity was high, but undermined creativity when the team’s nationality diversity was low. This was proposed to be because after the training, if the team was unable to put the skills learnt during the training to use, mitigating the potential benefits of diversity training.

(c) Team efficacy serves as a mediating link between diversity training and team creativity

To sum it all up, under high nationality diversity, teams with less positive diversity beliefs will become more creative after attending diversity training compared with control training. These interactive effects were driven by the experienced team efficacy of the team members.

Thus, organizations should carefully consider the individual characteristics of team members and of the team as well, instead of just putting everyone through diversity training, just for the sake of it.

So what are the practical implications for our class? First, consider if you have positive or less positive diversity beliefs by asking yourself, these four questions. On a scale of 1-5, how strongly do you agree with these statements?

  1. “Diversity is an asset for teams”
  2.  “I believe that diversity is good”
  3. “I enjoy working together with diverse people”
  4. “I feel enthusiastic about diversity”

Then, consider the nationality diversity in your team – what is the ratio of Singaporeans to exchange students in your team? If you do indeed belong to a diverse team (most probably) and have less positive diversity beliefs, then perhaps you should consider signing up for diversity training classes. Who knows, maybe it might even benefit your group project in terms of creativity 😉


Homan, A. C., Buengeler, C., Eckhoff, R. A., van Ginkel, W. P., & Voelpel, S. C. (2015, February 16). The Interplay of Diversity Training and Diversity Beliefs on Team Creativity in Nationality Diverse Teams. Journal of Applied Psychology. Advance online publication

Mathieu, J. E., Tannenbaum, S. I., & Salas, E. (1992). Influences of individual and situational characteristics on measures of training effec- tiveness. Academy of Management Journal, 35, 828–847. http://dx.doi .org/10.2307/256317

Shin, S. J., Kim, T. Y., Lee, J. Y., & Bian, L. (2012). Cognitive team diversity and individual team member creativity: A cross-level interaction. Academy of Management Journal, 55(1), 197-212.

Smith-Jentsch, K. A., Jentsch, F. G., Payne, S. C., & Salas, E. (1996). Can pretraining experiences explain individual differences in learning. Jour- nal of Applied Psychology, 81, 110–116. 0021-9010.81.1.110