Just Be a Good Fit: The Difference Between Culture-Fit and Acculturation Fit

There was a time when culture-fit was as simple as knowing if someone fits in a specific corporate culture. Now they’re even saying that there’s a difference between corporate culture-fit and organizational culture-fit.

While traditional homegrown recruiters have to consider the first aspect of this employee assessment trait all the time, global mobility managers have to consider both.

The first kind of cultural fitness has to do with an employee being suitable for the corporate culture of the organization. That’s what everyone knows about culture fit.

The second kind has to do with the said employee — who happens to be a foreigner on a long-term assignment — likewise being suitable for said organizational culture, but here’s the caveat:  Does a foreign talent’s own culture fit in the country they are now residing and working in?

It’s a matter of perspective but they should really differentiate the two. One is culture fit as everyone knows it; the latter one could be called acculturation fit.

To succeed, a foreign assignee has to be able to adjust and blend in with the company culture, as well as the traditions, language, lifestyle, and behavioral habit of his new location of employment.

That’s what global mobility managers have to look at once they start assessing their foreign candidates. It’s one thing for an enthused, skilled assignee to say that they are willing to relocate to a new city or nation to achieve his professional goals; it’s another to see them acclimatize to all these new surroundings seamlessly and without incident.

The adjustment process will always be present. This is a process and perhaps a hurdle that all assignees have to go through. What the global mobility manager must do is to make it as less stressful, more pleasant, and more psychologically and professionally rewarding as possible.

It all starts with cultural fitness. As Forbes points out, this spells whether an employee will align with the company’s overall values, goals, beliefs, way of doing business, or simply put, its overall corporate personality.

For example, if a candidate is highly skilled but rigid, they might not necessarily fit the more laid-back lifestyle and egalitarian work ethic commonly practiced in Northern California companies, especially if their personality prefers the hierarchical authority structure and its  more predictable operational process. A star player from a banking institution might flounder in an online ecommerce startup, and vice-versa.

That’s why Inc. emphasizes one lesson that the more seasoned recruiters recognize and practice:  “Hire slow but train fast.”

Aside from screening for skills, core competencies, and personality traits, check if the candidate or assignee has beliefs and shows behavior that are more compatible with the organization’s professed value systems, work styles, approach to leadership and employee management, and overall vision.

The global mobility manager can go one step further and see if the assignee’s homegrown perspectives, family orientation, and most cherished principles can fit without or very little effort into the country or region’s cultural, intellectual, and even emotional foundations.

For example, if the assignee had grown up almost all of his adult life in a community where women don’t have opportunities to climb up the corporate ladder, will he be comfortable reporting to a female senior executive?

His willingness to adjust to this new culture, especially in Silicon Valley, will influence his outlook on the job and with it, his productivity.

Of course, the likelihood of this happening in Silicon Valley is almost slim now, as more high-profile incidents in the past few years have surfaced which have made companies extra cautious when it comes to these matters.

Still, many talents who come to work in Silicon Valley come from different countries and states — and have views that run counter to California’s progressive views.

The Balance Careers suggests that global mobility managers and interviewers should dig deeply into the assignee’s background. They should assess how they perceive the roles of gender in the workplace, their expectations of their leaders and colleagues, their preference of a more mobile worklife or a more office-bound one, and perhaps they way they prioritize autonomy over authority.

Inc. then suggests a panel interview which supports the original global mobility manager-recruiter with perspectives from their colleagues. The panelists should come from different backgrounds, varied cultures, and perhaps are equipped with a wide range of technical skills. They can be able to spot the foreign assignee’s strengths and weaknesses in a way that one individual recruiter cannot.

An assignee often stays with the employer company for at least one to two years. Their suitability with the prevailing corporate and regional culture will spell the difference between their success and failure. Global mobility managers must take this into account and take the necessary time and effort to verify that they are indeed a good fit (or not).