To answer this, let’s start by looking at Cultural Fit and Psychological Safety.

1.      Cultural Fit is when an employee’s values align with the company that they work at. Culture Fit is the glue that holds an organisation together. That’s why it’s key to understand a person’s core values and how they “fit” with the values of the organisation when recruiting. The result of poor culture fit due to turnover can cost an organization between 50-60% of the person’s annual salary, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). But before the hiring team starts measuring candidates’ cultural fit, they need to be able to define and articulate the organisation’s values and its culture. (Boulton, 2015).

Having consistent and coherent values enables understanding and helps people to collaborate efficiently. Cultural fit brings many benefits to a work environment, as not only do employees show greater satisfaction, but they also show signs of better job performance, which can improve the overall organisation.

2.      Psychological Safety describes the environment in which members of a group or team feel safe to be able to take interpersonal risks. In a psychologically safe environment, anyone feels able to be themselves and speak up without fearing rejection or humiliation for their unique ideas, beliefs, and opinions. Moreover, group members can raise issues and ask for help because they feel mutually supportive. Mistakes are not held against people and, as a result, an environment that provides psychological safety is a fertile ground for innovation.

The psychological safety of a work environment can be improved with cultural fit as people will feel most at ease with like-minded people with similar values. Having better communication between employees also improves the psychological safety of a work environment.

The potential issue is that it could be argued that the psychological safety is lowered due to having excessive cultural fit in a work environment, if cognitive diversity is a positive influencer and predictor. This could be due to the fact that hiring employees simply by ensuring they have the same values could damage the culture of the environment by reducing cultural diversity. Having a lack of diversity can result in a growth in group think or consensus decision making in the workspace, as research has implied that companies with teams that have similar values do not work challenge each other as efficiently as companies with diverse teams.

The answer to the question; if cognitive diversity contributes to Psychological Safety, does that mean cultural fit undermines it? …is no, as long as you have both!

Cultural Fit is the “glue”, the common purpose and understanding brings people together. However, businesses also need “cognitive diversity.”

Having a culturally and cognitively diverse team can contribute to psychological safety by encouraging debate, honesty, interpersonal risk, and candour. A diverse selection of employees creates conversation and debate, thus improving problem solving and innovation.

People are more likely to embrace this if they feel like their values are aligned with their colleagues, that they are not being judged or are out of place and they “fit” the culture. If you also have “Cultural Fit”, no one feels out of place and they can feel like they are in a psychologically safe environment.

For further information about the BeTalent Psychological Safety range of products, please go to:

This post was written by Dr Amanda Potter and Eshal Kashif of BeTalent. They are an exhibitor on the HRTech247 Talent & Performance Management floor of the Technology Hall. You can visit their virtual space here.


Reference: Boulton, K (2015). Recruiting for Cultural Fit. Harvard Business Review.