Latest blog from Alison Fisher, Chief People Officer

Alison Fisher blog post

Putting the human back into HR

Alison Fisher, Cox Automotive’s Chief People Officer explores why businesses should consider banning the phrase “cultural fit”.

Have you ever interviewed someone that seemed to have the right skills for the job, but thought twice about offering because you were nervous about how they’d get on with the team? Or worse, been on the receiving end of a rejection because you weren’t the right ‘cultural fit’ for the organisation?

Recently I’ve been thinking about inclusivity, and how we can continue to develop a diverse and inclusive workplace at Cox Automotive, and the phrase ‘cultural fit’ has been on my mind.

In one sense it’s about recruiting people that believe in the organisation’s values, but it seems to me that it can also encourage people to recruit in their own image and act as a blocker to building a diverse workforce.

We all know that words have power, and sometimes we need to change the language we use to help people change how they think and act – is this one of those phrases that needs to change?

One size fits nobody

Without getting too deep, we’re living at a pivotal time for society. You only have to look at the news to see that there are a lot of forces at play that are creating uncertainty and instability.

At times like this, people are looking for an employer that gives them more than just a salary. They want to feel a sense of confidence and belonging in their working life. The employer benefits from this too. I firmly believe that you get the best out of people when you embrace who they are and allow them to be themselves, and we all know that diverse views make for better decisions which ultimately drive performance. It is all about individualisation - we need to revisit the idea of a one size fits all approach to benefits and policies.

The generation starting work now have very different expectations to those of us that have gone before. The organisations that succeed in attracting the most talented team members in the future will be those that find a way to put people rather than processes at the heart of everything they do.

So how do we create a more inclusive workplace focussed on the individual?

Some things are easy to say and hard to do.

I want to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace, and I don’t want to use quotas to do it, so how do I go about it?

At Cox Automotive we’re starting by listening to our team members. For the last two years I’ve joined our CEO, Martin Forbes, in visiting every single one of our locations and spending a few hours chatting to people about what it’s like to work for our company.

We’ve picked up loads of helpful, constructive feedback about everything from contract flexibility to the working environment. We haven’t been able to fix everything overnight, but we’ve made a point of acting on every piece of feedback.

One of the things that stands out for me is that, often, people already know what needs to be done to make things better, they’re just looking for permission to go out and do it.

The second thing that stands out from these visits won’t surprise anyone. There are some amazing people working for Cox Automotive, with a huge variety of passions and interests. It frustrates me that we sometimes miss out on making the most of these talents because we’re so busy trying to get people to fit into our one size fits all approach.

That brings me back to the idea of treating people like individuals. Like most organisations, we have a set of guiding principles, and I’d love it if we could step away from policy and hierarchy and create a culture based entirely around those principles.

I want people to show up to work every day knowing that we trust them to act in line with our principles, and if they have an idea that fits in with the way we do business, they feel empowered to give it a try.

We’ve already started to help our managers feel this sense of empowerment with our mantra of ‘do the right thing’, but I’d like to take this much further.

Here at Cox Automotive, I’m proud of the work we have already done to promote gender diversity in our industry – we now need to extend this to all aspects of diversity and, by empowering our managers locally, we want to encourage this to flourish at the grass roots level.

In conclusion

To sum up, let’s go back to that idea of the power of words.

When managers in this company recruit, I’d like them to throw out the question: “Is this person the right cultural fit?” and ask: “Could this person bring a new perspective to the team?”

I want new starters to see our guiding principles before they see our policies, and our managers to know that we trust them to make the right decision.

If we can achieve those things, we’ll be well on our way to creating a culture where team members feel they can be themselves, and that would be a great step towards inclusivity.

If you want to find out more about how Cox Automotive is promoting diversity within automotive, visit