A group of students in a workshop

Hiring for culture add vs. culture fit

Hiring for culture fit

The idea of hiring for 'culture fit' dates back to the 1980s. The original premise being that if an individual was recruited not just for their skills and experience but also based on their values and beliefs, they’d feel more attached to their jobs and loyal to their employer, achieving greater results for the organisation as a whole. Based on the assumption that the best businesses are full of similar, like-minded individuals, culture fit signalled a move away from business-first attitudes, towards person-first perspectives.

What is culture add?

In short, 'culture add' means that a potential recruit can make a cultural contribution to their team or organisation. When hiring for culture add, value can still be placed on a company's standards and historical culture, whilst recruiting individuals that bring something different and that contributes positively. It can be as simple as shifting from asking yourself what a person lacks, to what they may bring to the table. This opens up the floor to potential candidates that come with diverse perspectives, ideas and experiences, whilst still modelling the desired behaviours and empowering a company’s growth.

Three people taking part in interview

Disadvantages of recruiting for culture fit

The single biggest thing to think about when hiring for culture fit is that it can be very exclusive. In today’s climate where diversity and inclusion are at the forefront of people's minds, being exclusive is a big no no. When hiring for culture fit, the status quo of the company will be favoured, whether this is in relation to age, gender, race or socio-economic status. Therefore anyone that doesn’t ‘fit the mould’ will struggle to break into industries in which they are underrepresented. Culture fit at its worst justifies prejudice, and can lead to the discrimination of those who are more diverse.

Homogenous teams lack innovation. In the past and in a world where the workplace generally involved learning and repeating tasks, hiring employees who all had the same skill set was enough - if 10 people can build 1 car, then 20 people can build 2. These days, the copy and paste approach is not enough. The world of work is now very nuanced - problem solving, keeping clients happy and scaling up operations by developing new products, requires many perspectives. An environment where everyone thinks and acts the same is not an environment where innovation flourishes and can be extremely dangerous for an organisation's growth.

Benefits of recruiting for culture add

Innovation is crucial if businesses want to stay competitive and this is one of the benefits of recruiting diverse teams of people. More and more senior executives are recognising that in order to be successful on a global scale, people that come from different backgrounds, and who have had varied life experiences and who come with a range of perspectives are required. Having these people in a team leads to the development of new ideas and increased innovation.

Innovative organisations need to think less about who fits into the business they have today and more about who opens doors to the kind of business they can be tomorrow" - Matt Bush, culture coaching lead at Great Place to Work.

Diverse teams are also more profitable. In 2015, Mckinsey published a report on 366 public companies. For companies in the top 25% based on racial and ethnic diversity, it was 35% more likely that they would have financial returns above their industry averages. Those companies in the top 25% for gender diversity were 15% more likely to receive above average financial returns.

Person in suit at work

Diverse teams are quite literally smarter too. Where an organisation actively encourages all members of their team to speak up, and take part in what’s called ‘turn talking’, the collective IQ of an organisation actually increases. For this to happen, however, there needs to be a strong focus on inclusion, as well as the collaboration of diverse teams, in order for everyone to feel like a valued member of the group.

Working alongside people who are visibly different, think in alternative ways and have different lived experiences, challenges your brain to shift from your typical way of thinking and sharpen its performance. Incorporating people from diverse backgrounds across teams, can shift the behaviour of the group's majority, leading to more accurate and improved thinking. Diverse thinking encourages more scrutiny of the actions of individual members. This means frequently re-examining the facts and remaining objective.

Ways to recruit for culture add

Understanding and defining your organisation’s culture is the logical first step in hiring for culture add. Truly understanding your organisation’s values, what gets work done and leads to success, and what stakeholders appreciate about the brand will show you where the true value lies. The nitty gritty details of the attributes that a person would need to possess for them to advance will reveal where there's room to think outside the box when it comes to potential hires.

In the same way that businesses do it for products, a gap analysis can also be performed on people. In what areas are your teams lacking? This could be a lack of big picture thinkers, those who obsess about the details or not enough creative thinkers. An analysis will indicate where your gaps are.

When it comes to the application process, there are some questions organisations can ask themselves at the interview stage.

  • Will this candidate be effective in their role? - Coming from a diverse background works when a potential hire has the right mindset, skills and experience to succeed.
  • How could this candidate enhance our company culture? - What is your organisation’s culture lacking and how could this candidate fill those gaps?
  • Do I find this candidate challenging? - Discomfort is where growth happens and you may want to ask yourself what you stand to learn from a new, diverse recruit.
  • Does this candidate’s purpose align with the company’s purpose? - If there is some synergy and alignment there then it could be a great match.

In a post-pandemic, rapidly changing work environment, organisations have the choice of doing things the way they have always been done, or, since we have all just experienced so much personal and professional change, company’s can take this moment to transform their ways of thinking and doing. Embracing culture add may just be one positive way of doing this and shaping the future of the workplace.

Interested to know how students feel about their futures in a post-pandemic world? Download our student insights report to find out.

By Uptree
Published on: Mon 6 Jun 2022

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