BUSINESS GROWTH STRATEGIES
Culture Fit Versus Culture Add: Hiring for Growth
There’s been so much talk over the last few years about hiring for “culture fit.” Hiring people that will automatically fit into your company's culture, creating a cohesive team, sounds good in theory. But the problem with hiring for culture fit is that you end up hiring the same “type” of person again and again.
The paradox of hiring for culture fit is that organizations want to grow and acquire new customers, and that involves doing things differently. Hiring for culture fit is just more of the same. If you want your business to stretch into new markets, areas or industries, it’s going to take new and novel perspectives to get there. Instead of hiring for culture fit, hire for culture add to inject new energy and ideas into your business.
We all have implicit biases. Being able to categorize people into groups helped early humans survive. Unfortunately, those biases now work against us. And in the case of workplace culture, they work against the success of our businesses.
Culture is hard to define, so when companies hire for culture fit, they’re often leaning on their implicit biases both for and against potential new hires. As a result, hiring managers end up relying on gut feel, their level of comfort with an interviewee, or the fact that the candidate likes the same music or sports teams. A potential candidate who is very different from the current staff may be overlooked because they don’t “fit” based on implicit bias, robbing the business of the positive attributes they could bring to the table.
American society is becoming more and more multicultural. If your employees don't represent the melting-pot aspect of society, how will your organization be able to serve customers from different backgrounds?
Many people assume the word “diversity” means having a variety of races and ethnicities on staff, but I would encourage you to take your diversity hiring practices further. Diversity can mean hiring people of different genders or gender expressions, from other countries or cultures, from different types of socioeconomic backgrounds, sexual orientations, or even neurodivergent thinkers. The closer your team is to representing your target market, the better able you’ll be able to connect to customers authentically.
Culture refers to what’s really important to how your company operates. The right starting point for hiring for culture add is to measure your organization's culture to see where you may have gaps to fill with new hires.
Organizations often use assessments, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or DiSC assessment, to analyze the personality of a potential hire, but what if you conducted these assessments companywide to see which personalities are most and least common at your organization? What about comparing the assessments of the most successful people within your organization or those with the highest potential for growth with those of candidates? The most successful sports teams look to fill skill gaps within their organizations. How could hiring people who have different personalities and/or thinking styles improve your organization?
Assessing the personality types of your employees is just the beginning of defining your workplace culture. Put time and effort into defining the values that the organization truly operates from, which are not necessarily the ones you have listed in your mission statement. Be honest with your assessment, and you may find things about your culture that are lacking and could be remedied with culture-add hiring practices.
Hiring for culture-add is all about bringing on new perspectives that can improve your business. When interviewing a candidate, be aware of how they align with the norms of your organization and also where they don’t align because a lot of their value could lie in the gap. For example:
• If your culture doesn’t include asking questions, hiring a person who is outspoken and outgoing could help push your team to go further and deeper in product development or advertising. If there’s no one who wants to challenge the status quo, your company cannot grow.
• A person from a different socioeconomic background might be able to help you understand how to appeal to customers at different levels of income, education and status.
• An employee from a different cultural background can assist in finding ways to connect authentically to audiences outside your main cultural group. No amount of data and research beats insider knowledge when it comes to understanding different cultures.
Hiring for culture-add doesn’t mean throwing caution to the wind. The person you hire should still align with your company’s core values and be able to get along with current employees.
And sometimes, it’s okay to stick with your current culture when adding an element that doesn't fit could disrupt the good thing you’ve got going. For example, if your culture is very collaborative, bringing on a highly competitive person could upend the entire dynamic in a negative way.
Hiring for culture add can feel a bit alien at first because it forces you to step out of your hiring comfort zone. Don't let that bit of discomfort keep you from building a team that’s stronger, smarter and more diverse. When your team reflects the multi-faceted nature of your market, there is no limit to what your company can achieve.
The information above is provided as a convenience, without warranties of any kind and MUFG Union Bank, N.A. disclaims all warranties, express and implied, with respect to the information. You are solely responsible for your hiring practices and organizational culture.