Hiring for Culture Add vs. Culture Fit

Hiring for Culture Add vs. Culture Fit

23 Sep 11:00 by Nicola Crocco


It seems like not long ago that we felt a shift in thinking when it came to recruitment. Organisations began to embrace the idea of culture fit, ensuring that the people they hired would complement existing teams and cultures. Over the last couple of years, however, we've seen some organisations take a different approach, moving on from culture fit in favour of hiring for culture add. Whilst there are certainly benefits to both, here’s why we are seeing the emergence of this new trend.

Unintentional Bias

A commonly held belief is that hiring people who fit into a company culture will allow them to settle in faster, mesh with team members and add more value overall. It makes sense – after all, we spend plenty of time with our colleagues, so it's only natural to hire people we share similarities with. However, just because they seem like the kind of person you could have coffee with, doesn't mean they are a good fit for the organisation or even what the organisation needs.

For example, look at cultural interview questions. While lots of companies do this in an effort to find a specific mindset, it can certainly become an issue in the long-term if too many similar people are hired.

Only hiring people who already fit into an organisation’s culture can unintentionally lead to bias as often these individuals come from similar backgrounds, with similar beliefs and opinions. While hiring for fit may come from good intentions, it is often best to think about hiring employees that ‘add’ to the culture instead.

This means having an idea of the attributes that would help your company culture, and potentially asking yourself some challenging questions to reach that point.

The Benefits of Diversity

One of the most unfortunate and often unintended side effects of hiring for culture fit rather than culture add is the potential to undermine a company's attempt to diversify their workforce. True diversity is about diversity of thought; people with different perspectives who all make a meaningful contribution to the organisation.

This also begs the question of why we would want all our employees to be the same? Embracing our differences and engaging with other perspectives ensures new ideas and innovation flourish. Diversity leads to more informed decision making, simply because there is a wider range of opinions and experiences in the room. After all, research has previously shown that diversity in the workplace avoids the problem of groupthink.

Examining Values

While the possibility of diluting an existing culture may seem worrying, the reality is that as long as the people being hired for culture add have the same values, the culture will continue to thrive.

To do this, it is critical to ask the right kinds of interview questions. When it comes to some of the more inane questions that can be asked in interviews, culture actually has very little bearing on their ability to do their job or whether or not they'll be a good cultural fit for your organisation.

Of course, there's always the option of asking candidates directly about their values, but this runs the risk that they will tell you what they think you want to hear rather than what they actually feel. The easiest way around this is to ask situational and behavioural questions around the values that are important to the company – e.g. What goals have you set for yourself for the year, and why? This enables you to examine their values in as unbiased a way as possible and make the right call for the company.

Final Thoughts

When looking to recruit your next team member, try asking yourself if you feel that the candidate would add to your culture? If they would, do their values also align with the company values? While it may take a while to come to grips with this shift, embracing diversity will result in hiring team members who not only add to culture, but help move the business in the right direction.

For more advice and support and for access to some of the best ‘off market’ Retail talent on your next recruitment assignment, feel free to get in touch with the team at People Equity.