How often have you heard the term ‘culture fit’ floating around post-interview conversations but don’t actually know what it means? You’re not alone.
‘Workplace culture’ is inconsistently defined, but in the simplest of terms is the characteristics and environment that transcend your organisation and gel it together; This could be through personalities, communications, behaviours – All of these elements work together to create your ‘workplace culture’.
In the eighties, hiring for ‘culture fit’ was all the rage. It makes sense, your company is doing well with the people it has, so it seems only natural to want to hire more of those types of people to ‘fit’ within your current team. We value this way of hiring because it means that Hiring Managers aren’t just looking for people with the right skills, they want someone that embodies their company’s DNA… The idea being, a good ‘fit’ would integrate well with the team, ramp up faster and not rock the company boat. As a result, ‘Culture Fit’ has been accepted as a key part of the hiring process and in many instances, is THE defining factor on whether a candidate gets the job or not.
This sounds great on paper, right? But wait. There’s a problem
Hiring for ‘Culture Fit’ almost always leads to unconscious bias and eventually, a homogenous culture. According to Lars Schmidt, Founder & Principal at Amplify;
“Culture fit has become a weaponized phrase that interviewers use as a blanket term to reject candidates that don’t match the hiring manager’s view of the ideal candidate; and as such, it has become the embodiment of unconscious bias.”
By searching for and filtering in people with exactly the same values and ideas as your existing team, you can not only stunt your company’s growth, but you can actually create an environment where outside ideas are stamped out and innovation DIES.
So, how do you tackle this?
Firstly, we need to stop getting so hung up on finding the right ‘fit’, and start looking for people that can ‘add’ to existing teams. You need to start matching candidates to your aspirational culture, not your current one. Hiring for Culture Add is about increasing the average with every hire and stepping close to your aspirational company situation.
Adopting this way of thinking paves the way for organisations to start engaging with candidates from diverse talent pools, backgrounds, experiences, demographics and sets the foundations for creating a workplace environment driven by challenging, constant learning and questioning – All things that help drive innovation.
“Fortunately, for serious minds, a bias recognized, is a bias sterilized.” - Benjamin Haydon
This approach also paves the way for hiring practices that are inclusive and encourage diversity. Diverse hiring practices give you access to a greater talent pool. And for real, measurable benefits, diversity hiring practices help address the requirements and motivations of ALL your customer base, rather than just a sample. And it has proven results.
According to Josh Bersin research, inclusive companies are 1.7 times more likely to be innovation leaders in their market.
McKinsey & Company conducted research that found out that companies with more diverse top teams were also top financial performers. Simply put, companies with a diverse workforce have a variety of different perspectives, which leads to increased creativity, faster problem-solving and decision making and as a result, achieve better business results.
Transitioning from ‘Culture Fit’ to ‘Culture add’ may take a little time - Change happens slowly. But, If you want your culture around the culture to change, you need to take some steps that although won’t make an immediate change, they’ll bear fruit in 3-6 months’ time.
The simplest way to spearhead change is to get in the habit of considering the below during the hiring process;
Are our Job Adverts inclusive? What language do we use? How can we open this opportunity to anyone?
Where do we advertise? Are we aware of different groups that may want to apply?
How do we conduct interviews? If It’s a panel, what are the roles and backgrounds of the panel members?
What questions do we ask at the interview? How do we score candidates answers?
What supplementary questions do/could we ask?
What is the potential impact Hiring Manager’s unconscious bias could have?
What environment do we interview in? What is the room layout? Do we provide refreshments and a warm welcome to all?
Are we rejecting overqualified candidates? Why?
As a company, where do we want to be? Can this candidate help us get there?
What are our blind spots?
Is our company structure the right environment for this candidate?
What work environments do they know to allow them to reach their maximum potential? Can we facilitate this?
Does this person have transferable skills that could supercharge our mission?
What inspires candidates? What energises them?
What are this person's interests? Communication style and ideas? Do they differ from our own? Will their approach challenge our current working culture?
So ingrained in our human nature to connect with likeminded others, hiring for ‘culture fit’ will always be present in some way. However, so long as we are aware of potential bias and use the above to enhance the quality of our hiring processes, your organisation will begin to STOP hiring candidates that match the company you are currently and START hiring candidates for the company you aspire to be.