Transitioning From Hiring for Culture Fit to Culture Add

Many organizations are moving away from hiring for culture fit, and instead hiring for culture add. Here are the benefits that come with making the switch.

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Transitioning From Hiring for Culture Fit to Culture Add

It simply makes sense to hire people that are a culture fit for your company — or does it?

Of course it’s important to hire people who will be able to be successful at your company. But what about the drawbacks that can result from hiring people more for fitting in rather than their ability to advance and evolve the company?

It might seem like hiring for culture fit is a win-win for the company and the employee, but there are some major drawbacks to it as well — mainly homogeny. Invention and innovation rarely come without the differences that highlight where things are and where they could be.

That’s where the notion of culture add comes in. Rather than hiring for culture fit, businesses big and small are starting to hire for culture add instead. What does that mean and how would you even go about doing it? Here’s what you need to know about transitioning from culture fit to culture add.

What is culture add?

Hiring for culture add means focusing on what a candidate could add to your company, rather than just fit into it.

Hiring for culture add means focusing on what a candidate could add to your company, rather than just fit into it. What, exactly, culture add means will vary by company. In general, it’s looking for new hires with diverse experiences, perspectives, and ideas.

This doesn’t mean that you should hire people that aren’t right for the company. You can still ensure that there’s alignment between new hires and the mission, vision, and values of your company at the high level. But when it comes to the more micro level, this is where you’ll want to get into differences (more on this in a bit).

The difference between culture fit and culture add

One of the best ways to understand culture add is to understand what it isn’t, which is culture fit.

For years, businesses have focused on hiring for culture fit — a general alignment between new hires and your company’s preferences, values, and approaches. While this can minimize friction, it can also minimize innovation and ingenuity. The more things fit cohesively together, the more they become homogenous and you risk having a workforce that thinks similarly rather than thinking creatively.

When hiring for culture fit, companies are looking for people who will fit in on the job. Whether you have a team that lives for sports or one that’s all about volunteering or something in between, it’s certainly important to make sure you’re not hiring someone who will be miserable at your company. But what about if you hired people who complimented your company’s culture more so than fitting right into it? That’s the difference between culture fit and culture add.

The downsides of hiring for culture add

Nothing is perfect and, especially when situations involve change, there can be challenges along the way.

One of the central challenges in shifting from culture fit to culture add is that conflict can arise between the way your organization has done things, and the way someone new might want to approach them. This is why it’s important to ensure that there’s big-picture alignment, even while hiring for culture add rather than culture fit. If everyone is working towards the same goals, it’s easier to have conflict that’s healthy and productive.

Another downside is that the newest hires you make after hiring for culture add could struggle with belonging more than other employees who you hired for culture fit. This isn’t a guarantee, though, and a culture of tolerance along with strong leadership that demonstrates the same can go a long way in addressing issues like these.

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How to hire for culture add

Hiring for culture add rather than culture fit comes down more to the nitty gritty. You can have alignment on the high-level when it comes to your company’s mission and values. But on smaller scales — like how someone interprets and goes about living out those values and achieving that mission — culture add means looking for complimentary or even entirely different skills and experiences.

There are some daily straightforward ways that you can start hiring for culture fit rather than culture add. Consider doing away with degree requirements if you’re getting candidates from similar schools or types of schools. Try expanding the relevant experience and skills necessary for a given position — from ones that directly align with the job to ones that relate to but don’t necessarily overlap with it.

Finally, when you’re interviewing candidates, focus on how their answers or thinking challenged or expanded yours. Did their answers make you see things in a new way? Too often answers are considered “bad” or “wrong” if they’re not what interviewers are looking for. But maybe the candidate is thinking about things in a new way that deserves consideration and highlights exactly how this person could add a new dimension to the workplace.

when you’re interviewing candidates, focus on how their answers or thinking challenged or expanded yours. Did their answers make you see things in a new way?

As with any business transition, there can be some bumps along the road. But as you transition from culture fit to culture add, the most important thing is understanding that it’s a process that you’ll perfect over time. Until you get your new process down, do the best you can and take solace in the fact that nothing horrific is coming from continuing to hire for culture fit.

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