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Culture fit vs culture add: which is best for your business?

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8 min read
culture add

Building a diverse company culture can go a long way towards helping you develop a successful business. It can help you create a healthy working environment and nurture a motivated and productive workforce. Not only that, but studies have shown that diverse organizations produce 19% more revenue. And one of the most effective ways to build a diverse organization is hiring for cultural add rather than cultural fit

In this guide, we will explain what culture add is, and why your recruitment department needs to shift from a culture fit hiring approach. We will also share a few tips and culture add interview questions to help you adapt to this new approach and build a more diverse and profitable business. 

Culture fit vs culture add 

Let’s start with a couple of basic definitions to help you understand the difference between cultural add vs cultural fit in the context of recruitment:

  • Cultural fit: When you hire an employee who “fits” into your company culture. They share the same behaviors, values, beliefs, and interests as everyone else who works in the company. The aim is to find employees who are as similar as possible to your existing workforce.
  • Cultural add: When you hire an employee who “adds” something different to your company culture. Instead of sharing the same values and beliefs as the rest of your workforce, a culture add brings fresh new ideas and perspectives to the organization. This helps to promote a growth mindset in your business and challenges you to see things from a different point of view.  

History of culture fit 

The concept of company culture was first described in the 1980s and became widely known by the 1990s. The term was used to describe the character of a company based on its shared attitudes, beliefs, customs, and written and unwritten rules. At this time, organizations began to realize that the more they worked to develop their work culture, the more unified, motivated, and engaged their workforce would be.  

It was at this point that the term “culture fit” first began to gain traction. The idea was that the more effort you put into sourcing and hiring employees who were a perfect fit for your organization, the stronger your company would be. With this belief in mind, HR departments strived to find the right match when they hired new employees. They looked for candidates who held the same beliefs and values and whose character and personality aligned with the existing workforce. That way, they could build a homogenized culture where everyone thought and acted in the same way. 

This “culture fit” philosophy worked for a while. But then the world changed. 

Shifting to culture add 

In the last decade, we have seen a global shift towards diversity, equity, and inclusion. This is due in part to globalization, but also because the world is changing, and society is more aware of the detrimental effects of discrimination and negative bias. As a result, there is an increasing need for organizations to promote inclusive hiring in order to stay competitive and attract top talent. 

This global shift has led many companies to question the concept of hiring for culture fit. This is mainly because the whole philosophy of culture fit is based on the idea of discriminating against those who are different. And this is a biased hire. Instead, many organizations are now hiring for culture add. In other words, they are looking to hire employees who can bring fresh ideas and perspectives to the business rather than those who fit in with the norms of the company culture.

The main aim of this shift to culture add is to hire more employees who are different. There obviously still needs to be an element of organizational commitment to a shared mission, vision, and values. However, the idea is to balance this out with a healthy dose of diversity. That way, you not only create a culture based on the principles of DEI, but you also invite fresh ideas, insights, backgrounds, and perspectives into the business. And this is crucial for fostering innovation and creativity

Benefits of hiring for culture add

There are two main benefits of hiring for culture add vs culture fit. Firstly, when you hire people who are different, you create a richer and more diverse company culture. Secondly, the more perspectives and beliefs you invite into your organization, the more innovative and insightful your business strategy will be.

Let’s take a look at these benefits in a bit more detail.

Create a more diverse workforce

The biggest benefit of hiring for culture add is that it helps you create a more diverse workforce. Culture fit, in contrast, is all about hiring like-minded people. 

Culture fit wasn’t intentionally designed to discriminate against those who are different. However, it is an often-unavoidable consequence of hiring candidates who are just like you. When your main objective is finding people who fit in, you are automatically going to be biased against those who are different, even if that bias is unconscious. 

Instead of asking candidates “Can you fit into our culture?”, a culture add hiring approach is more focused on “What can you teach us?” and “What experiences and new insights can you bring to the organization to help us grow stronger?”. 

Essentially, hiring for culture add helps you expand your definition of what the ideal candidate is. It pushes you out of your comfort zone and encourages you to embrace a more diverse and inclusive workforce. And this is crucial for building creative and innovative teams that think outside the box and help you grow as an organization. 

Improve your business strategy

The other benefit of hiring for culture add is that it improves your business strategy and helps to drive your organization forwards. This is because when you constantly hire like-minded people, everyone thinks in the same way. And this means that you run the risk of becoming stagnant. It becomes much harder to come up with the good ideas that you need to develop as an evolving business. 

In contrast, when you focus instead on hiring people who can add new ideas and perspectives to your culture, you are able to approach problems from different angles. You set the foundation for creativity and inspiration, and this can be a great motivator for the entire organization. It can also boost engagement and improve your overall eNPS.

Ultimately, if you hire for culture add, you are making diversity one of the core principles of your recruitment strategy. You are encouraging your hiring managers to look for candidates who disrupt the status quo and push your organization to challenge itself and grow. And this helps you create a more productive, innovative, and creative team built on fresh insights, perspectives and ideas. And this is exactly what you need to create a business strategy for success. 

Hiring for culture add: best practices

There are a number of things that you need to do in order to implement a hire for culture add approach in your business. You need to make sure your hiring managers understand what culture fit is. They also need to understand what culture fit interview questions they should be asking candidates. 

Here are a few best practices to help you implement a culture add approach in your organization. 

Training 

The first step in nurturing a culture add approach in your business is offering your employees the right training. It’s especially important to offer training to your hiring managers as they are the ones who decide who joins your business.

Start by offering your hiring managers training in diversity and inclusion. This will help them be better equipped to identify their own unconscious biases. Make sure they know how to conduct an interview in a standardized way that transmits your commitment to hiring for culture add and diversity. Also, make sure your interviewers know the difference between culture fit vs culture add. This will help them understand the questions they should be asking and what they should be looking for in a candidate.

There are a few ways you can offer this training. You can arrange online HR courses or book external courses in diversity and unconscious bias training. In terms of monitoring, a training dashboard can be a great solution for centralizing all your culture add training. It can help you establish if your employees have understood what you’ve taught them and the impact training has had on your hiring process.

Interview questions 

The most effective way to distance yourself from a culture fit hiring approach is asking the right culture add interview questions. Essentially, this means avoiding questions like “Why do you think you would be a good fit for this organization?” and instead asking candidates questions that help you find out about the unique skills, perspectives and experiences that they have to offer. 

Here are a few culture add example interview questions that your hiring managers should be asking:

  • What is your impression of our company’s culture, values, and mission? 
  • How do you think we can improve our company’s culture, values, and mission?
  • Can you share a few examples of key values or behaviors that you look for in an employer?
  • Which values can you bring to our organization? 
  • What’s something you’ve learned in the past year that you’re proud of? 
  • How do you handle situations or decisions that you don’t agree with?
  • Do our core values align with your own personal value system? 

Employee referral program 

An employee referral program is a hiring strategy where employers ask their existing employees to recommend or refer qualified candidates who could be a good match for the company. It is a way of expanding the talent pool without the need to reach out to outside sources. 

Although some people might argue that an employee referral program is more likely to attract more like-minded employees to your company, it can actually be an effective strategy for promoting a culture add hiring approach, provided it’s managed in the right way. 

The key to success is taking a proactive and intentional approach to your employee referral program. This means educating your employees so that they understand that you are looking for diversity referrals. Encourage them to reach out to potential candidates outside of their usual professional and social circles. And, above all, incentivize under-represented groups in your company to make more referrals

Define your culture

Before you can understand what’s missing from your culture (what you need to “add”), you need to understand what your culture is right now. How do things work? Who makes decisions? What does your organization value? What are your long-term goals? The more you understand who you are as a business, the easier it will be to identify the perspectives that you are currently lacking.

Encourage your hiring managers to reflect

Once your hiring managers have conducted an interview, encourage them to reflect on it before they make a decision. 

What did they learn from the candidate? What could they add to your company culture? In what way might they be able to challenge your organization to grow? Do they possess any skills, perspectives, and experiences that might be currently missing in your company culture?

It’s also a good idea to use a hiring dashboard to keep track of your recruitment metrics. That way, you can measure the impact of your shift to a culture add hiring approach on your diversity metrics

Ask your employees for feedback

Finally, one of the best ways to keep your finger on the pulse of your company culture is by asking your employees for regular feedback

How do your employees feel about the changing dynamic in your organization? Is your culture add approach helping your organization gain new perspectives? How is this impacting decision-making processes? Is your workforce changing its approach to problem-solving? 

Once you’ve gathered feedback, make sure you listen to it. And if you’re not seeing the positive changes you’d hoped for, re-evaluate your hiring processes. For example, you still might not be asking the right culture add interview questions. Or your hiring managers might need more training to help them overcome any unconscious bias.

Shifting your organization’s mindset is a process of trial and error. It may take a few rounds of strategizing before you perfect your new culture add approach. What matter most is that you keep striving to continuously improve.  

Conclusion 

Ultimately, hiring for culture add vs culture fit can help you develop a successful business environment. It can help you create a diverse and inclusive workforce and improve your brand as an equitable employer. It can show the world that you value different ideas and perspectives and that you continuously strive to grow, develop, and challenge yourself as a business. And this is precisely what current and future employees will be looking for in an employer.

The key is finding the right balance. You need to build a workforce that understands your goals, vision, and objectives as a business. But it’s equally important to expand these goals, visions, and objectives with fresh ideas and perspectives

It’s all about pushing against your existing structures and beliefs and creating a company culture that values its differences more than its similarities. Hiring for culture add can help you find the best people for your business. It can also help you discover skills and experiences that you didn’t even know you were lacking. And this is the key to creating an innovative and creative organization with the right skills to succeed, now and in the future.

Cat Symonds is a freelance writer, editor, and translator. Originally from Wales, she studied Spanish and French at the University of Swansea before moving to Barcelona where she lived and worked for 12 years. She has since relocated back to Wales where she continues to build her business, working with clients in Spain and the UK.  Cat is the founder of The Content CAT: Content And Translation, providing content development and translation services to her clients. She specializes in corporate blogs, articles of interest, ghostwriting, and translation (SP/FR/CA into EN), collaborating with a range of companies from a variety of business sectors. She also offers services to a number of NGOs including Oxfam Intermón, UNICEF, and Corporate Excellence - Centre for Reputation Leadership.  For more information or to contact Cat visit her website or send her a message through LinkedIn.

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