Updated: Mar 13
Today’s leading organizations are paying a lot of attention to the role that culture plays—and it makes sense. Recent research shows that a top driver of employee engagement is organizational culture. The importance of a diverse and inclusive workplace culture will continue to take priority, defining industry standards and expectations. But what is workplace culture, and how does leadership ensure that their teams are the epitome of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging? We’ll take a look at culture, the concepts of culture fit vs culture add, and provide real solutions that your organization can easily implement in today’s article.
What is Workplace Culture?
Workplace culture is a term that’s used, and discussed, a lot. Just exactly what it constitutes, however, is inconsistently defined and largely conceptual, making it difficult to really grasp. According to Deloitte, just 12% of companies believe that they understand what workplace culture is about. At its core, in the words of MSG, workplace culture is a concept which deals in the study of:
Beliefs, thought processes, attitudes of the employees
Ideologies and principles of the organization
Company culture is created through decisions made by leadership, and one of the biggest decisions that a company makes regarding its culture is hiring. The question then becomes: how do you hire to maintain your company culture, but still create a diverse and inclusive environment? To answer this, the concepts of culture fit and culture add must be addressed.
What is Culture Fit?
Culture fit is the likelihood that someone will reflect and be able to adapt to the core beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors that make up your organization. Where did culture fit come from, though? According to the New York Times, culture fit was first introduced in the 1980s. The idea was that if you hire employees whose personalities and values align, you’ll have more invested and more loyal employees. This may sound great on paper, but dig a bit deeper, and you’ll find that culture fit comes with a whole array of issues, many of them extremely detrimental to an organization’s performance.
For instance, when going through the hiring process, many hiring managers may unconsciously gravitate towards candidates who have similar interests, experiences, and characteristics as they do.This practice reinforces any bias that might already exist in the organization, and leads to a homogenous culture, which stifles growth mindset and innovation. A homogenous workplace culture-whether it be on racial, gender, or mindset lines- can lead to groupthink, which may cause your team to have a more difficult time finding business solutions, or thinking ‘outside the box’. In some organizations, culture fit can also become a weaponized term that interviewers use to blanket reject candidates that don't fit the mold that they're looking for-a dangerous practice when it comes to fostering diverse and inclusive workspaces. In other words, if you hire to match the personalities, backgrounds, and viewpoints that are already present in your organization, you are actively selecting against your chances of success.
Your company can’t grow if it stays the same.
Why Not Culture Fit?
We know that diversity in the workplace is key to long-term success. If sameness defines a company, unconscious bias can impact more decisions, and your organization risks missing other perspectives and opportunities to drive change.
What is Culture Add?
The idea behind culture add is that diverse, self-aware teams are more powerful than homogenous ones. When you hire for culture add instead of culture fit, you increase the likelihood that someone will reflect the company’s values and professional ethics, while also bringing an aspect of diverse opinions, experiences, and specialized skill-which enhances not just the team, but the overall company culture.
A critical difference between culture fit and culture add is the additional questions that the latter encourages leadership to ask:
What do we want the company to be?
How do we hire employees who add to our current culture and make it even better?
Where are our cultural blindspots?
Hiring for culture add strengthens a company with every new hire, and shifts your recruiting efforts from defensive to proactive – which, in turn, makes your company culture ready for the future rather than constrained by the past. When you add to your culture, you maximize the number of perspectives and different types of employees and leaders who have a voice and a seat at the table. In effect, you create an organization with its very own growth mindset.
Why Culture Add?
Diverse companies outperform industry norms by an average of 35% . Why? Diversity specifically helps teams outperform homogeneous teams because of an improvement in information processing. Rather than evaluating how an individual might fit in, culture add leads us to question: “what cultural contribution can this candidate make?”
Focusing on Culture Add
Top organizations are dropping the idea of culture fit altogether. As companies shift their recruiting focus towards purposeful diversity and inclusion efforts, they’re reframing their thinking to how diverse candidates can add to their culture – not fit into it.
After accepting that individual employees can and should help an organizational culture evolve, there must be processes in place to allow this to happen. This means fostering an inclusive workplace where employees are recognized for the unique perspectives and skills they bring to the work. Being an inclusive organization takes deliberate and committed effort from leadership and won’t happen on its own. Everyone brings something to the table, and if you shift the conversation in your hiring practice, you’ll find new value in places you never thought to look.
10 Steps to Take Your Organization from Culture Fit to Culture Add
1. Define your company’s core values
Once you’ve established and communicated your values, make sure that you search for people that not only reflect these values but can also flourish within your company’s culture
2. Include these questions in your hiring discussion:
How might this candidate challenge our existing thinking and processes?
Does this candidate represent a voice or viewpoint for existing customers better than the team we already have?
Will this candidate represent a viewpoint or context we may be missing in the team?
3. Think beyond the resume
Ask interview questions that are related to culture: for example:
How do your colleagues benefit from working with you specifically, as opposed to one of your coworkers?
Tell me about a time when understanding someone else’s perspective helped you accomplish a task or resolve an issue.
What is your impression of our company’s culture, values, and mission? How do you think we could improve?
4. Look for transferable skills
Ask yourself: Does the candidate have skills or experiences that can transfer well into meeting the needs of the position? Many companies have little or no training and onboarding for new hires, so they look for candidates with 3–5 years experience for entry-level positions, whom they believe will not need as much training. This can cause long hiring cycles and a limited candidate pool. You need to get creative in your sourcing strategy by looking for transferable skills for your open job opportunities.
5. Write job descriptions that specify your search for culture add
You don’t just want them to fit in, you want them to help add to, and build, your culture.
6. Hire people who are different than you
Actively look for people who think differently than you do. Stay clear to your company values during this process-be clear on what they are and what they mean.
7. Recruit outside your field
New hires need to have the requisite hard skills, but different professional and educational backgrounds can offer surprisingly transferrable insights.
8. Analyze what’s missing from your company culture
And go out of your way to recruit people who will bring that to the table.
9. Beware of bias-don’t trust your gut
Now that we know the science behind unconscious bias, there’s just no good reason to make hiring decisions based on instincts alone.
10. Build a diverse hiring team
Make sure your interview panel represents the diversity you want to see (or at least knows to prioritize diversity).
In conclusion: culture add is what your company needs to get to, and stay at, the next level. Sometimes 1+1 really does equal 2.