Chances are, you’ve seen plenty of job descriptions that are looking for a strong “cultural fit” in addition to must-have experience and qualifications. But, what does cultural fit mean exactly and are businesses getting the talent they really need by rigidly applying this common recruitment criterion?
Sure, the theory stacks up: employers seek candidates who are most likely to get along with future team members and collaborate effectively by hiring people who share common characteristics and values. Though, there is a dark-side to this well-intentioned strategy. As an ex-Apple recruiter points out, hiring for culture fit can actually lead to homogenous workforces where everyone is hired to look, think and act like everyone else — and not because of what they could contribute.
Benefits of diverse workforces
The phenomenon is often referred to as “the beer test”. This is where some recruiters fall into the trap of selecting candidates based on ideas about whether they would get along in a social setting. Arguably, it’s just human nature.
Businesses that place an inordinate amount of importance around cultural fit are at risk of building an organisation that lacks diversity. This can leave workforces ill-equipped to generate the varied ideas and perspectives needed to innovate and grow in a fast-paced environment. In fact, diverse work forces are said to outperform homogenous workforces when it comes to innovation, growth and decision making.
One study revealed that diverse companies are more innovative, releasing an extra two products per year on average — double the output for less diverse companies. Meanwhile, increased creative friction among teams means fresh ideas are more easily generated, scrutinised, refined and implemented. This compares to homogenous teams where entrenched ways of thinking not only leads to a creativity drought, but inaccurate decision-making based on their limited ability to assess facts objectively.
Diverse workforces are also said to be more likely to attract top talent from the widest available talent pool. This is because individuals who feel accepted by a company, irrespective of their background, interests or characteristics are far more likely to feel happy at work and motivated to deliver results for the long term.
Hiring for “culture add”
Simply, companies should consider selecting candidates who fit with the culture because they have something to add to the organisation.
In practice, hiring for culture add means proactively bringing new skills and perspectives into the mix for a more adaptable, agile and diverse workforce. And the best part? When individuality and unique talent sets become a shared value across the board, a harmonious workforce where everyone “fits” will naturally follow.
Here are some actionable tips to hire for culture add:
Look for someone who really gets the business
Remember, anyone you hire today could also become involved in recruitment processes at some point in the future. So, to ensure the concept of culture add becomes truly ingrained in your company’s future recruitment strategy, seek candidates who understand the business’ goals and objectives well enough to identify future skills gaps and further opportunities to diversify the workforce.
Prepare the culture add recruitment process
Where multiple stakeholders are involved in the recruitment process — from assessing applications and conducting interviews, to making the final decision — ensure everyone has agreed on the necessary skills and attributes that’ll add to the culture. Aligning expectations and objectives when it comes interviewing and assessing candidates ensure everyone is screening for the same things.
Know what you’re recruiting for
Unless you’re simply seeking to manage increased workloads, hiring people with the same or similar skills and experiences could be a wasted opportunity when it comes to diversifying the workforce. So, where appropriate, find candidates who have qualities that complement rather than duplicate those of your existing team. Introducing new team members with different experiences, passions and perspectives and could serve to motivate and inspire others in the workforce.
Communication and collaboration is key
It’s not just about knowing how to find and recruit candidates who can add to the culture: retaining these candidates can sometimes be equally challenging. Collaboration among teams is key to building workforces where everyone can successfully add their own unique value to the culture. Without an efficient collaborative framework, diverse workforces can lack cohesion or even fall into the cracks of siloed thinking.
Open communication channels that transcend the boundaries of hierarchy, regular meetings to discuss business objectives, cross-functional training opportunities and company “hackathons” are just some of the many ways to ensure new and existing team members work toward the same goals.