The Shift to Culture Add and Celebrating Diversity

By Kyra McCue on July 16th, 2021
One of the most common reasons for hiring a candidate is ‘culture fit’. While working with someone we agree with and like will be undoubtedly easier, hiring based on ‘fit’ often excludes well-qualified candidates who may ultimately add more to an organization. Instead of hiring for harmony, more emphasis should be placed on the applicant’s unique qualifications, background, and viewpoints.

Culture Fit

You may be familiar with the idea of culture fit because this hiring approach dates back to the 1970’s. Research conducted during this time stated that employees were happier and more productive when they worked with people who had similarities to them. This finding led hiring managers to look for candidates who they thought would get along with current employees, share company values, and fit in with the organization as a whole.

While there is nothing wrong with wanting to create a positive work environment, using this culture fit approach can dismiss more qualified and able applicants whom hiring managers don’t deem as compatible with their team. This strategy, unfortunately, can prevent people of differing backgrounds, races, and religions from getting a fair chance at employment. While many companies still use the culture fit model, there are others who are adopting a more inclusive approach: culture add.

Culture Add

Culture add stems from the idea that progress is made from cognitive friction, or the tension caused from having opposing viewpoints. Hiring people with different personalities and perspectives is sure to create some conflict, but getting your team out of their comfort zone is a great way to encourage personal and professional growth.

It should be noted that, in order to create healthy and productive dissent in teams, psychological safety must be present. Psychological safety is the freedom to express yourself without the fear of being judged by those in your surrounding environment.

Instead of looking for people who fit in with their coworkers, the culture add approach celebrates candidates’ differences, in hopes that they will bring fresh new ideas that will lead to creative problem solving and forward thinking. By hiring someone who has qualities that your current employees do not have, it can create a stronger team, which in turn can lead to more success for your company.

How to Adopt this Strategy

It may seem challenging to implement a new hiring strategy, but adopting the culture add approach may be simpler than you think. Many hiring managers start out by developing a rubric-based scoring system that assigns point values to different job requirements. . By defining the expectations for assessment and keeping managers focused on qualifications, this system reduces bias and avoids focus on culture fit.

Sometimes, hiring managers find it difficult to adapt to the culture add process. If this happens, recruiters should inquire why the applicant isn’t a good match for the job. They can ask questions such as, “What are you really looking for in this role? What skills are necessary?” and “Why don’t you believe the candidate is a good cultural fit?” These questions can help hiring managers take a step back and consider where their resistance is coming from. Overall, this system helps foster a more inclusive hiring process that will lead to a more diverse and higher-performing team.

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