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  • Writer's pictureKatherine Merry

Why your new hire should be a culture add, not a culture fit

The New York Times bestseller In Search of Excellence:Lessons from America’s Best-Run Companies by Tom Peters and Robert H. Waterman, Jr. sparked a national interest in workplace happiness in the 1980s: Could improving company culture improve the company’s bottom line? (Spoiler alert: YES!)

Studies have shown that employees are more productive when they feel a sense of belonging within their workplaces. And what happens when these productive employees feel content at their jobs? They stick around longer. Armed with this knowledge, people with hiring power began deliberately looking for a “culture fit” in their recruits – someone who would fit in well with the existing ethos of an organization. Rather than just looking at resumes and seeking specific skills, candidates’ work styles, values, and personalities were being more heavily considered during the hiring process.

After decades of hiring “culture fits,” companies are now seeking “culture adds.” In addition to complementing an organization’s values, the culture add new hire will also offer a fresh perspective to the workplace. As diversity and inclusion become increasingly important to employers and employees alike, problems with hiring a culture fit seem to become more apparent: If a company is continually hiring employees who are like one another, the culture becomes homogeneous – employees with similar backgrounds who think and act in similar ways. Everyone has similar strengths and weaknesses and thus may settle into routine and be afraid to try new things and ideas. This lack of diversity within an organization of culture fit hires can not only keep it from moving forward but could even be viewed as discriminatory.

While companies undoubtedly want employees who will “jell” with their current staff, hiring someone who can offer new experiences and perspectives can be a smart business move. A 2015 McKinsey report on 366 public companies stated that the most diverse companies are more likely to outperform their less diverse peers. Companies with greater ethnic and racial diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns high than the industry mean. The follow-up reports, each with a broader data set in 2018 and 2020, showed similar findings on how diversity benefits business.

Looking to make the shift from hiring a culture fit to hiring a culture add? When meeting candidates, ask questions that will help you understand how the person will work with others or what new and interesting experiences and skills they can bring to your company’s culture, including skills that your current team may be missing, as well as their ability and desire to learn new things.

Consider these questions compiled by Evelyn Lee of Architect Magazine for your next interview:

  • How have past team members benefited from working with you specifically that sets you apart from your coworkers?

  • What is something that you’ve learned in the past year that really helped you develop professionally?

  • When faced with a conflict where either a coworker or client didn’t agree with you, how did you handle it?

  • How would you define your personal work style and how do you like to be managed?

  • What does your optimal work day look like?

A culture add will be an individual who shares your company’s values but has the drive and ability to think outside the box and lead a team in new directions as well. Change can breed innovation, and sometimes bringing an outside perspective into your organization is just what is needed to drive it forward, AOE can help, contact us today.



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