Culture fit is not something to strive for, in fact, it’s a red flag. If you’re saying a potential employee is a culture fit, what you’re probably saying is that your employee pool is homogenous, that your team mimics one another in thought, skill, experience, and mindset. What culture fit usually means is that there is no diversity among employees.
When your recruiting and hiring team screen candidates for the right fit, it usually means that they are screening for like-minded people. In reality, this usually translates to new hires that talk, work, and think just like the existing team members. Nothing kills innovation faster than hiring for culture fit for exactly this reason.
When a potential employee is “perfect for the job” and matches everything you’re looking for, could this be a sign that your organization is missing the mark? While the goal is to hire people whose skills align with the vision for the company, where is the room for creativity and difference? An organization misses out on the innovative potential if all employees fit within the same box. If culture fit becomes the priority, then the workplace becomes a homogeneous environment. Homogenous workplaces lack diversity of people, thinking, education, and lived experiences. Sometimes organizations try to correct this by hiring for “diversity” but still seek out culture fits and perpetuate the cycle of homogeneity.
Here are how organizations can shift their systems away from hiring culture fits.
Change the Hiring Process
Instead of trying to find the person who fits into the organization, the focus should be on the person that can add to the culture. What does the organization value? Similar to the work of Jim Collins’ Hedgehog Concept, when organizations set pillars that focus on an understanding of what they can be the best at, it creates interview questions that screen for conceptual understanding rather than fitting into a mold. This will lead to hiring culture adds.
What is a culture add? A culture add is a person that brings a different perspective, mindset, and experience into the organization. They often have unique career journeys and express themselves differently. You’ll be able to spot them because they stand out among a homogenous pool of candidates. Culture adds are great leaders of change because they are open-minded and eager to share.
To make the needed changes, organizations must form a task force to redevelop their interview questions. Next, create training for the recruiting and interviewing team to focus on culture adds to the organization rather than culture fits. Another way to improve the hiring process is to train a diverse pool of interviewers to include gender, age, race, abilities, education, and experiences. Having this mixture of people in the interviewing room helps to reverse the chances of hiring culture fits.
Seek Out Disruptors
People that push the envelope in organizations are outliers. How often do you see people that are willing to step out and be different in a professional setting? Instead of rejecting those that are different, these disruptors deserve to be supported. If the changes to the hiring process work, the organization makeup will begin to include disruptors who can interrupt homogeneous behavior even among existing team members.
When organizations seek a culture add, they will receive disruptors. The disruptors are willing to go the extra mile to bring about change in the organization. They will question policy. They will demand agility in processes and procedures so that they can innovate. They will be comfortable with failure and use their failures as lessons to springboard forward. This type of employee will challenge homogeneous organizations, so you must get ready to be uncomfortable and welcome this new experience. For this type of change to be accepted, leadership has to make a bold statement. Leaders have to be ready to support organization disruptors. They must respond to the pushback received from team members not wanting to change the way they do their jobs. They will be questioned and challenged. To change the way you work causes people to exert more effort. To step into this change will not be easy but will be instrumental for organizational growth, but it is worth it.
The Future of the Modern Workplace
The workplace continues to change, and the need for change is warranted. To respond to the demand, organizations must shift from using the term culture fit to seeking disruptors. To make this change, organizations have to get creative with the hiring process and they need to make a clear statement that they are ready for a new future. The way they bring people into the organization should be intentional. Instead of bringing people into the organization without a clear picture of their culture, organizations have to shift their priorities toward creating a training program for new hires. Most likely, your training programs are outdated and do not fit the needs of the disruptor. When this occurs, disruptors get bored and leave the organization. Organizations must shift their energy toward providing leaders with the skills and knowledge to not just retain new disruptors, but to develop them into the company’s leaders.