Reject culture fit and hire people you disagree with

HireHive Team
HireHive Team

Have you ever heard someone use the phrase culture add?

More HR leaders are referencing this idea of culture add versus the more familiar concept of culture fit. Here are a few things you should know about the linguistic change.

Why Some HR Leaders Reject the Idea of Culture Fit

The phrase culture fit is being retired by HR professionals who view it as an outdated mindset and hiring practice that breeds a lack of diversity. If a hiring committee hires candidates who fit in with the organization, committee members may subconsciously preference candidates who work and look like them. 

Evaluating whether or not a candidate fits into a company’s culture is unavoidably subjective. Interviewer subjectivity—and unconscious bias—can dramatically inhibit the hiring process. Evaluating candidates on the basis of fit can lead to homogenous workplaces. As organizations prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts, many HR leaders are shifting away from culture fit and embracing the idea of culture add.

Defining Culture Add

Culture Add is a concept that encourages hiring managers to evaluate how a candidate can make a company better and stronger, not necessarily how they’ll fit within the org’s culture. DeLisa Alexander, Chief People Officer of Red Hat, writes, “[Culture Add] lets me assess a candidate’s ability to thrive in the organization as it is today, and to help the organization grow into what it wants to be.” Culture Add prompts hiring teams to consider how candidates can help an organization move in the right direction.

Hiring People You Disagree With

The idea of Culture Add also encourages organizations to hire people they disagree with. HBR sheds light on the importance of this, writing, “Leaders who solicit opinions from people who disagree with them are smart enough to realize that they do not have all the answers. Such leaders also must make it safe for others to disagree.” It may seem counterintuitive, but hiring folks you disagree with can be highly strategic.

When everyone in a room agrees, or pretends to agree, you risk groupthink, or the practice of making group decisions that discourage creativity or individual responsibility. When companies suffer from groupthink, conversations may lead to minor changes, but the organization essentially remains the same. A little tension can actually help. 

That’s why communication experts often suggest assigning a devil’s advocate, or in this case, hiring folks who naturally contribute different views and opinions. “…we intentionally built teams of internal employees and new hires who brought very different thinking styles,” shares consultant, Tyler Sweatt, “No doubt, the approach caused challenges and heartburn. Over time . . . were able to eliminate some of the groupthink.”

Evaluating Fit in a Different Way

Even when hiring people you disagree with, fit still matters—just not in the traditional sense. Employees don’t need to fit within a prescribed culture, but two things should still align: (1) The candidate’s values and the organization’s mission, and (2) The candidates work style and the organization’s structure.

  • Candidate values and organizational mission. Extreme example, but if your organization champions sustainability and the candidate is a former oil industry executive, this may be a red flag. Even if you don’t hire for culture fit, you still want to evaluate whether the candidate’s values align with the values and mission of the organization.
  • Candidate work style and organizational structure. Let’s say your company is a flat organization, with no levels of middle management, and as a result, is incredibly collaborative. If a candidate shares that they strongly prefer uninterrupted, independent work time versus group work, this misalignment may be too pervasive to work around.

As HBR clarifies, “Hiring someone who is opposed to your ideas is not the same as hiring someone who is opposed to you. The former is a good thing; the latter is a threat.” As you prioritize DEI efforts, you may shift away from culture fit, embrace the idea of culture add, and in turn, hire people who disagree with you. As you intentionally hire for intellectual diversity, ensure that you’re still aligned at a fundamental level: matching candidate values with your organizational mission, and candidate work style with the organizational structure. Hire people to help your organization grow.


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