“Culture Add” Is In; “Culture Fit” Is Out

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For the past decade or so, corporations and SMEs alike have been heavily focused on hiring for “culture fit.” In no small part, this is because leaders of highly successful “household names” - like Amazon - have publicly attributed their success to defining their business culture and hiring individuals who are deemed a good fit for that culture. 

In fact, the Robert Walters Group released a white paper showing that 90% of employers believe that “culture fit” is “very important” when interviewing and selecting candidates.

When you’re looking at companies that bring in nearly $400 billion in annual revenue - during a global pandemic, at that - as role models, it’s easy to see why many business leaders have adopted the “culture fit” mentality. 

Still, the “culture fit” model of evaluating and hiring employees has produced few results for many SMEs and corporations. The intended ROI of adopting a “culture fit” organization - higher revenues and profits, better employee and customer satisfaction, and longevity - aren’t showing up for many of these organizations. 

 

 

What IS the “culture fit” model?

Quite simply, the “culture fit” model is an approach to team building that emphasizes hiring individuals likely to mesh well with the company’s established culture. If two candidates have the same core skill sets, experience, and education, the one more likely to “fit in” would be hired.

 

Over time, as existing employees phase-out, the company develops a homogenous workforce in which each employee approaches their role the same way. 

 

Many “thought leaders” have championed the “culture fit” model because - in theory, at least - it produces predictable results. 

That would be fantastic if those results weren’t mediocre at best.

 

 

Why does the “culture fit” model fail for many businesses? 

You could probably fill a home library with opinions and discourse on the “culture fit” model, but the core issue is that it discourages innovative thinking. 

Instead of having a wide variety of perspectives on hand to cultivate new solutions to complex problems, a “culture fit” organization leans on a workforce that’s unable, afraid, or unwilling to voice a novel idea. 

 

The company gradually becomes averse to risk, and then it becomes averse to change itself. Eventually, a stagnating “culture fit” organization can collapse under the weight of its own homogeneity. 

 

Moreover, because it lacks diverse perspectives, a “culture fit” organization is ill-prepared to seize the opportunities and navigate the challenges of our ever-changing post-pandemic world. In a time when it’s more than essential than ever to understand the context in which we do business - and to know the people we serve and affect - homogeneous companies are at serious risk of becoming irrelevant. 

 

Finally, a homogenous organization often produces ill-suited products for their consumer demographics. For example, the “culture fit” homogeneity of the AI industry has introduced challenges in facial recognition software development simply because developers did not take diversity factors into account.

 

Focus on “culture add” instead of “culture fit.”

Many business and economic experts believe that companies that embrace physical and intellectual diversity are poised to succeed in the post-pandemic landscape. 

 

It’s not about “checking a box” on some DEI checklist. It’s about developing a hiring approach that uncovers what unmet needs a candidate can bring to a team and hiring candidates who can meet those needs. 

 

Think of it like putting together a puzzle - it wouldn’t make sense to keep looking for the same piece over and over again. Instead, you identify the pieces that aren’t filled and look for those perfect-fit pieces. 

 

Of course, “culture add” is just part of an organization’s hiring criteria. It’s important to balance what a candidate can bring to the table to enhance the culture against practical skills and training. The more diverse your culture, though, the better adapted it will be to handle challenges and take advantage of opportunities that lie ahead. 

 



Does “culture add” apply to hiring freelancers and contractors? 

Many business owners look at freelancers as dispensable commodities - someone they only think of in a pinch. However, the reality is that freelancers are becoming an increasingly important part of the global economy.

 

In fact, some experts project that by 2027, over half of the entire U.S. workforce will be made up of freelance professionals. That’s a shift that no business owner with a long-term vision should ignore. 

 

The fact that they can work remotely and do not receive benefits directly from your company does not mean they are not critical parts of your culture. 

 

On-demand professionals can actually be some of your organization’s best “culture add” members. You can hire professionals from all over the world - people with a vast breadth of experiences and specialized skills who can help your organization innovate and take the lead in your industry. 

 

This is why taking a “culture add” approach can be especially rewarding when you outsource appropriate roles and tasks. 

 

Freelancers looking for a sense of financial security and belonging can also benefit from a “culture add” approach. By showcasing what they can uniquely add to a company’s culture, freelancers can increase their chances of securing long-term contracts. After all, who wants to lose a freelancer who produces better results than a permanent employee?!

 

What questions should you ask to gauge “culture add” potential?

One of the best ways to understand the value a candidate can bring to your culture is to ask the right questions. Carefully structured questions allow candidates to confidently reveal their unique value, helping you choose the ones who will elevate your culture rather than disappear into it. 

 

Here are five questions to help you gauge “culture add” potential:

  1. How do other team members benefit from working with you, as opposed to working with another professional? 
  2. What do you perceive to be our organization’s vision? In what ways do you feel we could improve that vision? 
  3. Could you describe a time in which empathy helped you solve a complex problem for a customer or client?
  4. How would you approach a meeting with a coworker whose solution to a problem is radically different from your own?
  5. How do you approach serving or problem-solving for a client or customer whose day-to-day life is dramatically different from your own?

 

Of course, these questions are just the beginning; however, they can quickly lead to insightful discussions. 

 

If you want to hire long-term, dedicated, expert on-demand professionals to help your organization and company culture grow, head over to Oomple today. You’ll find the world’s top freelance talent with specialized skills to ADD to your culture!