As more and more organizations work to proactively design their company culture, the concept of hiring for a “culture fit” is on the rise. The assumption being made is that the effort put into designing a culture should carry over into hiring team members that can seamlessly integrate into that culture. However, the process of hiring for a culture fit adds additional bias to the hiring process. We allow our affinity bias–our inclination to believe that people with similar backgrounds, interests, or belief systems as we do will bring the most value to the team–to inform our decision-making. This causes us to create more homogenous teams instead of increasing diversity.
It’s easy to understand how this happens. Familiarity is comfortable. We fall into the trap of believing that onboarding someone that we deem a culture fit will be easier. While it may be true that integrating someone with sameness into our team’s familiar processes and structures will be easier, we miss the opportunity to add someone to the team that can open new doors, challenge old ways of thinking, and increases our ability to innovate and lead change.
When homogeneity permeates a company, unconscious bias can infiltrate more of our decisions. We risk losing the ability to hear differing perspectives. This is bad for business because it stifles creativity and innovation. It creates deficiencies on the team and ultimately leads to bias in our business’s end product. If diverse teams foster creativity, homogenous teams maintain the status quo.
Netflix chief talent officer told the Wall Street Journal: “(With cultural fit), you end up with this big, homogenous culture where everybody looks alike, everybody thinks alike, and everybody likes drinking beer at 3 o’clock in the afternoon with the bros.”
Hiring for culture fit is also harmful to candidates. While it is expected that you will develop a baseline of qualifications and skills for open positions, having an expectation around culture fit is vague and ambiguous. In reality, it creates an opportunity for recruiters and hiring managers to lean into their own biases instead of seeking candidates that can bring new perspectives to the team. When developing job descriptions, qualifications should be clearly outlined for candidates, and hiring managers should have a process to hire along with those guidelines without adding their personal assessment of culture.
How can you identify a culture-add? Hiring for a culture-add means considering how candidates can offer new ideas and different perspectives to the team. It requires us to consider how someone with a different social network, set of credentials, or experiences different from our current team can give new ideas and different perspectives to the team. It’s considering how this addition of uniqueness can be a net positive for the team.
When we hire for culture-fit we are creating more of the same. Not only can this process exclude great candidates, but it can also lead to bias in the hiring process that eventually trickles down into other decision-making processes. When we instead consider how to hire for culture-adds, we can create more diverse teams that increase our creativity and productivity. Hiring for culture-adds is the first step. We must then ensure that new additions to our team are met with an inclusive environment that values and welcomes differing perspectives. When we ensure an inclusive environment, it allows us to get the full benefit of having a diverse team with different perspectives.
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