Culture Fit vs. Culture Add: What’s the Difference?

culture fit vs culture add

Millennials prioritize company culture

“Company culture” is a hot buzzword in the hiring industry. The culture of an organization has always been important, but lately, it seems like it’s become even more so. Why?

For one thing, millennials highly prioritize company culture, even over other factors like salary and benefits. A healthy work environment, including good work-life balance and career development opportunities, is often more important to millennials than higher pay. Since millennials will make up nearly half the working population by 2020, that’s something to think about.

Because company culture has become more of a priority for organizations, there’s pressure to bring on new employees who are already in line with that culture. After all, candidates who have similar attitudes, beliefs, and personalities will make the existing company culture stronger, right?

Not so much. There’s a huge difference between hiring for “culture fit” compared to “culture add.” Do you know what each means, and which one you should be hiring for? We got you. Read on below.

What culture fit means

Employees from similar cultures may share the same degrees from colleges in one particular region. Perhaps they all had similar career paths beginning from high school until now: entry-level service industry jobs, entry-level jobs in their chosen career field, and now a position at this hypothetical company. Everyone is laidback, easily managed, and prefers to avoid stirring the pot with new ideas or voicing controversial opinions.

A group of likeminded employees with similar skills, qualities, work habits, upbringings, and hobbies will likely work together really well. After all, what’s there to fight about? The concept of culture fit has good intentions, but unfortunately, it has its drawbacks.

The problem with culture fit

Culture fit sounds good in theory, (and it sounds like a manager’s dream,) but this is actually a problem. Hiring for culture fit has now turned into a blanket term for “hiring people who think, live, work, or look like us.” It limits the diversity of your organization.

An HR rep or hiring manager evaluating candidates for culture fit may allow their unconscious biases to affect their decisions. Choosing candidates based on their skills, training, or potential job performance makes sense of course, but what factors are used for culture fit? Personality? Hobbies? Work preferences? It gets murky. And demographic and socioeconomic factors tend to be relied on, which is a no-no. When interviewers start hiring people more like themselves, that leads to a uniform workforce that lacks diversity.

And diversity isn’t just another buzzword that companies use to attract candidates. Or at least, it shouldn’t be. Diversity in the workplace is good for business, not just for brand reputation and public perception. Studies have found that diverse companies are more innovative, and tend to attract and retain more diverse talent.

You can’t reap those benefits if you’re hiring more of the same people you already have.

Hire for culture add instead

That’s where hiring for culture add comes in. Rather than choosing employees based on how well they will fit within an existing company, employees are chosen based on what they can bring to the organization through their experiences, work style, skills, ideas, and so on.

Of course, we don’t mean that you should hire people who might disrupt the office because they won’t get along with any of their coworkers. It’s not about hiring newbies who are so different that they don’t make sense for your organization. However, people who are different in some way will help create a dynamic and thriving company culture.

How to hire for culture adds

Ready to start building and improving your organization’s culture? First, take a look at the existing statistics for your workforce. And be ruthlessly honest. What does your leadership look like? Can you do better at being diverse and inclusive?

Once you’ve crunched the numbers, come up with a plan for hiring culture adds to your company in the future. Let’s say you have three open positions in three different departments in your company: account management, customer support, and IT. Look at everyone you already have on each team. They’ll set the bar for future hires. Each person you hire for those three departments needs to be slightly different in some way.

They need to bring something else to the table that’s not already there. For example, you have a small yet dedicated team of four customer support specialists. They all have support and service industry backgrounds. While they like their jobs, they’re hoping to eventually move into different departments with new responsibilities.

Your top candidates for this support position include someone with a similar work history who has good recommendations. They seem good at their job, and they’re a natural people person. Your other candidate is a product designer who stepped down from their longer hours and more complex duties at their previous job. They have much less experience in support, but they’re eager about working for your company and excited to flex their support skills. Who would you pick?

If both candidates do well on their interviews and are equally qualified, you might go with the ex-product designer as a culture add. This candidate has a different perspective on the needs of customers and will have a different way of recognizing and approaching product problems. They’ll also have a fresh perspective on the role since they’re newer to the department.

Strengthen your company by hiring for culture adds

It’s natural to gravitate towards people who share things in common with us. But searching for differences can make a company stronger and better. Find candidates with really unique hobbies, distinctive life experiences, or special stints in their work history. Whatever makes them unique will add something new to their team of coworkers, their department, and your company.

When you continue hiring with culture add in mind, you’ll naturally build diversity and unique talent into your company.