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Culture fit or Cultural Contribution, what do you hire for?

Culture fit or Cultural Contribution, what do you hire for?

Oct 5, 2020

HR can play one of the most critical roles in a company: Bringing in the right type of people, and making sure they stay motivated and engaged. These are crucial tasks that may determine the future of a company. If you doubt this, look into the once successful companies like Blackberry, Polaroid, Nokia, etc. and the impact of a bad culture or wrong addition. Whether it is arrogance, lack of vision or some other vice, it often points to culture. Since the 2002 study by James Baron and Michael Hannan about start up cultures, the more successful HR professionals have been hiring for 'culture fit', because as that research shows, companies are more likely to succeed when employees share similar values and perspectives for what they are doing. In fact, the results of the study show that these start-ups are significantly less likely to fail, when built on 'culture fit'.

However, more recent studies show that hiring for 'culture fit' is not enough, because the same values that you had as a start-up, are not necessarily going to work when you are scaling, and companies that keep hiring only for 'culture fit' generally grow the slowest after an IPO. Instead, companies like IDEO design are hiring for cultural contribution or as Spotify's CHRO puts it, 'culture add'. They look at the missing piece in their culture and add people that contribute to it.

Finding the missing piece in a culture can be complicated, but a simple guide is to look at the service or product you provide, and ask yourself who understands it inside out. For example IDEO has hired anthropologists because of the need to go into new environments when designing new products, or screen writers to tell the story that designers can use.

Looking to add to a culture of course makes a lot of sense and can immediately improve diversity and innovation. This in turn, if managed well, produces highly effective teams. However, hiring for 'culture add' does not necessarily suit every company, especially the small and sometimes medium sized companies that are still trying to cement the original company culture. In these situations, even one bad hire can cause a negative downward spiral.

If 'culture fit' is for small to medium sized companies and culture add is for medium to large companies, how do you know when to stop one and continue with another approach? This can be extremely difficult. At WeBridge, we have created a new solution that bridges the gap and encourages employees to bond over the important and changing aspects in their lives, whether it's professionally, in their personal lives, physical fitness/health, psychological strength, or their purpose and satisfaction in life. Peoples' priorities change and sometimes their values as well. Helping them feel connected regardless of these changes, makes employees increasingly engaged and ready for sustainable peak performance.