Culture Add vs Culture FitHow many times do we hear or utter the words ‘Culture Fit’ when talking about a potential candidate, a new employee, the introduction of a new leader or a new merging company?

The term ‘Culture Fit’ is used in many different situations. I recently overheard an individual refer to ‘Culture Fit’ when expressing an opinion on why another person shouldn’t be part of a volunteering committee.

It’s used in many situations; it’s used to express a positive and negative view and it typically provides a ‘catch-all’ response to the softer or harder-to describe traits.

But what does it really mean?

The Culture Fit debate is something I’ve explored for many years. When a person says those words to me, my immediate follow-on question is ‘What does Culture Fit mean to you?’ which usually takes people by surprise. However, this is what I’ve learnt:

  1. Culture is unique to every company, committee and organisation. They work hard to create a distinctive and relatable culture and it is critical to assess suitability to culture when hiring and retaining employees. However, there are pitfalls to watch out for:
    • ‘Culture Fit’ can be an easier and more acceptable way to describe ‘how we do things around here’. This will definitely help maintain a familiar, comfortable and static environment but will that support your ambitious goals? It is a mindset and one that can be expanded upon. Gently challenging and coaching your people on what Culture Fit means to them can help alleviate this limiting mindset.
    • When thinking about ‘Culture Fit’ we can subconsciously put people into a metaphoric ‘box’ – with boundaries, control and constraints. Yet, being innovative, creative and demonstrating thought leadership are core values in many companies today. Be mindful of those push and pull factors that can play a conflicting part in setting your people up for success.
  2. We can’t underestimate the power of Thought Diversity. Just like companies, people are unique and the different ideas, thoughts, viewpoints and visions they bring are critical to the success of any company.

Instead of focusing on how a person will ‘fit’ into the culture of a company why don’t we focus our efforts on identifying how this person could ‘add’ to the culture of a company. Ask yourself:

  • What do they have that we don’t currently have?
  • How might they support what we are trying to achieve in a different way?
  • What can they teach us?
  • How can they get us to think differently?

Expanding our limiting beliefs about ‘Culture Fit’ is crucial and even more so today as businesses navigate through an ever-changing environment. We must practice what we preach and accept different ways of doing things, viewpoints and beliefs. Focus on the ‘Culture Add’ – the positive contributions, the challenging mindset attitude and critical thinking that people can bring to your company.

Published On: January 10th, 2021 / Categories: Insights /
Brian O’Brien

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