Maybe we got this Culture Fit thing all Wrong! #WorkHuman

So, I’m sitting on a plane flying back from the WorkHuman conference and I’m going through my notes. Here’s one of the things I wrote down:

“Instead of culture fit, what if we focused on culture contribution…” 

I don’t even remember who said it that sparked me to write it down, but I loved it. I want to say it was Adam Grant, seemed like he was saying a bunch of stuff I liked during his session.

It struck me immediately when it was said. It’s one of those times when you go, “Holy crap, have we missed this all along and no one said anything!”

The problem is, hiring for culture fit is really hard. There are technologies and experts who will tell you they can do it, but it’s mostly smoke and mirrors. When you sit down and interview people, you mostly don’t get culture fit, you get ‘I’m comfortable with this person’ and that turns into you saying, “they’d be a great fit in our culture!”

Hiring for culture contribution actually is a bit easier and probably more effective! I can easily interview someone and ask for concrete examples of the cultural contributions they currently provide at their organization or have provided, and what they’ll provide when they come to my organization. Sure they could lie or exaggerate, but that happens already, so that’s nothing new.

What I like about culture contribution over cultural fit is I can measure cultural contribution! Don’t tell me you fit, show me you fit! There’s millions of ways employees can contribute to culture, so it’s not like we are limiting hires to only those who ‘want’ to be involved.

I don’t know. What do you think?

It was just a note on a scrap of paper, but man it seems really profound. Hit me in the comments if you’re doing anything with cultural contribution in your organization.

10 thoughts on “Maybe we got this Culture Fit thing all Wrong! #WorkHuman

  1. Love the different perspectives. I believe culture and contribution can be tied to each other. Consider when colleges recruit they look for contributions in school and community through volunteerism and community service. If you build a culture of people who do that you have a culture of very proactive contributors with a mindset that can help create a high potential organization.
    John Ludike makes a great point…it is hard to differentiate. Keep it in real terms of what kind of personality and character will fit with the culture you are trying to create. Thanks for the discussion starter Tim!

  2. Just watch the Warriors play basketball and you will see the best of culture fit and culture contribution. The interplay of people, roles and culture is the measure of participation and contribution of an organization’s intellectual capital and its capacity to achieve results. #leadership #soft skills #performance management

  3. Is it actually useful to refer to culture at all? I wasn’t there but I’d try to identify the desired future state, look at the gaps between that and the current state and then recruit to move forward, being sensitive to both context and objectives. Does the word culture really help you do that?

  4. Your little note makes so much sense as does one very important reflection you make talent contribution is measureable! I have found over the years that both Recruitment Agencies as well as Hiring Managers and countless HR Practitioners have difficulty differentiating between, culture, capabilities and or competencies. When you then enquire further as to ask them how any of these contribute ( there’s that word) to organisations competitiveness you draw complete blank.

  5. It raises a good question. Makes me wonder if hiring to a “cultural fit” could be a drag that does little more than maintain a status quo. I could see where the idea of “cultural contribution” can build onto the best aspects of the “legacy” culture by introducing impactful characteristics/qualities that help keep it fresh.

  6. It makes me wonder, if you ask someone in an interview how they can contribute to your company culture, what would be the best response? What should interviewers be expecting or hoping to hear?

  7. Smoke and Mirrors. Cultural fit??? It is a guessing game at best. First, it means that you really understand what your culture is. Many times the managers are clueless as the to elements of the workers’ culture.
    Asking how they contributed to cultures? What does that tell you? The culture they are in may be, can be, usually is, different than your organizations culture. Not all cultural aspects are good/desirable, not in your company, not in the applicant’s past.

  8. My takeaway from that was different. After he talked about hiring for culture contribution, he described it as “what’s missing from _our_ culture.”

    So I didn’t take it as “what does this person proclaim to have contributed to cultures in the past,” more like, “we don’t have someone who worked in Japan for a decade, this could be a valuable new perspective” or “this woman has experience in tech, we don’t have anyone like that” at a non-tech job, etc.

    If anything, I’d say it’s harder. 🙂 It’s looking for that piece in the applicant’s history or capabilities that don’t match anything you currently have. But it makes a lot of sense.

    Maybe someone else has a third interpretation? That’d be fun.

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