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Issue #35 Your Culture-Fit Pants Are Too Tight

Elizabeth M. Lembke - Chief Talent Navigator (HR Consultant)
Elizabeth M. Lembke - Chief Talent Navigator (HR Consultant)
Around five years ago, there was a big buzz in companies in regards to hiring for “culture fit”. The thought was, that folks hired, would be able to seamlessly adjust into the company without causing a lot of adjustment waves because they would just “get it”. They would inherently vibe with the norms, rituals, decision making processes and social ways of working. The easy fit hire would enable teams to get up to speed and productivity quickly in comparison to the hire of a person lacking the “culture fit”. Those lacking in culture-fit would cause friction and would a) either need more time / energy to assimilate or b) the group would have to accommodate an individual. If this integration process was unsuccessful, either the team would sink in the quagmire of conflict or turnover would happen, thereby increasing costs-of-hire and frustration for all parties involved.
Therefore, “hire for culture fit” was considered a win-win all around.
There were some drawbacks though. One challenge was that everyone was measuring it differently - some around values, some around behaviour, some around practices, background, some around “would I want to go out for a beer with them?” So false assumptions abounded. But what really caused the downfall, was that promoting the idea of teams reminiscent of Stepford Wives are not the ideal neighbourhood for fostering creativity or diversity in viewpoints. Lars Schmidt, Founder Amplify, reflected the criticism well when he said:
“Culture fit has become a weaponized phrase that interviewers use as a blanket term to reject candidates that don’t match the hiring manager’s view of the ideal candidate; and as such, it has become the embodiment of unconscious bias.”
“The implicit message these self-reinforcing cultures send is that if you don’t fit, if you don’t think like us or at least pretend to be on board, you might as well leave because, otherwise, life will be very uncomfortable” writes Jon Bischke, CEO of Entelo. Or like Emily Chang calls it the Brotopia.
So the conversation has been adjusted to “culture add”. Jodi Ordioni, Chief Brand Officer Brandemix says “when you consider if a candidate is a “culture add” then you are looking for candidates to bring in new ideas, a different point-of-view, and bring out different traits in others in a collaborative, positive way. Ideally, this person will fill in what you might be missing to give you that competitive edge for your products or services.”
Is this where the conversation ends? Not in my opinion. I believe that the conversations and decisions ought to be centered around “value fit, culture add, and impact apparent.”
Meaning that in a principle-based based organization, I believe that at the core of talent hires/promotions/side moves/team constellation decisions the following ought to take center-stage:
  • Value-Fit: the espoused and lived values resonate between the parties,
  • Culture-Add: diversity in thought and approach for constructive collaboration,
  • Impact-Apparent: the “why, what for and how one can inherently grow”
In my opinion, this is the best way to bust out of those too tight pants.

Adding the pizazz
Adding the pizazz
Culture Fit? Let Loose in the Middle
21st Century HR: Ep4: The End Of Culture Fit
The Case Against Hiring for Culture Fit Jon-Mark Sabel
Value Diversity? Stop Hiring for Culture Fit - Astrid Andrea Martinez
Got your Values Tie On? Add a bit of Pizzaz
Adam Grant: Hire for Culture Fit or Add?
Values at Work: The Impact of Personal Values in Organisations - Sharon Arieli, Lilach Sagiv & Sonia Roccas
Impact Comes from Plurality of Thought
Diversity's new frontier Diversity of thought and the future of the workforce
Question: How do you currently work with Value-Fit, Culture-Add, and Impact Apparent?
After attending last week’s HRD Summit in Amsterdam as a special guest and hearing some dismaying statements around what culture and diversity are, I was encouraged to dedicate this edition to hopefully improve the conversation and thoughts. I am, of course, very curious to hear yours!
If this is something that you and your organization are looking to change in terms of approach, just let me know and we can determine what could be right for your organization and team.
Until next time, wishing you all my very best regards,
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Elizabeth M. Lembke - Chief Talent Navigator (HR Consultant)
Elizabeth M. Lembke - Chief Talent Navigator (HR Consultant) @elizabethlembke

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Elizabeth Lembke, Transforming Talent Consulting: and