Driving innovation: Culture add vs. culture fit

ByHanover Team
Posting date: 16 August 2022

A lot of the job descriptions I see are great - they contain everything candidates should know and are full of information and detail. But almost 99% of them state that the company is looking for a candidate who’s a good “culture fit”.

It’s understandable - there’s been a lot of talk and a lot of press over the last few years about the importance of company culture, how to strengthen and improve it and what a positive culture means in terms of recruitment and retention of high-performing talent.

And yes, a positive culture is clearly very important, and it helps you to drive your diversity, equity and inclusion agenda forward. But does that mean you should only hire people who fit that mould?

Hiring for culture add rather than culture fit

On paper, hiring for culture fit seems logical, but recruiting candidates who will slip straight into your company without leaving a cultural ripple isn’t going to drive innovation or growth. 

In fact, there’s implicit bias in recruiting candidates based on culture fit.

It prevents you from seeking those who may be able to bring positive attributes to your business. It’s easy to want to recruit someone because you get on with them in the interview and you may share similar interests, but that means you miss out on potentially incredible candidates just because they don’t seem to fit.

This isn’t to say that candidates you select shouldn’t believe in your mission, purpose, values, and growth plans - they should - but bringing in someone who offers something slightly different and who may challenge your culture in a positive way will provide a different perspective and a fresh way of thinking. They add something to it, rather than fitting into it.

In turn, this will generate new ideas, new ways of approaching things and will drive innovation. And, after all, it’s innovation that companies need to differentiate themselves from their competitors and truly thrive.

The DE&I consideration

Another important factor to consider is DE&I. Recruiting people from different backgrounds, ethnicities, races, neurodiversities and sexual orientations not only brings in different ideas and approaches, but will also mean you can serve your customers better. 

If your workforce is as diverse as your customers probably are, you’ll be able to connect and engage with them in a much more meaningful way.

Break the mould and foster innovation

I would love to see more job descriptions that say they are looking for someone who “understands our company culture and is willing to challenge the status quo to drive innovation.”

In fact, to take it one step further, why not set innovation targets for employees? Actively encourage people to think a little differently, a little outside the box and change how things are done (especially if they have always been done a certain way). 

Setting innovation targets

Innovation targets have many benefits both for your company and your employees. For companies, they allow you to:

  • Differentiate from and outperform competitors
  • Improve your products or services
  • Boost employee engagement and retention
  • Take calculated, meaningful risks that could revolutionise your business

For employees, innovation targets mean:

  • An opportunity to have your ideas heard and valued
  • The chance to effect real change in your workplace
  • Working for a company that values innovation
  • A chance to flex your creativity

A final thought

Growth doesn’t and cannot happen when nothing changes. It comes from fresh ideas, challenging the way things are done and trying new things, whether that’s a new product, process or channel.

Innovation is a driving force behind company growth, and it helps to enhance company culture. Recruiting candidates who’ll ask questions, be outspoken and find new approaches supports this aim for innovation and growth in a way that recruiting candidates for culture fit may not.

As an example, I recently recruited someone for a technology company that specialises in business payments. Instead of recruiting within the industry, they hired a candidate from Google who brought in new ways of thinking and new approaches. She has helped the company innovate in a way that hiring someone who on paper might have been a better “culture fit” could not.

If you’re interested in finding out more about recruiting candidates who’ll bring innovation to your business, contact me today and let’s schedule time for a call.

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