October 12, 2022

3 minutes

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Building the right team with a cultural add, not a cultural fit

Building teams has changed a lot in the time I’ve been working with people. At the beginning of my career, we still spoke about ‘personnel’ and the people who ran these departments were mostly concerned with processes and rules. The idea that they would get involved with understanding teams and how to support businesses operationally was quite alien. More recently, the idea of Human Resources became more mainstream with teams thinking about policy and process but also building high-performing teams, understanding the psychology of performance in business and the idea of ‘culture fit’. That is, that you should recruit new team members based on the individual fitting in with your existing team and supporting your existing culture.

While this was a largely positive step, and indeed, a study by Stanford University showed that start-ups who considered culture fit were more profitable and more valuable than those who concentrated on skills, this positive impact didn’t last. The concept of culture fit led to stagnation and reduced performance.

There’s no question that adding to your team with people who share your core values is regarded as a good thing. A common goal and belief in broad value-based ideas on how to get there is more likely to mean success for the business and the individual than simply hiring them because they have the right set of technical skills. However, an organisation of people with the same background, ideas and perspectives is never going to innovate in the same way as one who promotes ‘culture add’. That is, the idea that a team with diverse perspectives is better.

Culture add allows us to challenge hiring biases and poor hiring decisions based on personal preferences. It enables the development of organisational culture and instead of allowing it to stagnate, it introduces growth and fresh ideas. Greater inclusion and diversity in an organisation gives more than just social returns. In 2015, a McKinsey and co-study showed that ‘companies in the top quartile for gender, social and ethnic diversity do better financially.'

So how do we make sure we’re challenging the status quo rather than doing what we’ve always done? Firstly, be aware if your bias. Our brains constantly strive to simplify decision-making, leading to more bias than we may think. Challenge those biases when making hiring decisions rather than going on gut feelings.

Make sure your interview questions focus on behaviours and allow candidates to display their values. New hires are custodians of your culture, give them the opportunity, during the hiring process, to show how they would add to all the hard work you’ve already achieved.

Make sure your hiring team is diverse. This makes group thinking less likely and allows for positive changes when making hiring decisions. Above all, surround yourself who share your values but challenge your ideas. You’ll constantly be learning and your business will benefit too.

Sarah Wright
People Director, Jumar