Is hiring for culture fit a good idea?

In the last several weeks, I’ve seen a couple articles – in reputable publications like Harvard Business Review and The Wall Street Journal – about the “dangers of hiring for culture fit.” They cited that hiring for culture fit destroys things like diversity, creativity, and innovation. And then I saw the responses on LinkedIn because it became a “today’s news and views” topic, and I was baffled.

Oh boy. I think we need to start with some definitions.

Culture is defined as values + behavior. It is the set of values and norms that guides how the business operates; culture happens when we operationalize the values. Herb Kelleher’s definition of culture is still my favorite: Culture is what people do when no one is looking.

Culture fit simply means that employees believe in and align with the core values. I would also add that they are aligned with your mission and purpose.

I also saw a post recently that people leave cultures, not managers. Well, I believe they leave both, so it’s critical to ensure that employees are a good fit with the culture and with the hiring manager, and vice versa.

So, first things first. You can’t determine what culture fit looks like in your organization if you haven’t defined your core values and the associated behaviors. You’ve got to clearly communicate your mission and purpose, as well.

Once you’ve got your core values in place, the only way that hiring for culture fit can destroy diversity, creativity, and innovation is if those things are not already widely accepted and encouraged in your organization. Hiring for culture fit does not mean that you’ll only hire people with the same ideas or the same skin color. That’s just ludicrous.

Need a well-known example of a company that hires for culture fit? Zappos. Check out this post from Zappos Insights about what culture fit means and how they determine and operationalize it.

Back to my original question: is hiring for culture fit a good idea? Absolutely. That should not stifle creativity or individuality. Ever. What it should (and will) do is bring the organization together in pursuit of a common goal.

In determining the right people, the good-to-great companies placed greater weight on character attributes than on specific educational background, practical skills, specialized knowledge, or work experience. -Jim Collins

Annette Franz is an internationally recognized customer experience thought leader, coach, speaker, and author. She recently published her first book, Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the “Customer” in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business); it’s available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. Sign up for our newsletter for updates, insights, and other great content that you can use to up your CX game.

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