We like people that are like us. And we like to recruit people that are like us. People that will ‘fit in’.
The recruiters will have heard it a hundred times.
It’s all about the cultural fit.
It’s really important that they can fit in here.
The culture fit is as important as the experience.
I’ve heard this said and I have said it myself.
But let’s just revisit this notion, for a moment. When we take this approach we are often really saying is that we want people that are all the same. That we want someone like the last person. That we want someone like the rest of the team. Because that is how they will fit in, get on, around here.
The theory on culture fit says that it is a good thing. That it means the individual and the organisation are aligned, that their values correspond. Then people are more productive, engaged, motivated, satisfied. I get that.
But when we use the term ‘culture fit’ we aren’t always thinking about values. We are not thinking about the long term, the strategic angle. Instead we think of personality, we think of people. We think about whether the person has worked in a similar environment with similar challenges. We think about whether we will get on with them, day to day. Whether they will slot into the existing team just fine.
You know that quote ‘you do what you have always done and you will get what you have always got’? Well this applies here too.
If you recruit what you have always recruited, then you will organisationally probably get what you have always got. Recruiting for culture fit may make it nice and harmonious in the team. Recruiting for culture fit might mean that the new starter slots straight in. It might mean that retention levels are good. But there are less positive aspects too. Homogeneity. Monotony. Groupthink. A lack of diversity.
And do we even know what we mean by cultural fit anyway? It is all a little bit fuzzy, fluffy, vague. We think we will know it when we see it. But maybe that just isn’t good enough.
Maybe what we really need is to recruit someone else, someone different, someone who won’t just fit into the way we do things around here. Hire for culture misfit. Because what we need is some new thinking. Some diversity. Some challenge. Someone to mix it up.
We don’t need some more of the same old.
This suggestion isn’t easy. I’ve blogged before about applying for a role somewhere outside of your cultural comfort zone. And I’ve worked somewhere too that I didn’t really fit. Somewhere that I was out of step. It was like wearing a badly fitting pair of shoes every single day. Hiring someone without any consideration of how they will fit in, settle in, get on, feel okay, won’t work. But if you want change, innovation, a little disruption, maybe try hiring for cultural misfit.
This made me think of a picture I saw the other day of a group of people working in the same company. They all looked smiley and happy; what I noticed more was that they all looked exactly the same. Even a dozen of the same haircuts more or less. It may have been co-incidence, but I wondered what other sameness was represented by that image.
When culture fit is interpreted as “looks like me”, then it’s going to be very uncomfortable.
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