Moving from Organisational Cultural Fit to Cultural Growth

For years organisations have been hiring for cultural fit. But increasingly there are organisations hiring for cultural growth. What does this mean, what are the differences, and what are the benefits of each approach?

Organisational culture fit vs culture growth

What is Hiring For Cultural Fit?

Hiring for cultural fit is a more traditional approach to hiring which looks for people who will fit within the culture and norms of your organisation. 

What Are The Benefits of Hiring For Cultural Fit?

Cultural Cohesion

By hiring people who have a broadly similar approach, mindset or outlook, you’ll be able to find people who not only fit well within your culture, but also thrive within your organisation. This will mean that you’re able to get the best out of your team. People will feel like they belong within your organisation and that they’re able to be themselves. This increased feeling of safety will help your team to be more productive, happy and engaged. 

Positive Relationships

Relationships are really important both to culture, but also to happiness and productivity. Neuroscience shows that people who get along well with their teams are happier, and that those who are able to collaborate well with their teams are more engaged. A happier and more engaged team is going to be more productive, particularly as they’ll be able to work together well and create positive results. 

Cultural Stability

You’re likely to have a more stable culture when hiring for cultural fit. Because you’re more likely to have a team that gets along and works well together, you’ll be able to see retention benefits. Also, because people will naturally conform to your cultural norms, they will sustain your organisational culture more easily.

What Are The Pitfalls of Hiring For Cultural Fit?

Lack of Diversity

Traditionally, this approach has led to the exclusion of people who don’t look, sound or behave like those already in organisations. This means that disadvantaged groups, like people of colour, disabled people or LGBTQ+ folks get fewer or different opportunities than others. 

Thankfully, this is decreasing with time, but it’s important to be aware of this potential problem. Unfortunately, neuroscience shows us that humans are wired to accept people who look or sound like us more readily than those who don’t. This means having robust procedures in place to guard against cognitive biases. At The Happiness Index for example, we have a blind first stage and remove names etc. from CVs. 

Stagnating Culture

Hiring for cultural fit can cause culture to stagnate. This might mean that while individuals within your culture might change in their needs, your culture might not move with them, forcing out great talent. Being aware of this can help you to ensure that you’re not letting your culture get stuck in the past, and that you’re not doing things just because “that’s the way it’s always been done!”

What is Hiring For Cultural Growth?

Hiring for cultural growth, sometimes known as cultural add,  is a more challenging approach that involves looking for cultural gaps within your organisation and actively looking for people to fill those gaps. This might include looking for people with specific backgrounds, approaches, thinking or working styles and more. 

What Are The Benefits of Hiring For Cultural Growth?

More Intentional Culture Building

When you’re looking for cultural growth in the hiring stages, you need to be really clear of the culture you’re looking to build. Not only within your HR and leadership team but also amongst managers and anyone else involved in the hiring process. This means you need to get clear about what you’re trying to build and get everyone on side. This is a great opportunity for you to really nail down your cultural trajectory. Make sure you’re checking that everyone is on the same page as well in this process. Our vision and values survey or cultural assessment survey will help with this depending on where you are with communicating your culture strategy. 

Agile Culture

At The Happiness Index we believe that culture should always be a journey not a destination. This means that consistently looking at your culture and where gaps are allows you to continuously build your culture as you grow. This will leave you with a much more agile culture that’s more likely to be responsive to the needs and wishes of your team. 

Diversity of Culture & Opinion

By looking for people who challenge your current ways of thinking in constructive and instructive ways you’ll be able to build a diverse team. Neuroscience shows that diverse teams are more productive and perform better than teams that are less diverse. Plus a diversity of opinion will help you challenge your ideas and culture which can help create a more substantial and thoroughly thought through strategy. 

What Are The Pitfalls of Hiring For Cultural Growth?

The main thing to remember with hiring for cultural growth is that you need people who are going to be enough of a cultural fit that they feel safe within your team. You also need to avoid employing those who will cause your current employees to feel too uncomfortable. Although some discomfort can help encourage growth, too much is not good for your team. 

Hiring Poor Cultural Fit

Adding people who aren’t close enough to being a cultural fit to your team may risk increasing turnover. Although this isn’t an inherent risk of hiring for cultural growth, it is something you need to be more aware of when employing this strategy. Being aware of who you’re adding to your team and exactly what you’re hoping to add can reduce this risk. 

Danger of “Diversity Hires”

Although we’ve spoken about the benefits of a diverse team, you don’t want to hire simply to tick diversity boxes. Not only could this not be the best move for your company or team, but you don’t want to set new hires up for failure, which no one wants. Instead, you should be looking for those with different backgrounds, views or approaches who also fit with the skill set you’re looking for. 

Not Being Culturally Ready

You also need to ensure you and your team are ready to hire for cultural growth. If your leadership, management and team aren’t aligned with your cultural strategy, and where you’re headed as an organisation, you may be setting yourself up for failure. This is why we always recommend having a robust cultural roadmap before hiring for cultural growth. 

So, Which is Better?

As long as you’re hiring a diverse team of talent, whether you choose to hire for cultural fit or cultural growth will likely depend on where you are in your journey as an organisation. Either approach can help to create a strong, diverse and motivated team that will achieve your HR and business goals and create a safe and enriching environment for everyone in your team.

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About The Happiness Index

The Happiness Index helps organisations measure the key employee engagement AND happiness drivers to power their people strategy.

Our unique platform offers the products, insights and tools to shine a light on your cultural health and empower management to drive thriving cultures.

Our neuroscience-based pre-built surveys measure the full employee experience - from onboarding to exit to empower and enable organisations to understand their people and create data-led action plans.


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