Balancing Culture Fit with Diversity: Hiring for Success
Teams looking to hire someone new often consider culture fit. Culture is certainly important: People on teams work closely, and collaboration and integration are key to success.
But hiring for culture fit isn’t everything, and doing so may cause you to overlook some qualified candidates who could be valuable additions to your team. Seeking job candidates based solely on whether they will fit into company culture is self-reinforcing, leading to conformity.
Airbnb made this discovery and is now making a conscious effort to increase diversity. An article by two members of its data science team says, “Homogeneity brings a narrower range of ideas and gathers momentum toward a vicious cycle, in which it becomes harder to attract and retain talent within a minority group as it becomes increasingly underrepresented.”
If you are hiring for an innovative organization, you should bear in mind the importance of considering people who may not at first appear to be a cultural fit, but who have skills useful to your team. Adam Grant explains how to interview to hire nonconformists and why having such people can benefit companies at all stages.
Having people who think alike may make some conversations go more smoothly, but it can also make for a fragile organization. Grant says having people who challenge the status quo can help you build a more resilient culture and a more robust organization.
Nonconformists discourage groupthink by challenging decisions that might have been solely based on past patterns, thus creating an environment where people can try innovative ideas. Grant explains that dissent can sometimes be a source for important ideas if it is channeled correctly.
So, if people who will give a variety of ideas and challenge the status quo can help your team be successful, how do you find them? Grant suggests looking for unsung heroes and inward-facing innovators and keeping an open mind about insubordinates.
The unsung heroes and inward-facing innovators are important because not all new ideas make a big splash. Some people serve a catalyst role, helping others be more effective. Likewise, creativity in organizational and people management processes, while often not the topic of awards, can help teams achieve important gains.
Insubordinates, including people who may have been fired, seem like a counterintuitive source of team members, and Grant advises caution when considering such people. But some “troublemakers” are doing important work. He characterizes them as “the person that annoyed middle managers but was valued by higher-ups.”
Balancing the value of culture fit and diversity can be hard, because we have to actively work against biases that lead us to associate “fit” with “sameness.” If you can find ways to reduce biases in hiring and consciously work to hire people who will challenge the status quo, you may discover that you have a team where everyone “fits” by enjoying being successful.