What It Means to Hire for Cultural Add

What’s This “Cultural Add” Business, Anyway?

Cultural add or culture add is a term currently used by recruiting teams and Human Resources departments (among others in the staffing industry) to describe the decision to hire a certain candidate based on how he or she will add value to your culture or elevate it to the next level. It’s a synergistic term, meaning that the goal of cultural add is to bring out more in — and get more out — of your culture than is possible in its current state, even if the culture itself is already strong.

While hiring managers and recruiters have (hopefully) always evaluated candidates based on what they’ll bring to the team and table alike, the term seems to have gained more popularity over the past several years as more and more tech companies have grown to the point of doing an IPO. Some companies noticed that after achieving this laudable milestone in their history, their hardworking hustle culture seemed to lose all of its steam — even those who’d been with the company for a long time.

To these companies (and to every company working toward important goals), this was a major red flag. IPOing is great, but business doesn’t stop simply because the company went public. There should always be more goals to work toward, benchmarks to beat, and things to enhance and improve. This is how the emphasis on hiring for cultural add took hold on the world and has now become a mantra for recruiters and HR teams.

Cultural Fit vs. Cultural Add — What’s the Difference?

Many have argued that hiring for cultural add is greater than or should take priority over hiring for cultural fit. The argument is easy to see. Traditionally, hiring for cultural fit meant finding candidates that would match the existing culture. They’d have similar goals, values, and passions. Once hired, the expectation is that they’d be able to jump right in with little to no issue culturally. They’d meet their new coworkers, be able to support them, and achieve their individual objectives without issue.

But just as the tech companies above experienced, the perceived risk in doing that is what comes later once the company has hit a major milestone, the employee’s department has completed an extensive rollout of a project, or the employee has hit a personal milestone (perhaps a certain promotion, salary level, etc.). The concern is that the employee would check out, reducing productivity in their respective area and possibly impacting their department and the company as a whole.

If companies were to take the cultural add approach, they’d be more concerned with how the candidate will help them maintain momentum — how they’d integrate within the existing culture and take it to the next level. That’s the right angle, but we can’t dismiss cultural fit altogether.

Hiring for Culture is a Two-Fold Process

It’s easy to be drawn to the idea behind cultural add, but we argue that hiring for cultural fit should by default include hiring for cultural add. Naturally, you wouldn’t — i.e.,  shouldn’t — hire someone who stands in complete contrast to your existing culture. That’s a ticking time bomb. They won’t get along with anyone, your current team won’t want to work with them, and productivity will suffer across the board. You as a leader or HR professional will be a tough spot and will soon have to make the decision no one wants to make. While the right candidate doesn’t need to be an outright clone of your existing team members, it’s important to consider their motivations and what they value. These need to be in alignment with what your organization values.

Identifying these attributes in a candidate isn’t easy, but if you know what the attributes of your organization are, you’ll have a guide that you can use during conversations to help steer you in the right direction and to help you ask the right questions.

Once you have an understanding of who a candidate is and whether they’ll be a great fit for your culture, you can start to evaluate how they’ll help you and others continue your upward climb. Just as you use your existing culture to understand how a candidate will fit in, you can use the example set by your top performers as a guide for how a candidate can help to continually improve the culture (i.e., cultural add).

Your top performers aren’t just high-producing employees — they’re also the leaders, visionaries, and rebels that want to help make things better for their team members and the company overall. If they see a way to make something faster, less expensive, more efficient, or more productive, they’ll make efforts to implement those improvements properly. But they won’t stop there. Good enough is never good enough, and that’s why they’re your top performers. They are constantly elevating the business and the culture to new levels. And they’re the ones you can use you evaluate candidates for how they’ll be able to do the same.

The differences between cultural fit and cultural add can be debated and explored on many levels, but this is the foundation. Hiring for cultural fit should always include trying to understand how a candidate will not only work well with the existing culture, but also how he or she will be a transformative resource for you in the future.

Put Our Process to the Test

If your company is currently hiring or will be in the months to come, work with the technology recruiting experts at CultureFit Technology Staffing to find the right candidate for the position at hand — and your company’s long-term goals. Our in-depth process analyzes your top performers to identify the drivers of success and puts them to work in identifying and ultimately hiring the best candidate.

Contact us to discuss your opening and how we can help.