Shoes Fit, Not Humans: How to Stop Hiring for Culture Fit, But Value Add
Have you ever heard or said that a job seeker wouldn’t be a good fit for a certain job? Probably. Yet, no reason as to why that usually follows what was said. You get crickets instead of feedback. No reasons are offered to help pinpoint how that conclusion came to be; it’s just a gut feeling. Then everyone moves on to the next topic and forgets about it. Conversation over.
I suggest that there is a reason for a person’s dismissal of a potentially qualified job candidate. The reason is called unconscious bias.
Whether you call it an implicit bias or an unconscious bias, it adds up to the same thing, which is excluding potentially qualified people from job opportunities based on a hunch that requires no explanation. How’s that for a mouth full? That person may just be the shoe that doesn’t fit as comfortably as another one might. As I said, shoes are meant to fit, but humans are a different story. All people are meant to be different and unique—an asset to any culture, not a cookie-cutter image of someone else. Just because someone doesn’t look like, speak like, or act like people within your organization doesn’t mean they are not a valuable asset. In fact, a person’s uniqueness is what can make them an incredible addition to any workplace.
Why You Should Hire for Value Add Rather Than Culture Fit
The problem with most organizational cultures is that they are very homogeneous. It is always the same perspectives, thought processes, and actions are taken daily. You are meant to fit in more than stand out. Don’t ruffle any feathers or stir up the dust. These homogenous environments are aligned with the old way of doing things. Hiring by referral, recruiting from the same schools, limiting our geographic boundaries. Looking for people who “fit” nicely into our little cultures bringing little disruption to the status quo. These old systems and processes have statistically left valuable groups of people behind.
This happened recently when Joseph B. Hill accepted a position to become the Vice President, Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, within a hospital system in Houston, Texas, only to have the job offer rescinded after informing his future employer that a real estate agent they hired made racially-charged micro-aggressive statements toward him. The company later explained that the reasons that his job offer was rescinded were that he wasn’t a good “fit” and that he was “too sensitive about race issues.” Huh? Isn’t that role of a Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion officer? To be sensitive.
The truth of the matter is that, like Joseph B. Hill’s experience, many other candidates, and even people working in their role, have had similar experiences. The reason being is that some organizations and leaders alike are just not ready to be pushed out of their comfort zone. There are not ready for their perspectives to be challenged. They are not ready for their world views to be impugned. They are simply wanting people who will come in and assimilate to their current culture and adopt the same flow for the workplace that has existed for so long. Don’t make too much noise, don’t challenge the status quo, don’t challenge the system. Like the health system that rejected Joseph, many organizations have simply hopped on the trend of creating more diverse and inclusive workplaces, without being prepared for the commitment it takes. When efforts are simply performative, organizations miss out on something incredible.
The Case for Value Add
When it comes to moving your organization’s culture, you should be excited to experience and learn from people not like everyone else. Add something different to the menu, a new spice to the organization if you will. That is how you will recognize the value. When it comes to hiring for culture add rather than culture fit, adapting a common sense and pro-growth strategy forces you to also challenge the existing premises that exist in productive work cultures.
Find Your Grow Flow
Still not convinced about how this works or even if it can work. Let’s take a look at this from a different perspective.
People cannot grow in the work environment without challenges that inspire creativity and ingenuity. These marks of distinction are an asset. A business will never grow more robust or diverse if it does not engage in the practices that encourage more diverse perspectives and less on the status quo that leads you nowhere.
Really, hiring the same people from the same places and expecting that they perform the same way it’s always been done is like eating from the same menu day in and day out. You won’t be hungry, but you surely won’t be satisfied either. What you definitely will not experience is progress moving in a successful direction!
Here are five ways that you can break out of your old thought patterns of thinking that people should fit like a shoe, more than stand out as a valuable asset, potentially the diamond in the rough of your business.
1. Embrace connecting with people different from you.
It is natural for people to want to be around others who are like-minded. This message has been preached to everyone who has pursued personal and professional growth. You are who you hang around with most—those top five people. It’s time to break that belief and find the benefits of interacting with people that bring different perspectives to the conversation. You’ll be opened up to a refreshing world of new possibilities.
2. Practice being specific with your intents.
When you are hiring and making people decisions in your organization, determine what you really want to achieve. Are you hiring for a position because it is the “popular” thing to do like the case of Joseph Hill? How will this decision move your organization to gaining a competitive advantage? Is the hire even qualified and engaged in what they can offer, or are they only there to fulfill a criterion you feel forced to have? Have a serious heart-to-heart with yourself and reflect on these important beliefs. Determine what should be changed and how you can do it. It is common for people to reflect and meditate on outcomes they wish to change. This happens all the time, from losing weight to getting a promotion. It all begins with internal work to reveal why this is untrue. Remember that your intentions matter. They have the power to become effective when you envision being a part of better, more inclusive outcomes.
3. Say goodbye to the “same old way.”
If you’ve ever asked why something at work is done a certain way you likely received the answer of “that is the way we’ve always done it.” Really? That is unsatisfying! When you do anything the same old way, you are taking the path of least resistance and will stop thinking of anything that is considered new or improved. Doing anything the way it has always been done is an easy out—you never think about changing it up. Today is the day to start changing it up!
4. Treat yourself with kindness.
This is simple. When you are not at your best, feeling rundown and exhausted from life, you are more stressed. Studies on stress indicate it leads to you being less effective at processing added information and more reliant on reverting to your current unconscious thought patterns.
5. Become a more aware and thoughtful person.
Just like you don’t know what you don’t know, you do know what you do know. There is no unlearning information, but you can unlearn unhealthy habits that are not uplifting to your workplace culture. It is okay to pause in this crazy busy world and think about what you’re doing and what it really means. Call yourself out on your biases by bringing them to the surface and working past them. I promise that there is something better and beautiful waiting on the other side.
These strategies are a part of a new way to work that will help to eliminate wasteful thinking and policies that stop culture fit dead in its tracks. It’s time to welcome in a new and refreshing approach to work. We can be united and stronger by what makes us different.