The End of Culture Fit
This post originally appeared in Forbes.
As more companies strive for diversity and inclusion, the term “culture fit” is falling out of favor.
The notion of hiring for culture fit was established as a foundation of many corporate recruiting processes. The term was embedded in career sites, integrated into interview processes, and touted as a competitive advantage for many organizations in the tech community. Over the years, the term has taken on more of a tribal meaning. People who think like us. People who work like us. People who live like us. Please who look like us.
A hiring process built around an undefined notion of "culture fit" is fraught with bias. In some organizations “culture fit” has become a weaponized phrase that interviewers use as a blanket term to reject candidates that don’t match the hiring manager’s view of the ideal candidate; and as such, it has become the embodiment of unconscious bias. Most interviewers are more likely to hire people like themselves and discount those who are different. This type of thinking hinders diversity and leads to homogenous cultures.
Companies are beginning to drop the idea of culture fit altogether. As more companies shift their recruiting focus towards intentional diversity and inclusion efforts, they’re reframing their thinking to how diverse candidates can add to their culture – not fit into it.
Structuring for success at Facebook
Like much of Silicon Valley, Facebook has been searching for ways to increase their diversity. To create a more inclusive hiring process, they prohibited the term “culture fit” when providing feedback on what interviewers liked or disliked about a candidate, requiring interviewers to provide specific feedback that supported their position. They reviewed their interview process to proactively identify unconscious bias and took steps to remove them from their process.
Facebook restructured their interviews to focus on alignment with their five core values and developed a “managing unconscious bias” training program, which they’ve since made available to the public. While this training is not mandatory, almost 100% of senior leadership and over 75% of non-leadership employees have voluntarily completed the courses.
“At Facebook, we’ve explicitly asked interviewers not to use the term ‘culture fit’ when giving feedback on a candidate because that phrase can easily allow bias to influence the outcome of an interview. As part of a larger effort to help people identify and correct for the biases that we all inherently have, interviewers at Facebook go through managing bias training and are encouraged to use the skills they’ve learned when interviewing candidates.”
– Facebook Spokesperson
Facebook also began publicly sharing their diversity numbers. Their last report from July of 2016 shows that current representation in senior leadership is 3% Black, 3% Hispanic and 27% women. New senior leadership hires at Facebook in the US over the last 12 months, 9% are Black, 5% are Hispanic, and 29% are women.
Their diversity report also illustrates their short, medium, and long-term plans to deliver a more inclusive workforce. These actions include the unconscious bias training detailed above, focused diversity sourcing efforts in recruiting, student programs (Facebook University, CODE.org support, Computer Science & Engineering (CS&E) Lean In Circles), and initiatives like TechPrep that introduces programming to pre-high school age students.
A quest for “culture adds” at Pandora
Pandora is another company reframing how they view culture. In an effort to shift their approach, they introduced a concept called “culture add.” This change began as an organic way of thinking about diversity in recruiting and has since grown into a more formalized approach embedded throughout the organization. The notion of culture add reflects their desire to ensure all voices, opinions, views, upbringings, etc. are reflected by their staff makeup.
It’s also driven Pandora to be transparent in their diversity efforts. Their website includes their diversity goals and an interactive chart with a demographic breakdown of employees by function. They’ve also created a People of Pandora station, which highlights their diversity with employee podcasts on topics ranging from Black History Month, LGBTQA Pride, and Asian American & Pacific Islander Month.
“We believe that ‘culture add’ goes beyond recruiting. It’s about creating an integrated B2E (business to employee) marketing strategy to engage and attract great talent from all communities and backgrounds, develop programs to uncover and overcome bias, and fostering a culture of inclusiveness and belonging.”
- Marta Riggins – Director, Employee Experience & Marketing
The shift in approach seems to be paying off for Pandora – internally and externally. Employees scored “Pandora respects individuals and values differences” as one the highest attributes in their 2016 employee survey. This internal view was backed by 2016 hiring figures that include 42% of new hires being people of color, and 46% female.
Hiring for “values fit” at Atlassian
Australia-based Atlassian, a leading provider of team collaboration and productivity software, is another company reframing their approach away from culture fit to reduce unconscious bias - changing their focus to “values fit.”
Their evolution towards values fit started with a redesign of their interview process. Their values fit interviewers are carefully selected and given training on topics like structured interviewing and unconscious bias. They're also given a set of behavioral questions to assess whether a candidate would thrive in an environment with their company values: a dedication to transparency, empathy towards customers and colleagues, and initiative to drive positive change.
“Focusing on "values fit" ensures we hire people who share our sense of purpose and guiding principles, while actively looking for those with diverse viewpoints, backgrounds, and skill sets. We're trying to build a healthy and balanced culture, not a cult.”
- Aubrey Blanche, Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion
They formally established a diversity and inclusion function in 2015. At that time, 10% of their technical workforce identified as female. In 2016, women held 14% of all technical roles, with recent hires over the past 12 months 17% women. Their efforts to attract more people of color yielded similar results. When they created their Diversity & Inclusion team in 2015 their U.S.-based team had 23% of employees identifying as people of color. Over the past year, their new hires reflected 32% people of color. They’ve also made their diversity figures publicly available on their website and introduced a groundbreaking new approach to diversity reporting by focusing on team dynamics.
Building a diverse and inclusive culture rarely happens organically. Becoming an inclusive employer takes deliberate effort and commitment. Removing “culture fit” from your recruiting process won’t automatically eliminate unconscious bias, but it’s a start in the right direction.