A Brave New World: Hiring for Cultural Contribution

Much has been said over the past year about the advantages of hiring for cultural contribution rather than cultural fit. Adam Grant, who wrote Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, has built a strong case for it.


But talking about it and doing it are two different things. Hiring for cultural fit, often called “chemistry,” is instinctive. If you hire people who are like the people you’ve already hired, you can minimize workplace friction and preserve productivity.


“The problem is that a culture that hums along smoothly is less likely to innovate and grow,” says Charles Rodriguez. As Senior Director of Human Capital Management at Adams Keegan, Rodriguez sees the downside of cultural fit hiring. “The failure to thrive in the long run stems from ‘group think.’ The people within the organization are so like-minded that they do not push each other to innovate.”


According to Rodriguez, innovation is the product of abrasion, agility and resolution. If you’re hiring for cultural fit, you are minimizing abrasion – friction – which reduces the potential for innovation. If you want to innovate and grow, you need a diverse employee pool that brings together different points of view.


“We’re focusing more on cultural contribution, because we’re seeing a shift in how businesses view diversity,” explains Rodriguez. “Companies used to view diversity hiring as part of their corporate social responsibility; it’s what ‘good companies’ do. Now we have a huge body of research that proves it’s really good for business. There is compelling evidence that more diverse companies are more successful companies.”


In his role at Adams Keegan, Rodriguez is able to help companies change their hiring strategy from cultural fit to cultural contribution. 


“The challenge in hiring for cultural contribution is that you have to identify what’s lacking from your organization,” says Rodriguez. “Replicating what you already have is a lot easier than imagining what you’re missing. In addition to hiring people with diverse experience, education and viewpoints, you have to manage the friction that comes with it.”