What is a culture add test?
The culture add test is a new take on an old - and some might say outdated - concept.
In an organization, the culture is the team and the individuals within that team, sharing a set of values that creates behaviors and actions in everyday working life. It is hard to define and quantify, but a good working culture is essential for things like staff morale, staff retention, and the innovation that keeps businesses going.
Culture fit as a hiring perspective really came to prominence following a paper by Jenifer A Chatman in 1991, where she described finding a ‘person-organisation fit’ when hiring. By finding employees who share the same values as the organization, recruiters can reduce staff turnover and increase job satisfaction.
Why hiring for culture add can be problematic
The reason why ‘culture fit’ as a term has fallen so steeply out of fashion is that there was no really reliable tool or process used in hiring to find the people that had the congruence of values with the business.
What came instead was the ‘gut feeling’ of the hiring manager during an interview, influenced by their own biases - social preferences, education level, and cultural experiences. The candidates were being measured by superficial means; their hobbies, their interests outside of work, and their personality traits.
Culture fit became more about fitting in, being part of that groupthink or hive mind that really stifles innovation - there are no new ideas, nobody is being challenged, and culture becomes more about perks like breakout rooms and free coffee than the shared values and social discourse of actual culture.
How – and how not – to hire for culture add
So, if culture fit is a dirty word, how is culture add any different?
Simply put, when diversity and inclusion are not just buzzwords used in hiring, and the right tools are used to assess candidates in a way that eliminates bias, culture add is a more flexible and inclusive way of hiring.
Culture add should include alignment of the core values of the business - the pillars that the whole company revolves around throughout all their activities and from the CEO to the junior team members. It should also highlight the importance of new ideas coming from diverse experiences - and not just a race to ‘fit in’.
Diverse teams with a strong culture can have conflict, of course, but by challenging each other (and being led by the business values) more innovation can be developed, driving the business forward.
Interviews and qualitative data are important in the recruitment process, of course. A deep dive into a candidate can help teams better understand their candidates, but that is not where the culture add assessment should be.
Whether explicit or implicit, bias exists in us as humans and our cultural expectations and social preferences could lead to hiring people ‘just like us’ - that stagnant and stifling culture that inhibits growth.
What works for culture add is standardized testing. Using a testing tool to measure the company values - not the ones they publish on their website alongside the company mission, but the real values that are used daily by the employees - and then using that same tool to measure the values of the individuals that are applying removes the human element, relying on algorithms that are not biased.
The culture add test needs to measure the values (of the company and the candidate), the behaviors of the candidate relating to the behaviors that are desirable for the role, and the activities that the candidate prefers. These activities might help if you have a team that is focused on analysis, but needs someone who prefers to be more hands-on and take more of a leadership role.
It should be taken ‘blind’ from the point of view of the recruitment team - every candidate for a role should face the same test. While the behaviors and activities might vary from role to role within a business, the values should remain the same when hiring for any position.
The results of the culture add test gives quantitative data to provide a simple comparison between candidates - those that score highest in the assessment are likely to be the ones that bring the most to the workplace and add to the culture.
Sample culture add questions employers could use
Thinking about culture add in an interview, even if you are using culture add testing as part of the recruitment process, can help you gain a deeper understanding of what the candidate can bring to the table - and how they will impact the existing culture by adding those new perspectives and new ideas.
Some of the questions that you might want to ask include:
Describe a time when you were the best person to complete a job and were chosen above other colleagues.
With this, a candidate can delve into their unique perspective and ideas, and why that made them more useful for a project than someone else.
Think about a time when you had a different idea from other colleagues and how you have brought that up in a project.
Having different ideas and being innovative is important, but it is also useful if the person is able to challenge others without becoming confrontational. They need to be able to deal with conflict in a way that can lead to positive change.
How do you think we as a business could improve or change our company values or mission?
This question not only demonstrates that a candidate has done their research, but it also gives them an opportunity to show the interviewer the values that matter to them and what they want to see in an employer.
Who a culture add test works best for
Culture add tests bring more dedicated and committed employees who tend to be happier at work and less likely to leave. They are more productive and innovative, and can work more cohesively as a team supporting each other because of their shared values.
A culture add test works for all sorts of different organizations, hiring at all levels - and it is particularly useful if a team is becoming dangerously homogenous.