The best candidates don’t fit into workplace cultures – they create them

We’re putting it out there: culture fit is finished

Well for organisations who are serious about workplace culture, anyway. 

And it just makes sense when you think about it. When we ask candidates to blend in, are we really making the most of their talents? You know, those attributes that made them stand out from the crowd in the first place. 

We’re not so sure.

But it’s not just us, though. Harvard research shows that a strong, homogenous culture actually stifles cognitive diversity. 

“If you look for it, cognitive diversity is all around — but people like to fit in, so they are cautious about sticking their necks out,” said Alison Reynolds and David Lewis at Harvard Business Review.

Essentially, this means employees who don’t feel like they can be themselves due to the pressure of “fitting in” are more likely to fear rejection and, consequently, not produce their best work.

So what’s the alternative? 

Well, research by Betterup suggests that creating a culture of diversity – one that adds new ideas and perspectives can help to foster a sense of belonging in staff. And this has countless benefits for employers, such as

  • Job performance increases by 56%
  • Employee turnover decreases by 50%
  • Employees use 75% fewer sick days

This isn’t just a business benefit, though; today’s top talent has a growing appetite for inclusive workplace cultures too. According to a global study of over 11,800 participants, belonging has become the top driver for employee engagement and wellbeing. 

But don’t get it twisted. Workplace belonging isn’t about fitting into the mould; it comes from creating a space where employees feel confident to be their authentic selves.

So how can you harness the power of culture to create a place where your talent actually wants to belong? Well, it all starts with making sure they can see some of themselves in you.

Spotlight your values and shed unconscious bias

We know that workplace culture is much more than Zoom beers on a Friday and a shared Spotify playlist. In fact, Forbes defines positive workplace culture as  “…the shared values, belief systems, attitudes and the set of assumptions that people in a workplace share.”

So look internally at your shared ethos; what do you all stand for and how does work get done here? Larger organisations have found success in recruitment by sharing their own core values with candidates; all whilst raising awareness of bias internally before the process begins.

“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,” says David Rock at Forbes

That can open yourself up to the idea of more diverse perspectives before the recruitment process begins; we’ve talked more about how to say bye to unconscious bias here if you’re interested. But, essentially, just being aware there’s a problem is the first step towards having authentic values that entice a diverse pool of perspectives

Start promoting diverse and inclusive interview practices

Culture add’ comes in all shapes and sizes.

And the best way to start unlocking the exciting possibilities it brings is by ensuring your interview panels and hiring teams are diverse and inclusive. Not only does this help to mitigate unconscious bias, but it also allows for a broader range of perspectives when assessing candidates. Then, once you’ve got the right team in place, create a structured interview process that helps candidates from all walks of life shine in their best light. 

Not sure where to start? Here are three helpful interview questions from LinkedIn that can gauge a candidate’s potential for culture add:

Q1. How do your colleagues benefit from working with you specifically, as opposed to one of your coworkers?

Answer: listen out for specific examples of how the candidate enabled someone do their job better, e.g. offering input that helped a coworker improve upon a project or avoid a costly mistake

Q2. Tell me about a time when understanding someone else’s perspective helped you accomplish a task or resolve an issue.

Answer: the ideal candidate should be able to view things through a different lens and apply what they’ve learned to make their own work better.

Q3. What is your impression of our company’s culture, values, and mission? How do you think we could improve?

Answer: Just honest reflections and an actionable idea about how to make things better.

Obviously, this isn’t an exhaustive list of questions to ask candidates and you need to find out what works for your own organisation – without being too prescriptive. However, it does give you an idea of what’s important when hiring for culture add. It’s all about focusing on the two Ps.

Potential and perspective are essential workplace skills 

Sure, those skills and qualifications are “essential” to your role for a reason – we get it. But if job ads are too prescriptive, they can end up alienating a large portion of talented candidates who just feel too intimidated to apply. 

Instead, try and look beyond traditional qualifications and credentials that could narrow the field. Shift your focus onto seeking different perspectives and experiences – a plus when diverse teams are known to have much higher levels of innovation than undiverse ones. 

But candidates don’t need to have all the answers right away; they just need an appetite and the potential to learn. And that’s something we already know is important to Gen Z talent. Sure, training is an investment but it’s one that’s likely to pay off – especially in a diverse workforce. According to a People Management study, diverse teams are already 87% better at making decisions. So don’t get too hung up on the “essentials”, harness the potential of diverse thinking with complimentary training and start reaping the benefits

All sounds good in principle, doesn’t it? But it can be hard to do it all on your own. 

Collaborate to find those culture-adding candidates 

At Digital Grads, we get the value of different perspectives on workplace culture. That’s why we have a diverse talent pool of almost 5,000 candidates. Importantly, all of our candidates have been screened using a fair and standardised process; this includes skills-based work assessments to ensure fair and impartial shortlisting. Our diverse graduate talent pool includes:

  • 35% of female candidates
  • 57% BAME candidates 
  • Candidates proficient in 62 languages

Essentially, this is a place where employers can help build blossoming workplace cultures from the most diverse pool of tech talent. And they can do so whilst also feeling reassured that the screening process has been unbiased and fair from the start. 

Don’t take our word for it, though. 

We’ve pulled together some expert and unbiased advice to ensure third-party suppliers are assessing candidates fairly here.

Just remember: great workplace culture isn’t something you can advertise for. Instead, it comes from within.

Culture add comes from giving your employees agency 

“One of the greatest lessons learned in my career is to hire for your deficits,” says Martha Weidmann at Entrepreneur

She explains that bringing together fresh perspectives, diverse life experiences and a range of expertise is what really makes workplace culture tick. 

“And when diverse specialists share common values and feel connected to one another and your mission, the potential is endless,” she adds.

But that mission has to be about more than just “growth”. In a time when younger candidates are rightfully valuing balance more than ever, a “work hard, play hard” culture just doesn’t cut it anymore. Instead, commit to adding diverse voices and perspectives into your workplace – something that’s important for a whopping 83% of Gen Z candidates. Foster a diverse culture and you’ll find the bottom line will look after itself. 

Want to get serious about diversity and inclusion in your team? Then head to our grad recruitment app and check out today’s burgeoning talent.