Cultural Harmony for Innovation: Striking the Right Balance

In the pursuit of high-performing teams, the conversation often centres around the idea of ‘culture fit’—the notion that new hires should align with the prevailing ethos and values of an organisation. However, this focus can inadvertently stifle diversity and innovation.

It’s time to evolve our thinking and consider ‘culture add’—the unique value and perspectives new employees can bring to an organisation.

The concept of ‘culture fit’ has long been a cornerstone of recruitment strategies, predicated on the belief that aligning new hires with the existing corporate culture leads to harmonious and productive work environments. However, this focus on culture fit can have unintended consequences. It can create an echo chamber effect, where diversity of thought is inadvertently stifled, leading to conformity over innovation.

Research suggests that when organisations prioritise culture fit, they are more likely to overlook potential hires who bring diverse experiences and viewpoints, instead favouring those who mirror the current workforce.

This replication can lead to a lack of resilience and adaptability, as teams become insulated from the creative friction that drives change and innovation. In essence, an overemphasis on culture fit can hinder an organisation’s ability to respond to evolving market demands and can perpetuate systemic biases against those who do not fit the conventional mould.

The Advantages of Culture Add

Culture add, on the other hand, is a concept that seeks to enrich an organisation’s cultural fabric by welcoming individuals who bring distinct perspectives and skill sets. This approach values diversity as a catalyst for organisational growth and dynamism.

A ‘culture add’ philosophy encourages the integration of new ideas and experiences, fostering a workplace where innovation is not just welcomed but expected.

By championing culture add, companies can tap into a wealth of benefits. For instance, a study found that companies with more diverse management teams have 19% higher revenues due to innovation. This indicates that diversity is not just a metric to be achieved but a strategic advantage. Culture add allows for a multiplicity of views, which in turn can lead to more creative solutions to problems, a better understanding of customer needs across different demographics, and a richer internal discourse that challenges the status quo.

Striking the Right Balance

Balancing culture fit with culture add requires a deliberate and strategic approach. It means redefining recruitment criteria, not to discard the importance of alignment with core values, but to expand the notion of what valuable contributions can look like. Organisations must actively seek candidates who not only understand and appreciate the company’s ethos but also challenge and extend it.

To strike this balance, companies can implement structured diversity initiatives and training programs that cultivate an appreciation for different perspectives. This can include unconscious bias training for hiring managers and mentorship programs that foster diverse talent.

Additionally, re-evaluating job descriptions, recruitment practices, and performance metrics can help ensure that the value of culture add is embedded in the organisational DNA.

By integrating culture add into their hiring strategies, leaders can ensure their teams are not just high-performing but also future-proof. It’s a strategic move that aligns with the evolving workforce and market demands, ensuring that the organisation remains competitive and innovative.




Practical steps

for ‘Staying Above the Line” and Maintaining Balance


Structured Interviews

Utilise structured interviews with values-based questions, as a powerful inclusive hiring tool.



Reflect on Role Essentials

Reflect on and challenge what is truly essential for the role, considering factors such as abilities versus degrees.


Success Standards

Align interview questions with minimum success standards to ensure fairness and inclusivity.



Skill-Based Assessments

Incorporate skill-based assessments alongside traditional evaluations. This approach focuses on capabilities rather than predetermined notions, promoting meritocracy while embracing diverse talents.


Enhance Conflict Management Skills

Increase manager skills in effectively managing and leveraging conflict within teams: Explore Building Psychological Safety solutions



Inclusive Leadership Assessment

Implement recruitment tools like Symmetra’s Inclusive Leadership Assessment (ILA) to measure inclusion capability as an actual selection criterion. Learn about our diagnostics here: Inclusion Leadership Index (ILI) Assessment