What’s the Difference Between Cultural Fit and Cultural Impact?

by Dr. Rick Goodman on May 16, 2019

For years now, hiring and recruitment trends have been shaped by one simple idea: Cultural fit.

But recently, a number of HR professionals have started second-guessing this practice; in fact, some have suggested that cultural fit, however well-intentioned, may actually perpetuate certain workplace prejudices and biases.

So what’s the alternative? Something called cultural impact, which represents a paradigm shift to the way most companies think about hiring.

Let’s take a moment to compare these two ideas side-by-side.

Cultural Fit vs. Cultural Impact

When we talk about cultural fit, we’re just talking about the notion that you’d hire someone based on how well they gel with your current team and align with your existing values. It makes a lot of sense, but maybe you can also see some potential drawbacks: If you only hire people who fit your current culture, you may end up getting a lot of folks from the same age, ethnicity, and professional background. In other words, fit may stifle diversity.

There’s a school of thought that says if you hire someone and they have a hard time fitting in with your culture, the issue may not be them; it may be that your team is too insular and exclusionary.

Instead, then, you might consider hiring on the basis of cultural impact. The idea here is that you recruit not on the basis of who will fit in, but rather who will have the biggest positive impact on your existing culture—ratifying what’s good, challenging what’s bad.

I confess that I find this idea to be appealing, if for no other reason than it highlights a simple truth: Every single hire you make will impact your culture in some way. You’re always culture-building, with every new team member you bring on board. The only question is, what kind of impact will that be? Positive or negative? Trifling or seismic?

That’s not to say that I think the cultural fit mentality needs to be thrown out completely, but it’s definitely worth considering whether it plays into existing biases—and whether cultural impact might be a more rational way for you to approach your next hire.

I’d love to talk with you one-on-one about hiring and culture-building. Reach out today and let’s chat! You can contact me at www.rickgoodman.com or call 888-267-6098.

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Dr. Rick GoodmanWhat’s the Difference Between Cultural Fit and Cultural Impact?