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Culture Fit vs. Culture Add


I am very, very fortunate. I often speak with some of the best and brightest in the advertising industry, most of whom are from around the globe. They expose me to new ways of thinking about assumptions I’ve lived by for most of my life. Their life experiences are different than mine and, more often than not, so are their perspectives. I listen, learn, internalize and evolve. The fact that I have people teaching me new things every single day is one of my favorite perks of my job.


Most organizations I speak with talk about wanting creative individuals with fresh ideas but this is downright impossible to attain if your talent pool is overwhelmingly coming from employee referrals. Why? Because people like people like themselves (who will “fit in”) so making a hiring decision based on how someone fits in with the team almost guarantees group-think.

For a while now, I’ve felt that the expression “cultural fit” as in “they’re not a cultural fit” or they “didn’t fit in with the company’s culture” should be eliminated and no longer be a key factor in hiring decisions. Until recently, I didn’t know what I could replace this with, but now I know. A more modern approach is to speak about “cultural add” as in “what do you add to the current cultural stew to enhance the organization?”

The people I speak with might not be a cultural fit for some organizations but unless this means something along the lines of “he’s an axe murderer and we don’t like axe murderers”, they don’t need to be a cultural fit. Why? Because if revenue growth is what an agency seeks, then ensure future success by choosing the people who will ADD to the culture in terms of fresh ideas, new perspectives, and revolutionary collaborations.

So here’s my call to action:

You are invited to write a post about your favorite person in the whole world; YOU! I don’t want you to write a resume or an ad, just tell me in 1000 words or less, in terms of your uniqueness, what’s your special sauce or secret ingredient? It could involve where you come from, where you’ve lived or even related to your ethnicity if it plays a role in the answer to these two questions:

What’s your culture add? Why do you think this translates to revenue growth and/or better client relationships?”

The reason I want to hear from you? So we can show organizations why it is in their best interest to move beyond almost total reliance upon a referral network and stop the in-breeding so fresh ideas can thrive.


Melanie Stern

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