Ban the Term “Culture Fit” and Other Great Diversity Tips From Pandora

December 14, 2016

The beer test. You know it? It’s hiring candidates based on whether you’d want to grab a beer with them. Sure they can probably do the job, but the real question is whether or not you can see yourself hanging out with them.

The beer test, much better known as hiring for “culture fit,” is often times the final screen to whether or not someone gets an offer letter.

There’s just one problem — hiring for “culture fit” often gets in the way of increasing diversity. If you assume that people who don’t look or act like you won’t mesh with your organization, then you end up choosing people who are too similar to yourself. This then leads to complacency, lack of innovation, and underperforming teams in companies.

That’s why Pandora looks for “culture add” in candidates instead —new and unique skills and viewpoints that don’t already exist at the company. “Culture add” means shaping the culture rather than fitting into it. According to Lisa Lee, Director of Diversity and Inclusion, and Marta Riggins, Director or Employee Experience and Marketing, we all need to stop using the phrase “culture fit” to better hire and retain a more diverse workforce.

Pandora has been able to adopt this “culture add” mentality by building an integrated B2E (business to employee) strategy, elevating programming around inclusion, and scaling its efforts through cultural storytelling. As a result it has impressive diversity stats and ambitious goals for the future, both of which will make its business better.

Building an integrated B2E marketing strategy

Diversity at Pandora is not a separate strategy, rather it’s embedded in everything the company does. Their strategy has a digital, events, and training component, and here are examples of each:

  • Digital. Using behavioral targeting through LinkedIn Talent Capture, Pandora targeted specific groups (e.g., females, historically African-American colleges) and engaged them with branded cultural content. Within two weeks the campaign generated 100+ qualified leads which ultimately led to two new hires.

  • Live events. Pandora recently sponsored Coalesce Chicago’s 5th anniversary party. Featuring live music from diverse artists, hiring managers and recruiters were able to network with talent in a casual space, ultimately generating over 200 leads.

  • Bias and assumption training. “You can build a diverse pipeline all you want,” says Lisa, “But if your employees don’t understand its value, then those underrepresented candidates will never get hired.” In conjunction with Code2040, a nonprofit that supports underrepresented engineering talent, Pandora built its bias and assumption training into its management training so as “not to train in a vacuum. We want to change behavior, not just make people aware of it,” says Lisa.

Elevate programming around inclusion

At Pandora, diversity isn’t enough – the company strives for inclusion too so that employees feel their diverse perspectives and opinions are valued. Here are three ways to foster inclusion:

  • Shift the money. Marta’s team is tasked with creating connections and celebrating wins among employees, but “We realized we didn’t need another happy hour about nothing,” she says. So the team started putting money toward more specific programming such as black history month and women’s leadership. The events have evolved to align better with Pandora’s values.

  • Partner with communities. The three employee resource groups, or communities, that Lisa and Marta’s teams work with represent people of color, women, and LGBTQ+. They’ve sponsored a screening of The Black Panthers, hosted a Lady Boss speaker series, and had rocker Trans Punk artist, Laura Jane Grace, come talk about her transgender experience, her transition and the acceptance of her band and fans. These events simply help these employees feel at home.

  • Advocate for communities. Pandora’s PRIDE community noted some gaps in its benefits, so Lisa and Marta’s teams worked with HR to fix them. Pandora now offers gender affirmation surgery, for example, which is rare for a company of its size. “You don’t have to self-identify with a group to make change on its behalf,” says Lisa. “Empowering these communities truly creates a better work culture for everyone.”

Scale inclusion efforts through cultural storytelling

Live events are hard to scale with 46 offices, so Pandora launched an internal podcast for employees to share their experiences more widely. From the new dad talking about paternity leave to the LGBTQ+ employee talking about coming out, People of Pandora is a safe and authentic place where employees share how personal circumstances shape their work. In early 2017, the People of Pandora podcasts will be available to all listeners on Pandora’s platform.

As gatekeepers of your company, it’s time to ban “culture fit” from your lexicon, argue Marta and Lisa. When you do hear people say it, probe them. What does it mean when someone is not a culture fit? It’s up to you to start changing the conversation and invest in building cultures of inclusion.  

This post is based on "Culture add is the new culture fit: How to attract and retain diverse talent in today’s marketplace" presented at Talent Connect 2016. See Lisa Lee and Marta Riggins' full presentation below:

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