Megan and her team drive the global people and culture strategy. She has 20 years of experience leading HR functions for large and emerging technology organizations. Prior to Jumio, she led international people operations for Wrike.Follow
On today’s episode of the RecruitingDaily Podcast, William Tincup speaks to Megan on from Jumio about forgetting culture fit and hiring for culture add.
Megan has 20 years of experience leading HR functions for large and emerging technology organizations.
Jumio protects the ecosystems of businesses through the Jumio KYX Platform, a unified, end-to-end identity verification and eKYC platform
Some Conversation Highlights:
Take us through your personal experience with culture fit.
I think the idea of culture fit, initially started, I think it’s been with me throughout my whole career and I do like the genesis of it, right? I think the fact that organizations and hiring professionals think about culture when they’re hiring at all is a wonderful thing. I think we have come so far as a species and as the planet, that idea of fit really is outdated.
And I base that on to approach talent with that mindset of fit implies that we have a static state that’s already perfect. And I couldn’t disagree more. I think the culture of an organization is dynamic. It is a living organism. It is breathing, it’s expanding, it’s contracting. And if you come at talent, whether you’re acquiring it or building it, if you come at talent from a fit, you’re really robbing your organization of the opportunity to improve and evolve and amplify the culture.
You also could be locking yourself into things that really won’t serve your company. You’re inhibiting your ability to adapt. I think it is worst with now we have such a broader concept and we talk much more intentionally about what diversity means. If you are targeting growth by mapping to a culture fit at its worst, you can actually be repeating bad practices.
Tune in for the full conversation.
Listening time: 27 minutes
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Music: This is RecruitingDaily’s Recruiting Live Podcast, where we look at the strategies behind the world’s best talent acquisition teams. We talk recruiting, sourcing, and talent acquisition. Each week, we take one overcomplicated topic and break it down so that your three-year-old can understand it. Make sense? Are you ready to take your game to the next level? You’re at the right spot. You’re now entering the mind of a hustler. Here’s your host, William Tincup
William Tincup: Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup and you are listening to RecruitingDaily Podcast. Today we have Megan on from Jumio and we’ve got a wonderful topic to explore. It’s forget culture fit, hire for culture add. So can’t wait to talk to Megan about this. Megan, would you do us a favor and introduce both yourself and Jumio.
Megan Barbier: Yes, thanks William. I’m excited to be here with you today. I’m Megan Barbier, I lead the people in culture function at Jumio, where our mission is to make the digital landscape a safer place by protecting business ecosystems through end to end identity verification, transaction monitoring, and case management. Particular interest to me, our people and culture team at Jumio is focused on delivering an excellent employee experience by attracting our top talent, engaging people, and then enabling them to do career defining work. We make it look easy, it’s not, but it sure is fun.
William Tincup: So first of all, wonderful introduction. B, so we’ve talked about culture fit for a long time now. We won’t say the number of years because that would date us, but we’ve talked about culture fit and we’ve had some pros and con discussions on culture fit. I remember doing a podcast a long time ago where I talked positively about culture fit. And then I’ve also done one where I’ve talked negatively about culture fit and the biases that kind of come with it, et cetera. So take us into your journey as a practitioner and living this day to day. Where did you start with culture fit? And we’ll get into culture add, but where did you learn about culture fit it? What were your initial thoughts? Like take us through your personal experience with culture fit.
Megan Barbier: Sure. So I think the idea of culture fit, initially started, I think it’s been with me throughout my whole career and I do like the genesis of it, right? I think the fact that organizations and hiring professionals think about culture when they’re hiring at all is a wonderful thing. I think we have come so far as a species and as the planet, that idea of fit really is outdated. And I base that on to approach talent with that mindset of fit implies that we have a static state that’s already perfect. And I couldn’t disagree more. I think the culture of an organization is dynamic. It is a living organism. It is breathing, it’s expanding, it’s contracting. And if you come at talent, whether you’re acquiring it or building it, if you come at talent from a fit, you’re really robbing your organization of the opportunity to improve and evolve and amplify the culture.
You also could be locking yourself into things that really won’t serve your company. You’re inhibiting your ability to adapt. I think it is worst with now we have such a broader concept and we talk much more intentionally about what diversity means. If you are targeting growth by mapping to a culture fit at its worst, you can actually be repeating bad practices. You could be justifying prejudice. So I believe now we’re challenged really to abandon that concept of culture fit in favor of the concept of culture add. And if you do this, you’ll see our companies now are benefiting from a growth mindset. You’re opening possibilities for continuous improvement. You’re encouraging diversity and creativity and we’ll talk more about that, but that’s really the basis on how I look at these two differences. The fact that we factor in culture at all, I think is a beautiful and a wonderful direction that as a society, we should keep going down. I think as a business now we’re called to a higher action and even getting into areas that are uncomfortable in the spirit of getting better. And I think that’s a really great thing.
William Tincup: So I came to a realization with culture fit. As you kind of talked a little bit about is this is also culture fit was used as a mechanism to keep people out for a long time. And I’ll say it like this as you know a white male, middle aged, kind of, if I can’t have a beer with a person, if I can’t see myself having coffee with a person, then they’re not culture fit. Well, that was just code. Now I know that, at the time I didn’t, and now I know that was just code. I wanted to be around people like me and that’s what we called culture fit, and it was a way to exclude people and as a society, thankfully, 100 years late, but thankfully we’re at a different place now.
When people think about culture, they’re thinking about it in a different way, much more to your point, they’re looking about culture is from an inclusion perspective, not at an exclusion perspective. Not the old boys network, but actually looking at it and saying, how do we actually makes ourselves better? And I’ve made the mistake. So I can actually talk openly about like, okay, you know, I got it. I did it, I made this mistake. What do you think culture is today? I mean with and I’ll preface this by saying a lot of folks pre COVID. Would’ve probably said if unprompted, they would’ve probably said culture is the stuff at the office, around the office. We go to ball games, we have a softball league, we have massage tables, catered lunches, whatever of the bit is, but it’s the box that’s culture. I don’t think that is culture or was culture, but that’s kind of what most people would’ve probably thought it was. So your journey with culture is you know, in particular like what you thought culture was before COVID and what you think culture is now.
Megan Barbier: Yeah. And it’s such a fascinating time to think about this question too. Interestingly, I would say the way I talk about culture and way I think about it, hasn’t changed in that respect. And what I mean by that is the culture is the ethos. And it is built on our everyday actions. It stems from beliefs that manifest in actions, but it’s not a philosophy and it’s not a foosball table and it’s not lunch in the office. How we behave, how we interact and how we treat each other it’s reflected in what values and what actions do we reward, do we encourage, or do we penalize? And I think that now it looks very different because by and large, many of us are in this predominantly two dimensional interaction stage via Zoom or via conference call that in office us experience has really taken an element out or maybe changed the components of the culture.
But it’s still based on our actions and interactions with each other, as colleagues and even outside of our organization, vendors, candidates, people that are potential customers. So I think in those ways, it’s similar. I wanted to go back to something you said though, and I think it’s something that is really important for us to talk about as people, as professionals and as a society in what you refer to as the old boy network and a way of building culture based on exclusivity and how that script is really flipped. It is now much more about inclusivity. And I think that’s a challenge, right? It is human nature. We like things that are like us. There is an extensive body of science about unconscious bias. And I think this is a really good thing to talk about when we think about culture add, because at the core of this, these unconscious biases, they’re part of how our brain works.
It’s served our ancestors well, and now I think we’re becoming much more understanding as humans to see, well, this can actually negatively impact our judgment. It can impact our ability to embrace something new or something different, and it potentially impacts the success of our organization. So really learning how to manage these biases and acknowledging them, talking about them, not just in recruiting, but in how we interact with each other is going to be critical to adopting that culture add mindset, because there’s a healthy element of get comfortable being uncomfortable. You may be making a hire that again, five years ago, you thought might be risky. If we redefine what that risk is, it can open doors. It can let you look at candidates. You can access talent pools that you might have excluded before, because they didn’t “fit a culture.”
William Tincup: So let’s go, first of all, thank you. Second, let’s take the audience into culture add and let’s really start to unpack some examples of when we think of, because I think people have some definition of culture fit, or at least a reference point. But I don’t think they have as much of a reference point around culture add. So let’s work on that with them. So what are some of the examples that you’ve seen or that you’ve actually implemented yourself? What do you see when you say culture add? What does it mean?
Megan Barbier: Yeah, I think you had an excellent example of yourself where when we think about adding talent into the workforce and I’ll take it from a pure external candidate coming in on a recruiting experience, there’s a process to vet candidates into what will make a successful hire and how we define that. I think in years past, or in a culture where you’re looking at culture fit, you’re looking to replicate, you’re taking a look to say what’s compliant, what fits in with what we do, who would I want to interact with and go have a beer with, or go have coffee with. If you were to change that lens and put it in under the scope of culture add, you’re looking to say, well, what kind of disruption can I tolerate? What fresh perspective could this individual bring to the table?
In what ways are they like me? And in what ways are they unlike me? And so I think it’s nuanced, it’s different. And I think it could be different based on the role or based on the level. But I think from somebody that looks very different, that’s one piece we have gender, we have ethnicity. There’s no shortage of ways that we can look at diversity. I think in culture add a very important element is also, it is not a check the box. It is not an affirmative action target. It’s actually, how does this perspective differ from mine? How can this expand my thinking? How can this person maybe approach something we’re doing with a new energy or a new idea that doesn’t exist in the organization? And so those are the ways that I’m thinking more of the innovation and the creative roles that you could see that very easily. And I think it’s a- Oh, go ahead. Yeah.
William Tincup: Well, no, sorry to interrupt. Years ago, I remember going to a venture capital firm. Going to the webpage and then looking at it, and it was all basically people like me, so all middle aged white guys. And I thought to myself on one level, this must be very easy to work here because like, they all went to the same school. They all go to the same golf events. They all have the same hobbies. Like this has got to be really, really, really easy because there’s no friction. I mean, there’s probably politics and stuff, that’s everywhere, but it’s got to be easy, but how do you innovate? So then I really, really started playing with this idea that the idea is you’re purposely trying to create friction or conflict. Conflict not in a bad way, but conflict in that you’re going to have different ideas.
And those you know, the meritocracy idea, the best idea wins. You can’t do that with people that look the same or that are the same and define that as you wish, right? I did. I did it with race and gender, but basically you could define that any way you want to. You’re talking about and correct me if I’m wrong. When you’re talking about culture add, you’re actually purposely thinking about friction and conflict might be too heavy of a word, probably might be too loaded but the idea is you’re actually, this is you’re now in the lab. You want to create because that’s where you’re going to get innovation is you’re going to have this discussions with people that aren’t like you. That see it from a different perspective that can then bring new ideas to you that you wouldn’t have had. Am I nibbling around the edges?
Megan Barbier: Absolutely. Yeah. And I think friction is a good word. I would even go so far as to say, in some cases it’s what I call healthy disruption and you throw this into the mix and can somebody challenge the status quo in a constructive way? And it goes back again, we can talk about this at length as well, but the idea of understanding those core values is really that first step. If you’re going to embrace that culture add piece, those core values, that’s your North Star. And so it becomes less about what school do the person attend. Do they have eight years versus five years of experience? Those things matter, maybe on some level, but truly it’s can they operate and execute in a way that makes us better? Can they operate and execute in a way that’s in line with our values as an organization?
And those are going to vary depending on what each company or what businesses would prioritize, but going back to that, that’s how you create that add feature. And I do, I think friction is a great way to describe it. I say healthy disruption, but truly, I mean, diverse teams are more successful, purely. They are more agile it’s because they’re better to recognize and capitalize on opportunity and to navigate gray space. In a fear factor kind of way, if you’re unable to do any of these, you’re going to struggle either as an individual, a team or a company to be competitive. And so it really does serve us to challenge ourselves to say, let me think about, instead of replicating this success in a comfortable way, I’m going to go pull from the same candidate profile that I always have.
I’m going to go fishing in the same pool of talent that I always have. It’s a chance to come back and say, what do we really value? And what are, let’s be honest, what are the gaps in our culture that we would want to fill and then figuring out how do I seek those out in my candidate process, whether it’s my sourcing or my vetting, or once we land great talent. You know, what are we thinking about after day one to foster that environment where those perspectives are encouraged and heard. All of that ties in, I think that the culture fit versus culture add there’s a big sweater there. These yarns are not separate. And so how do you get the ROI out of a culture add mindset? You’re thinking about things across the whole candidate experience.
William Tincup: I love that. So how do you prep or do you probably not to be a assumptive, your team that, you know we’ve operated for again, 150 years with the same kind of model. How do you get them to kind of embrace, okay. You know, this healthy friction is good for us. We all know that the diversity of an organization leads to success. Like we have read all the same articles. Like we all know that yet. There are some behaviors that are still pretty entrenched in talent acquisition and in HR. So how do you get your team to really embrace culture add?
Megan Barbier: Yeah, I think you hit on a really important point that’s essential. This cannot live and die with your recruiting or your talent acquisition teams. This has to be rolled out through the organization and it has to go through your leaders, your interview panelists, your hiring managers. It has to be mobilized in the team and I think a couple really great things that work in our favor now, as leaders that may want to look at really deepening that focus on culture add. And one of them is this is a crazy, crazy talent market. It is hard to lay on talent, even the best company struggle with this. And so one of the great things that a culture add affords in you know, compared to a culture fit is you remove some of your own hurdles. You get out of your own way, where before we were really fixated, perhaps on one certain criteria, we were looking to really replicate success.
You can blow the doors off all of that, and you can go back and revisit. What does it mean to have your nice to haves and your need to haves in your candidate profile? You could literally detonate that and rebuild it and base it on what would it take to make us an excellent model of one of our core values? What skills do we need? And so I think it can open up some of these blockers that we put in our way when we try to go for fit. So on that side, it’s really enticing when you think about hiring managers that may be struggling to fill roles that may be restricting themselves to unicorn hunting in this really finite talent pool. You can actually permission to say, I actually don’t care if they have eight years of experience or 20 years of experience, I actually care that they can model. And we vet these qualities out from a values perspective in the interview process. So I think it opens the aperture on that side. I think the other-
William Tincup: So-
Megan Barbier: Oh yeah, go ahead.
William Tincup: Oh, no, no, no. Finish your thought.Finish your thought.
Megan Barbier: Oh, and I was going to say again, going back to you know, it’s okay that we have unconscious bias that we have to navigate, instead of pretending it doesn’t exist or ignoring it, really trying to manage that. And again, going back to you know, I think it’s not uncommon for individuals that are part of assessing talent to say, yeah, can I sit down and engage with them? Do I want to spend time with this person outside of work? If I don’t align with them, they must not be a good fit to my team. Really try trying to change that mindset and say, well, wait a minute, maybe you’re changing the script. Maybe you’re changing the story on what’s important. And I think that it does it, this cannot succeed. If it’s left to talent to change the focus, it really needs to be rolled out through the entire org.
And then a quick final point on this one, because this one is very near and dear to my heart. I think sometimes referral programs can get really confused in that shift from culture fit to culture add in some ways they’re literally the definition is replicating that success. And I think they’re a really excellent tool if you’re smart about how to apply them, they can be the single greatest factor in some ways in getting that culture add motion spun up. And it’s something that you know, for us and our team, we’re very clear about, we don’t ask what roles do we have open. We don’t even ask who do you know, who’s looking for a job. We’re very clear and we’re very aggressive in asking who do you know, who would be a great addition to our team?
We want to engage with them, we want to be talking to them and we’ve actually benefited from this motion. Even over this past year, we’ve hired a very healthy chunk of individuals that weren’t under an open rec that we came about very opportunistically and said, well, wait a minute, this doesn’t fit any of the criteria we had. However, we were very clear on what our values were. We were clear on our priorities, realize these individuals can really help us accelerate on these fronts when it comes to values based behaviors. Let’s get them in. We have a space for them. Let’s create that.
William Tincup: I love that. Because I was going to ask you about employee referrals.
Megan Barbier: I jumped way ahead on that one.
William Tincup: Birds of the feather flock together. But you’ve nailed it, nailed it. With culture add, is it a relentless pursuit? Like do we ever actually get there?
Megan Barbier: I like to think, no. And I like to think that in a positive way, I think that’s a moving horizon. I think there’s always this opportunity to continue to be better, to continue to adjust and adapt and raise the bar. I also think organizations, even in the most stable environments, aren’t static. And so I don’t think you ever get there. I think the way that you move through it changes. And I think that the ability and the resources you have towards making that a focus change, but I don’t think you ever satisfactorily say that we have added to our culture and we are done. I think what success looks like is we have a really solid practice of constantly challenging ourselves. We have a solid way of identifying areas to keep improving our culture and that I think you can get to. But I think as culture, again, it just doesn’t stay in one place and so to keep getting better, you have to keep moving and growing with it.
William Tincup: Love it. Last question. And it’s kind of dumb question alert. Is there a way to measure, I mean, I’m sure you get to ask this question and you probably ask this question of yourself. Is there a way to measure or should we be assumptive? Should we be measuring culture add? If so, how do you do it?
Megan Barbier: Yeah, no dumb questions. I think it’s a brilliant way to be thinking about it. And I firmly believe what gets measured gets managed. So I think it’s a healthy approach. You know, I think the honest answer is really, what’s the perception of your employees? You know, if I’m sitting from an HR profession and I’m looking and saying, we’re doing all these great things, let’s high five, let’s call it a day. At the end of the day, if my team and my employees don’t have that same perception we’re not doing it. So I think that would be the guidepost that I would hold to around.
What is the perception of the team? What are they experiencing as part of their employment or part of their journey with your company? And maybe it’s around your values, maybe you pick a handful of core things you want to measure and you’d want to benchmark, and then mark improvement against it. I would rely very heavily on what is the perception of your employee, because at the end of the day, if they don’t feel included or if they don’t feel that we’re advancing on values that we hold and that we talk about as a company, then we have work to do. That’s how I’d approach it.
William Tincup: Such a fantastic, we could talk for hours, such a fantastic topic. Thank you so much for carving out time for us.
Megan Barbier: Thank you, William. It’s been a pleasure to chat with you, and I’m very eager to continue the discussion and hope your listeners and your leaders here today also get some value from this.
William Tincup: Oh, they will. I did.
Megan Barbier: I did too. This is great.
William Tincup: I did, but thank you again. And thanks for everyone listening to the RecruitingDaily Podcast until next time.
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William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.
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