Organizations seeking to achieve high levels of performance from their workforce are increasingly turning towards the concept of 'fit' as a critical factor in the success equation.
From manager testimonials to exit interview data, a consistent pattern emerges as to why individuals fail in the workplace -- they just don't fit. They don't fit to the company, fit to the team or fit to the job. On the other hand, people who do fit tend to be more satisfied with their job, more engaged, and they tend to turn over less often.
So if 'fit' is so good, how can we get more of it?
We really have only two options. We can develop or train 'fit' in our workforce, but this option is full of problems because people are very difficult to change in areas that define fit (e.g., think about culture fit such as work ethic, integrity, etc.). Our other option is to select for fit before the individual gets into the company or job.
This second option is much more appealing and provides the drive for new innovations in how we go about assessing fit.
Best-in-class selection systems (for external hiring, internal promotion, choosing people for special assignments, etc.) are built with consistent attention to selecting people who fit the company, the team and the job.
There are two types of fit assessments: those that allow the candidate to self-select in or out of the process and those that are scored and a cut-off applied that allow only some of the candidates to get to the next step.
Both types of assessment have undergone recent advancements that are worth mentioning, and there are additional developments on the horizon that will make this type of assessment even more effective.
Self-select culture-fit assessments have been bolstered by the employment-branding movement. The typical assessment of this type is very passive from the candidate's perspective.
The company job advertisements, the company career portal and general candidate communications are peppered with cultural/values information about the company and the job, both the positives and the negatives (those difficult things that an employee must face on the job). The candidate is expected to read those items and to decide if this is the job for them.
Advancements in this area require the candidate to check a box to indicate that they have read and understand this information.
The breakthrough in this area is that specific feedback can be given to the candidate about their specific fit -- where they match the culture and where they do not. The candidate can choose to pay attention to this information or not (this is the self-select nature of this type of assessment) and ultimately, to choose to proceed in the selection process with 'eyes wide open.'
For the company, the advantage is that candidates are better informed and candidates who clearly do not fit (these are people who are likely to turn over in the first 30 days if they were to be selected) may decide to withdraw themselves from the process early.
The second type of culture-fit assessment is scored and the best-fit candidates progressed to the next step. Pre-employment tests, job simulations, and even employment interviews can be designed to assess fit.
In these cases, the challenge is to specifically define fit -- how will I know it when I see it. Because culture can be an amorphous and subjective concept (think about something like 'integrity'), most traditional measures result in confusion and ambiguity.
Culture-fit assessment works best when there are clear, behavioral definitions of what's required in the job. With this definition in hand, we can build an assessment that reports out against behavioral requirements and that measures personality, attitudes, motivation, experiences and behaviors -- measurement of constructs that, when combined, all add up to better 'fit.'
Fortunately, making the case for assessment of fit is not difficult.
Operations and business managers can connect with the concept. Job performance and business impact of individuals who demonstrate fit is more positive than those who do not (with some exceptions).
The most effective approaches to selecting for culture fit will be holistic in nature, combining self-select and scored assessments to achieve a more highly engaged and productive workforce.
Scott Erker, Ph.D., is the senior vice president of Development Dimensions International's Selection Solutions. Scott's global perspective on workforce selection comes from his work with organizations around the world on personnel hiring strategies.