Employee ‘fit’ gives edge in recovery

Talent management critical in helping firms succeed: Report
By Shannon Klie
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 05/31/2010

As the economy improves and organizations move from survival mode to growth mode, it’s critical for organizations to hire people who fit with the organization’s values and culture, not just the job, according to Sean Slater, vice-president of employer services firm vpi.

When there is people-organization fit, employees willingly embrace and commit to the company’s strategic plan and this gives an organization a competitive advantage over organizations that don’t have that same fit, said Slater, who is based in Mississauga, Ont.

“The alignment between the people that work for the organization and their objectives and their values with the values, culture and objectives of the organization is key to being able to bring life to the strategy. Bringing life to the strategy is what ultimately helps businesses be successful,” he said.

Organizations with person-organization fit saw a 7.5-per-cent increase in revenue growth, 6.1 per cent faster profit growth and 17.1 per cent lower employee turnover, according to a 2006 study by Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.

Unfortunately, too often organizations overlook person-organization fit in favour of person-job fit when hiring, said Slater, who is also co-author of the vpi report Emerge Stronger.

“It speeds up the hiring process,” he said. “They don’t understand the return on the investments of the additional time it takes upfront to really probe for appropriate person-organization fit.”

During the downturn, many organizations ­reacted by laying off employees and, because of poor talent management practices, some lost top performers and mistakenly held onto poor performers, said Alice Snell, vice-president of Taleo Research in Dublin, Calif.

“You have to know who your top performers are,” she said. “If you don’t know who they are, you may be laying off the wrong people and keeping the wrong people.”

There are already signs organizations are starting to change gears, from entrenching and merely surviving the recession to growing, said Slater. The latest Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey showed 109,000 new jobs were created in April.

But in a still-shaky economy, it’s imperative an organization’s strategic plan be executed fully and successfully, which requires person-organization fit, said Slater. If the organization’s expectations aren’t aligned with new and existing employees’ expectations of the job, employee satisfaction will drop, eventually leading to poor employee health and productivity, he said.

“HR has a real opportunity to elevate to the strategic level by choosing tools and programs that really help them participate in the execution of business strategy,” he said.

To hire for person-organization fit, an organization first has to understand its own culture and ensure leaders model and communicate that culture throughout the organization, said Slater. Then HR needs to ensure job postings clearly communicate the employment brand, company values and what it’s like to work for the organization, he said.

“Immediately, you can start to screen out people who read that and don’t see a fit with the organization,” said Slater.

Through several interviews, objective testing and thorough reference checks, HR can delve into whether there’s a person-organization fit, said Slater.

But the work isn’t done once the right employee is hired. As an organization’s strategic direction changes, management needs to check employees’ values still align with the changing culture, said Slater.

“We cannot make an assumption that if we fit today, that we’re going to fit in a year’s time,” he said.

It’s important to keep the lines of communication open so employees can be involved in the organization’s evolution and management can check in with employees through surveys and town halls to ensure there’s still alignment.

An organization has to help employees understand, accept and embrace the new work culture or employees will become disengaged and leave, stated the vpi report.

Organizations also need to ensure top performers are engaged, in good times and in bad, said Snell. One of the best ways is to communicate opportunities within the organization for top talent.

To do this, organizations should capture talent profiles so management knows and understands employees’ skills and aspirations and can see where they can grow within the organization, she said. And by keeping candidate talent profiles, the organization knows where to turn when new positions open up, she said.

As companies move into a growth mode, goals change and those also need to be communicated to employees, said Snell.

“It is critical that that change cascades down to employees.”

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