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Give People a Reason to Stay - Help Them "Fit"

Aug 17, 2007
We have previously written about defining what people need to do in their job to give them a sense of achievement and link their results to those of the organization. Let's now look at how they do it.

Someone once said, quite wisely, "we hire people for what they can do and fire them for how they do it."

Very often people can be technically proficient at their jobs but just do not "fit in". This can lead to problems much more difficult to solve than the technical ones. Training can often be used to bring someone up to speed on the technical side. If they don't fit, it becomes more difficult.

The starting point to resolve this issue is to define what we mean by fit. The process we use starts with defining what we call core competencies. These are really the organization's values in action. They may include elements such as teamwork, integrity, results focus, initiative or a whole range of other attributes. We find they differ between organizations and even if they start off with the same name, the definitions will vary.

Once the competencies are defined, the actual behaviours that can be seen or heard can be identified.

What does someone who has initiative do? We may decide that in our organization they will "make constructive well thought out suggestions rather than complain." They will actually take action to make improvements rather than just accept that things could be better.

If we decide teamwork is a core competence we may describe this in ways that really mean something to our business. The behaviours then will be specific. One may be "assists others without being asked" or "shares information readily with other relevant people"

Once competencies and associated behaviours are defined they can be communicated to all employees. This will establish the standards necessary to fit in and progress.

They can also be used in the recruitment process to ensure the right person is employed in the first place. A recent survey of 200 companies by DDI found only 36% of organizations make cultural fit a mandatory criterion for potential employees. This means the majority are still trying to get people to fit after they join - a much tougher option.

Questions at the interview should not be of the "are you a good team player" variety. If the job is part of a team the candidate is probably going to answer that with a "yes" unless they are not too bright.

We're looking for people who demonstrate the behaviour we have defined so we may ask "tell me how you assisted other team members". You then need to probe and find out specifically how they did this and if they only responded to requests or they volunteered help. This would be an area to then check when you spoke to referees.

People like working with others who have similar values. People generally like to feel they are on a team. By defining what this means and actively promoting these standards there is much more chance of attracting and keeping the right people.

The actual process of examining the values of an organization, what is required for the future and what has worked in the past is a very powerful experience for those involved and can provide many benefits that relate to developing the desired culture and building a cohesive management team. This in turn will provide the direction, environment and expertise to attract and retain talent - and to manage them.
About the Author
Paul Phillips is a Director of Horizon Management Group; a specialist human resource management consulting firm. He has over 30 years experience in HR and, while based in Australia, has worked in a number of overseas locations. www.horizonmg.com
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