Anyone who’s been rejected for a job—or fired from one—has likely heard the phrase “not a good fit.” It can feel like a punch in the gut, and lead to many sleepless nights wondering what exactly they might have said or did wrong.
“Fit” is such a broad term that it can act as a container for just about anything that people feel is either in harmony with the workplace, or goes against the grain. Attitude, friendliness, teamwork, or even that Star Wars lunch box and what you wear on Casual Fridays are all fair game.
However, as wildly variable as fit may be appear to be, it plays a critical role in managing performance and in the bonding of your team. Nurtured properly, it has the power to unlock the productivity and potential of individuals and the collective. But discussions about fit at most small businesses tend to be ill defined, negative, and divisive. Rather than clearly articulating what it means to the overall culture of the company and how it helps to drive performance in each individual role, fit is often simply defined as likability: An employee who is liked is deemed to be a good fit, while one who isn’t is not. This misunderstanding and watering down of fit ultimately hurts everyone, and can lead to poor staffing decisions— keeping the wrong people and letting the good ones get away—that hinder your company’s growth.
Here are five ways you can manage, and improve, your employees’ performance by placing more emphasis on fit:
1. Hire for fit in the first place
Fit is the number one reason why employees are let go, and yet it rarely gets the attention it deserves during the recruitment and screening process. Many employers focus too heavily on skills and industry experience, and not enough on understanding candidates as people. How will a potential employee’s personality and work style enhance or upset the current team dynamic? Ask probing questions to learn how they think and feel, what they believe in, what motivates them, and what their hot buttons’ are.
2. Put on your coaching hat
Finding a perfect fit is rare, so smart employers will spend time helping new recruits to become socialized to their culture, and not just familiar with their new jobs. While getting them up to speed quickly and producing results is important, so is building a foundation of trust and teamwork with colleagues and navigating the waters of interpersonal relationships. Watch and listen intently, and help them to work through any struggles they may be experiencing to fit in.
3. Expand your metrics
If your definition of solid performance includes nothing but empirically measurable results, you’re missing half the picture. Understanding the motivation behind it all is the real secret. Broadening your metrics to include how your employees live your company’s mission, advance its culture, and contribute to achieving your overall vision will help you to more fully and thoughtfully assess an employee’s impact on the business.
4. Stress the importance of values
Some businesses adopt a “win at all costs” mentality. Consider Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid newspaper News of the World, which infamously included deceit, corruption and invasion of privacy in their journalists’ toolkits.
For most companies, however, the road taken to success is just as important as achieving it. Ethics and moral principles are the cornerstones of professional integrity, so it’s vital to emphasize to employees that your company values aren’t just meaningless words on a plaque. Demonstrate to them that values and performance are inextricably linked, and make clear the expectation that they hold to a higher standard of conduct.
5. Know when it’s time to call it a day
A client of mine once kept a poor fitting employee on the payroll for six years. While the quality of the individual’s work was consistently high, they were also repeatedly reprimanded for attitude and behavioural reasons, and clearly did not mesh well with others or the culture of the company.
It’s important to not let stellar results or your own personal biases cloud your judgment. An individual may excel in some aspects of the job, but if they’re leaving a wake of bad feelings or damaging your brand to get there, the price you’re paying for that performance is simply too high.
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In the absence of fit, performance measurement only gives you hard data, whereas including it rewards you with much more meaningful information. Everything from job requirements, to whom you hire, fire and promote, and even the way you talk about your company to others will take on an extra dimension and a warmer, more people-centric tone. Once you have defined what fit means to your company, the way you look at your business will change for the better.
Glenn Nishimura is the Principal and Chief People Strategist at Nishimura Consulting, based in Toronto. He helps entrepreneurs, startups and small business owners across North America and Europe to build strong company cultures and smart people practices.
MORE ON CORPORATE CULTURE AND FIT:
- The Problem With Hiring for “Culture Fit” »
- Why You Need to Beware the Culture Vulture »
- 3 Steps to Getting the Right People Out of the Wrong Jobs »
- When to Fire a New Hire »
- How to Give Employees the Agency They Crave »
How do you ensure your employees all “fit”? Let us know by commenting below.