SQUARE PEGS IN ROUND HOLES – TRY SHAPING NOT HAMMERING
Talent Management for the Future
Job fit is undoubtedly a key predictor of individual
work performance and therefore company performance. The costs of poor job fit include
absenteeism, low productivity, high turnover, and high training cost – thereby
diminishing company value.
Contrary to what
many may think, the biggest difference between employees who continue to work
for an employer and those who decide to leave voluntarily is not
dissatisfaction with their immediate supervisor – or even with their pay. The
biggest determinant, beyond overall satisfaction with one’s employment
situation, of whether employees stay or voluntarily quit is how they feel about
the work itself, according to findings of surveys by Sirota Survey
Intelligence, specialists in attitude research.
Let’s face it, at
times of high unemployment, candidates are tempted to apply for ‘any’ job, with
perhaps little thought about whether its right for them.
It seems to me that
most effort is currently spent on evaluating the “pegs” and not enough time is
spent on evaluating the “holes”. The typical recruitment scenario has a line
manager calling HR and asking for a new widget-buster by next week. HR rustles
up a quick job description, the line manager signs off whilst sipping his
coffee on his way to the budget meeting, and the first potential pitfall is
created. Although the company may instinctively know what they want, they
cannot tell the candidates what they want.
strongly advocate that more time be spent defining the requirements of the job,
and thus defining the kind of people that we would seek to employ and retain in
What are the dimensions/elements of job requirement?
Ability – the natural stuff we are born with – a tricky one this - would be things like empathy, or the ability
to lift heavy weights. Skills – things we have learned to do – like learning to
fly, or baking a flan. Interest – what we like doing – animal lovers would
probably make good vets. Knowledge – facts and experiential learning – a brain
surgeon needs to read books and go to classes before he cuts, and he learns new
things each time he does it. Work values – how we judge situations and make
choices/decisions – a quality manager would expect to have different work
values than a creative writer.
The first step in adopting this recruitment approach
is to develop in the company a standard job requirement template which at least
spells out these headings as a minimum.
How can job requirements be evaluated? First let’s ask
the person actually doing the job, if we can. Surely they are well qualified to
do that. Then let’s ask the manager, and the customer or receiver of the
persons work how they see it. The full job requirement is usually a combination
of these perspectives.
Now set out to find the right candidates. Start by casting the search net widely– the
statistical reality is that we significantly increase our chances of finding
the right person as we increase the size of the search population. In this
area, the Internet is having huge impact as more and more people are depositing
their profiles in the electronic warehouse. Information technology is also
increasing our ability to store, sort, and retrieve vast quantities of
Next make sure that the right questions are asked
during the application process. It seems obvious but how often do we find
ourselves looking at a list of hundreds of candidates but not knowing which
ones can sew. The right questions can only be asked if we have done a good job
of defining requirements – most useful for knowledge and background dimensions.
In some cases make use of assessment and testing tools
which focus mainly on ability and skills. Finally is the interview, which if
used carefully can bring out the interest and values dimensions and finally
check the overall candidate picture.
Now that you have a good picture of the job and the
applicants, the matching process can be performed and Information Technology can be used to assess matches in a
scientific, accurate, and consistent way.
The recruitment cycle does not end there. We must work
with the people that we have hired to improve the fit by closing the gaps that
still exist, usually by training, coaching and mentoring. The job requirements
must be refined if we find discrepancies. Finally, the job itself might be
changed if we are still finding it difficult to find the right people.
Gary Webb is Managing Principal at Webb Elgin
Associates, a consultancy that specialises in talent management approaches for
small and medium sized companies.