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.


We 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 each position.

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 information.

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.