An F Word or two

An F Word or two

F Word #2

Last week our F word was Feedback and this week we’re moving on to Fit, or lack thereof. A few ways the word ‘fit’ is used in the work world:

  • Hire for Fit, train for skill
  • Fit is essential to our organization
  • You are not a fit for this role
  • Other candidates were a better fit

Before we go too far, let me say that I believe Fit is important. Based on my professional HR experience, a person who is aligned with an organization’s culture and missing a skill or two will have a better chance at success than a person who has all the skills but isn’t a cultural Fit.

Fit is a tricky concept because it is both objective and subjective. Consider the variety of work environments we have today. If you’re risk-averse, then a job washing high-rise windows or operating a construction crane isn’t going to bring you much job fulfillment. Location is objective – it is usually clear where you will be working and if/how the site will impact your physical comfort and safety. It is unlikely that the CFO will be asked to take a turn with the power tools.

Along with location fit is position fit. If you love to collaborate and brainstorm and talk as you problem solve then working in a laboratory setting where quiet, independent thinking is preferred you’re not a fit. When you consider a promotion that requires you to schmooze, make cold calls, and present to hundreds of people and you would rather get a root canal – maybe don’t go for that promotion. The position won’t change to suit you; it is up to you to change to fit the job.

Fit also encompasses the culture of the organization, the department, the project team, and the corporate goals. These items aren’t always as clear-cut and often change as leadership, competition, the economy, innovation, or morale change. It can be challenging to define organizational culture or what type of employee works best with what manager under what circumstances however it is worth figuring out as much as you can.

If we are going to provide ‘you’re not a fit’ feedback then we need to be clear what that means. I know, HR people can be the worst at this (and giving/receiving feedback too) and I think this goes back to fear about delivering a negative message and for the paranoid, the notion your organization will be sued if you provide some actual fit feedback. Unless organizations are deciding a person isn’t a fit on protected human rights and employment standards grounds, then the likelihood of a lawsuit is minor. The outcome of providing details around lack of fit at worst is an upset person: no fun but not expensive and not long term.

This goes for the manager/recruiter/HR person – if you can’t define what’s missing for yourself how can you know when you find it? Referring back to our talk about feedback, before you say “not a fit” can you define why? What is the key message? If not, I suggest you have some work to do. ‘Who has time to define something as subjective as fit?’ I hear from recruiters, managers, and HR. You do because if you define what you are looking for before you start recruiting and promoting, you will save time (and money). You will also be providing valuable feedback to those who weren’t selected. For starters, the ‘non-fitter’ has the opportunity to improve or change their skills and/or plans. Maybe they don’t have the depth of experience needed, perhaps they didn’t present themselves as confidently as they hoped, or maybe they overreached and didn’t understand the full scope of the position. What harm comes from sharing this information? Could be they already suspected they didn’t quite Fit but hoped by taking a shot they could confirm this with actionable feedback.

But ‘fit’ is subjective! Yes, in part. To get a better handle on the subjective aspects of Fit, spend some time analyzing the roles you play every day: employee, manager, parent, partner, friend, sibling…and consider why and how well you Fit in each role. Once you’ve got your list, ask for (you guessed it!) Feedback from people you trust. Perhaps you really are a patient person at work and not so much with your partner? Maybe you’re outgoing and the centre of attention with your friends and quiet as a mouse on your project team? None of this is negative, but it is important that it aligns with the role…it’s what makes you a fit.

The time you spend defining what Fit means for a position will allow you to focus your interviews, your training programs, and your succession plans on what really matters. You can ask what you really need to know, not just the typical questions. To get started, pick one role and figure out why and how the current person Fits in that role. And remember, you won’t Fit everywhere and how wonderful is that!

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