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How 3 Organizations Are Hiring for Fit

By Bruce Court

Recently, I have seen an interesting trend emerge: to be competitive in the labor market organizations are moving to overhaul, or even rebuild, their hiring processes.

What’s causing this? I have a hypothesis.

Companies have become increasingly aware that their processes for making hiring or promotion decisions are out of focus. They rely too heavily on technical skills at the expense of other factors that predict whether a candidate will be a success in the job. For example, too little attention is paid to whether the candidate will be a good fit with the work environment.

To use a gardening analogy, some plants thrive while others struggle depending upon the climate and type of soil they get planted in. Employees, who can either be hired into a work environment that is a good fit or poor fit for them, are not too dissimilar.

Many organizations use different labels to describe their environment and what they need to know about candidates when it comes to predicting fit; some use the label “cultural fit,” others “DNA match”; one COO demands what he calls good “values alignment.”

Whatever the terminology, the recognition that hiring for fit is important is helping to make change a priority in many organizations. They acknowledge that not having a complete picture of a candidate when it comes to fit is to risk having a new hire who may not reach his or her full potential—or even stay in the job for long.

This understanding of the importance of hiring fit isn’t new, of course. But the fact that multiple organizations are realizing the need to address it now is new. It’s as if a critical mass of organizations have taken up the clarion call expressed in a headline from a 2011 Harvard Business Review article, “Hire for Attitude; Train for Skill.”

Making necessary changes to drive hiring for fit

To understand how you can adapt your hiring process to meet the demands of today’s labor market, it’s instructive to look at what some organizations have already done to account for the importance of hiring for fit.

Here are three examples—each representing a very different approach—I’ve encountered over the past year or so.

Need: Better interviews

The first example is at a young organization that has grown rapidly and hired people who can be engaged in client-facing work almost immediately. Adding an additional layer of complexity, these new hires could be deployed at a client site, where they may have no concept of the client organization’s culture or how its values are applied. Faced with this challenging situation, some new hires walked off the job during their first week. They didn’t quit because they lacked the skills to do the job; they were all qualified.

Additionally, the organization had very limited talent management systems and, to date, all the training it offered to new hires was to develop their technical skills.

To revamp its hiring process, the organization implemented a behavioral interviewing system. The COO was familiar with DDI’s Targeted Selection® system from earlier in his career, and he asked us to help the organization improve its interviewing approach. The redesign began by taking the organization’s values and mapping them to competencies and attributes that could be assessed against during interviews. In addition, focus groups were conducted to gain examples of where people had applied the values and to determine organizational and job fit facets. A secondary objective of the focus group conversations was to gain buy-in and support for raising the bar on the current hiring process.

Interview guides were then created to focus on the competencies and motivational fit facets, and all the hiring managers were trained. These managers included the CEO and COO, both of whom are enterprise guardians for the culture. They were also strong advocates for the new process and are taking a lead in supporting the rollout.

One of the most positive aspects of the training was the hiring managers’ favorable reaction to the data integration session, in which interviewers share and discuss the candidate data they gathered during interviews—including data on both technical skills and cultural fit. Hiring managers are seeing that, in addition to gathering data to help them make better hiring decisions, in interviews they are also capturing strengths and growth areas to carry over into the onboarding process—a great example of the gardening metaphor I mentioned earlier!

Need: Large-volume hiring

The next example is an organization facing increasing numbers of long-term employees about to retire; they need suitable replacements. They also need to hire additional employees to meet their growth goals. In all, they are faced with hiring 5,000 employees by 2020.

With this large volume of required new hires, the organization sought to implement a revised selection system that could serve to filter out more candidates earlier in the process to reduce the number of interviews for hiring managers.

Its approach was to first identify the business drivers (like the organization’s leadership priorities) through a series of one-on-one interviews and focus groups with the senior leaders and their direct reports. This face-time with these executives was important because it provided HR with an opportunity to gather feedback on the current selection process and how it could be improved. Taking this information and combining it with previous job analyses, DDI worked with the client to identify revised, future-focused Success ProfilesSM for three roles—frontline leaders, professionals, and team members—against which to measure candidates.

As the organization needed to fill positions across the entire enterprise, it adopted a phased approach that kicked off in 2017 with operations, and introduced the new selection system one plant at a time.

Need: Hiring for culture and customer focus

The third example comes from a large organization that sees its culture and customer focus as competitive differentiators. It needed to make sure all new hires, regardless of their job titles, would not only be able to do their job but also be ambassadors for the organization’s values and culture; they needed new hires who would be a great fit.

Its solution was to design and develop a quick, easy-to-take cultural assessment that would require approximately 15 minutes to complete. The results of the assessment are then used to help recruiters identify who to pursue for the next stage in the selection process. This solution was designed and developed with input from focus groups, a validation study, and the involvement of the organization’s legal counsel to ensure the process is fair and equitable for all applicants.

The next chapter

As these examples illustrate, we are beginning to see an outline for the next chapter in this evolving challenge to find, hire, develop, and retain the best people—those who are the best fit with the job and the work environment.

Some organizations want to build out selections systems that can meet the requirements for what some call the “workplace of the future”; others use the term “digital workplace.” The bottom line is that they are embracing—and acting on—the need for change, and they are emphasizing hiring for fit like never before.

What about your organization’s selection process?  How would you answer these questions?

  • When was your selection process last reviewed? (If it more than three years ago it probably needs a checkup.)
  • Is your selection system robust enough to meet the current and future needs of your organization? If so, how do you know?
  • Does it emphasize hiring for fit?

Depending on the answers to these question, maybe it is time for a systems upgrade!

Bruce CourtBruce Court works with organizations on all aspects of their leadership strategy and coordinates DDI’s relationship with our alliance partner, EY. He’s experienced in all aspects of strategy development and execution. Outside of work Bruce likes to travel with his wife, Maureen, visiting places on their “bucket list.” He loves eating at great restaurants, and “sampling” good wine and craft beers. Bruce is also a huge fan of smooth jazz.

Posted: 20 Sep, 2017,
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