Wednesday, October 16, 2013

When You're Not A Good Fit Anymore

The word "fit" is used so frequently in my world that I almost feel that I need an organizational sizing chart for our selection process. I don't know when the word "fit" became such a requirement (or excuse) for making decisions about people's careers, but it is clearly one of the most en vogue terms in the world of work.

Good Fit
It seems to me there is no greater compliment that can be bestowed on a person than to say they are a "good fit." That might be the corporate world's version of granting tenure in academia. Surely lifelong employment without fear of reprisal is at hand! 

We've all experienced the warm and fuzzy "good fit" feeling either in the interview process with a candidate, or when we join a new organization and get to know our colleagues. There is a certain energy that kicks in...the feeling of potential...knowing that because personalities are going to connect well, great things are sure to follow.

Until the world changes. Which happens on a daily basis. Then the "good fit" criteria we used yesterday no longer applies to our new hire, or incumbent, or member of our leadership team. We get stuck using old mindsets in an ever changing world. That is an impossible model to follow if we are going to continue this good-fit-above-all-else way of thinking.

Bad Fit
Fit is in the present...but what happens when someone evolves but the organization is slow to respond? Still a good fit (read here --> the company wants the old fit, clinging to the good old days)? 

Are these folks no longer relevant? Have they crossed some invisible "fit" line that now has them on the bad fit list?

Perhaps we should only be focused on bringing people into our organizations who continually push the limits of what is normal, or accepted, or upholds the rich traditions of our various brands? 

How many breakthroughs in thinking, leading, product development, and process improvement might come from that corporate culture?

Sadly, most companies will never know.

How About You
Are you a good fit where you work? I hope I still am! I work very differently now than when I first joined my organization. I was hired as a "good fit" for the way I worked back then...and that doesn't come close to how my work gets done now.

For as much as I try to keep up with an ever changing world, I'm still falling short of what's happening in other industries. That's okay though, it's those other HR leaders that inspire me to keep pushing. Whether I'm a good fit or not.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


  1. Jay,
    Interesting and relevant points about the evolution of the individual versus the company. In this fast paced world, everyone says change is constant and we all must help the organization move faster to keep up and be as competitive as possible. The reality is that most corporate cultures do not evolve quickly. That can leave strong leaders and good employees in a position where they no longer "fit" the current culture. The loss of these agents of change can hurt the organization.
    Leadership needs to recognize these individuals and embrace them in order to avoid losing them. HR leaders need to make sure the use of the term "bad fit" does not get used to label people who won't accept the status quo.

  2. Hi Jay, this is a great post, very thought provoking. My own take is as follows.

    1. Fit is so important because people have experienced good fit themselves and know the dramatic increase in performance and engagement it brings, both for themselves and the team/group of people they work with.

    2. The reason the conversation continues and you point out that what was once considered 'good fit' no longer applies is down to the lack of a robust definition that can be applied on a consistent basis.

    3. The cultural dimension of fit is often talked about, but I'd suggest that people are much more interested in how they 'fit' with their manager and their immediate team members and colleagues. This 'team fit', if you will, has a much greater impact on people's individual working experience and corresponding levels of performance and engagement than 'cultural fit'.

    4. Getting fit right between individuals and managers is arguably the 'last mile' or the 'black box' of engagement and arguably goes to the core of HR's ability to add value to the business. This extract from Forbes ( sums this up nicely:

    At a micro level, the leading factor influencing employee engagement is widely accepted to be an employee’s relationship with his or her own direct manager.

    1. I'm with you 100% Bruce. The connection between employee and manager is essential! Team fit becomes so important...great stuff for a future post!

  3. In my case I've been a good fit for the output of creativity, leadership, mentoring, and product, but considered a bad fit by the board, CEOs, etc., labeled a boatrocker, because I believe in guidelines, not rules, and to do great work you need to color outside the box, even if that means doing things the company never did before, which sometimes doesn't sit well with conservative companies.

    1. Colin, you are clearly an innovator in a world of status quo. Keep up the good work and push, push, push the limits!

  4. Jay, you make a very good point. We believe it is important for organizations to define what 'fit' means, and continually refine the definition based on organizational, market or other changes.

    'Fit' can be comprised of skills, abilities, knowledge, cultural alignment, values, behaviors and other criteria. The talent management world has adopted the term 'competencies' to describe the complete set of these 'fit' criteria for an organization, and the term 'competency models' or 'job profiles' as the complete set of 'fit' criteria for a given job function or role. Based on a competency model, organizations can conduct competency-based assessments to measure the level of role 'fit' for a given individual, and make development plans to address these gaps.

    We've found this approach to be a great way to increase employee satisfaction and engagement, ensure employees clearly understand what 'fit' means, and enable organizations to maximize productivity.

  5. I think being able to do the job and skills are more important than all this new fit stuff. It really should not be a popularity contest. We all have decent vaules and it makes employees feel like they should be little robots. That their accomplishments and skills do not even matter anymore.

  6. Jay, I was recently let go from a 9 year employment doing what I love and by many accounts, the best they had. I was let go because I was not a good fit for the company's new culture. I am moving forward and grateful for your post and the comments left here. I think it will help how to answer the "why were you terminated" question I will likely be asked when interviewing.