Job Fit: Who Wins?
Our company has a vision of getting everyone into a job in which they “fit”. By fit we mean that the employee’s skills, talents, likes, dislikes and personality will be positively received and utilized. That they will encounter opportunities to contribute and will receive positive reinforcement from the environment, the management and from the people with whom they work.
But is this vision meaningful? (Notice I didn’t say “achievable” because, after all, a vision should be the shining star towards which we extend our reach, even if we never grasp it.)
I personally think job fit becomes meaningful in the negative, when employees make decisions and act counter to their employer’s best interests because they feel like they don’t fit in. Conversely, employees will make better decisions if they feel a sense of fitting in to the organization, since they will be more likely to act in a positive as opposed to a negative way.
It’s a win-win situation, not a zero-sum game. Take the example of James Gosling, the man responsible for the Java programming language and platform. When his longtime employer, Sun Microsystems, was acquired by Oracle, Gosling was offered a position and decided to stay on. He stayed on even though his pay and grade took a hit. But it didn’t take long for him to discover that there just wasn’t a fit.
Oracle expected Gosling to become the public face of Java for the company. According to Gosling, “I’m from the wrong Myers-Briggs quadrant for that”. After less than a year, Gosling departed Oracle, and the public face he presented wasn’t exactly good for Oracle. It’s hard to argue this was a positive outcome, a “win”, for either Gosling or Oracle.
Which reminds me of a presentation I attended years ago given by the head of HR at Southwest Airlines. I remember to this day the main point of that speech, which was that job fit is everything and that you better discriminate amongst candidates based on how well they’re likely to fit into your organization’s culture. In fact, a company like Southwest doesn’t hire people who fit because they have a unique culture, but just the opposite. They have a unique culture because of who they hire. And isn’t that a win for everyone?
James Gosling? He joined Google just last month.