By Kathleen Iverson
A family friend developed a software program that helps people buy shoes online that fit properly the first time. Based on shoes brands and styles that have been comfortable in the past, it can predict how a new pair of shoes will feel. The company, Shoefitr, was so successful that it was recently bought by Amazon.
The same principals of fit can also be applied to people and organizations. The study of how well individuals and groups “fit” with organizations and job demands, known as person-environment fit, has been around for many years and has far reaching implications. Person–job fit (PJ fit) is the match between the individual’s knowledge, skills, and abilities against the task requirements of the job and person–organization fit (PO fit) is the match between the candidate’s personal characteristics and the organization’s cultural characteristics. We often focus on PJ fit, but the importance of PO fit is gaining momentum. According to research studies, PO fit relates to key indicators of success including retention, work attitudes, citizenship, ethical behavior, stress, and work performance. Good fit is a prerequisite for maintaining well-being at work due to its effect on satisfaction, self-esteem, belonging, usefulness, and employee identity.
When trying on a new pair of shoes, we know almost immediately how they fit. But how do we know if our organization is a good fit? One instrument developed by Cable and DeRue (2002) measures PO fit with three simple questions. To test how well you fit with your current or past organization, think about how you might answer the following questions on a scale of 1 to 5 (1=strongly disagree, 5=strongly agree).
- The things that I value in life are very similar to the things that my organization values.
- My personal values match my organization’s values and culture.
- My organization’s values and culture provide a good fit with the things that I value in life.
If your score is between 12-15, you’ve got a very good fit. If your score is 8-11, your fit is moderate, and below 8 indicates that your organization is not a very good fit.
Low fit doesn’t necessarily mean that you should leave your current organization, but it is red flag indicating that something isn’t working. If you feel stressed at work, think about leaving, your performance is not what it should be, or you just have negative feelings about your job or company, poor PO fit could be the cause. Just like purchasing shoes, it’s much easier to prevent poor fit than to rectify it. A large body of research is focusing on the role of PO fit in the selection process, from both the perspective of the employer and the job applicant. Organizations are looking at ways they can predict good fit during the interview process and, in turn, how applicants can use knowledge of their fit needs to make the right career choice. As a job seeker, first reflect on your personal values and your commitment to choosing environments that support these values, and then find organizations that are congruent with your values. As a potential employer, pay attention to how you communicate the culture of the organization both directly and indirectly. Be sure to let serious candidates know about the organization mission, leadership strategy, and commitment to areas of social justice and inclusion. To some candidates, these factors could be equally or even more important than salary and benefits.
Questions for discussion
- What factors and values are important to you in an employer?
- How might you go about finding organizations that share your values?
- If you are in an interview situation, how might you decide whether an organization is a good fit for you? What questions might you ask? What information might you gather?
Cable, D. M., & DeRue, D. S. (2002). The convergent and discriminant validity of subjective fit perceptions. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87, 875– 884.