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Workplace Fit

Workplace fit has positive outcomes for organizations and individuals. But how can you build more fit in your organization? Here’s what the research says...

There are many different types of workplace fit.

The table below describes types of fit ranging from the most broad (Person-Vocation) to more narrow types of fit (Person-Coworker).

Person-Vocation Fit (P-V)Broadest category of person-work fit. Refers to compatibility between an individual and the characteristics of an occupation
Person-Environment Fit (P-E)Compatibility between individuals and some aspect of their work environment (i.e. culture)
Person-Organization Fit (P-O)Compatibility between a person and an organization occurs when an organization meets the needs of an individual and vice versa. P-O Fit also occurs when individuals and organizations share similar characteristics, including personality/culture and values
Person-Job Fit (P-J)Compatibility between a person’s characteristics and those of a particular job
Person-Group Fit (P-G)Compatibility between individuals and their work group (i.e. values, goals, personality, working style)
Person-Individual Fit (P-I), including Person-Supervisor Fit (P-S)Compatibility between individuals and significant others in their work environments (i.e. coworkers, supervisors)

Having one type of fit does not mean you’ll automatically have another type of workplace fit. For example, it’s possible to experience high fit with an organization (P-O) because of values and mutual needs fulfillment, but poor job fit (P-J) based on current skills and abilities8,12.

Fit can be complementary or supplementary.

Complementary fit occurs when there is some deficiency or void in a work environment or within a person that is “made whole” by the other.

Examples of complementary fit include:

  • Demands-Ability Fit - an individual possesses skills that the organization requires
  • Needs-Supplies Fit – an organization meet a person’s needs

Supplementary fit, on the other hand, occurs when individuals fit into some larger context because they possess characteristics that are similar to others in the environment.

Both complementary and supplementary fit are beneficial for individuals and organizations8,9,13.

Person-organization (P-O), person-job (P-J), person-group (P-G), and person-supervisor (P-S) fit all positively relate to job satisfaction and negatively relate to turnover intentions.

However, each type of fit differentially predicts other job attitudes…

Job AttitudeRelated Type of Fit
Organizational CommitmentP-O, P-J
Organizational IdentificationP-O, P-J
Organizational SatisfactionP-O
Supervisor SatisfactionP-O, P-J, P-S, P-G
Coworker SatisfactionP-O, P-J, P-G
Team CohesionP-G
High-quality leader-member relationshipsP-S

To take a strategic view of actions to improve workplace fit, think about the work attitudes that you would most like to improve in your organization. Aim to build related types of workplace fit11,14.

Watch Natalie Baumgartner describe workplace fit and how it matters on a personal level:

For strong task performance, person-organization, person-group, person-job, and person-supervisor fit all positively relate.

Additionally, when it comes to helping behaviors and going the extra mile, person-organization and person-group fit matter most2,11.

Fit can spark innovative work behaviors.

If the focus of the organization is on innovation, person-job and person-organization fit still play an important role. Both P-J and P-O fit can predict innovative work behavior, which can subsequently influence overall work performance.

An important caveat here is that individuals need to trust that they can speak freely and suggest new ideas that will be taken seriously by their colleagues. Leaders can actively build this trust with their people by soliciting feedback, taking new ideas into consideration, and providing support1.

Misfit has negative consequences for both individuals and organizations.

When people experience misfit, we are likely to experience stress and strain. We risk identity loss when we are part of a workplace environment that feels forced and unnatural for us.

When we don’t feel a sense of fit, we are also more likely to leave an organization, resulting in costly turnover and potential morale problems11.

Fit perceptions matter during recruitment and hiring.

Retention begins with a recruiting and hiring experience that exchanges enough deeper-level information for both the applicant and the hiring manager to assess fit.

Experiencing fit during a hiring process makes the organization feel more attractive. An applicant who develops a positive sense of fit during hiring is more likely to accept a job offer. (Read on for interesting detail about what type of fit matters most to job candidates.)

For the hiring manager, sensing P-O fit and P-J fit with a candidate increase intention to hire, and thus increase the odds of extending a job offer to the candidate11.

Hear management scholar Adam Grant, at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, discuss hiring for fit at various stages of business, and suggest the importance of culture contribution:

Different types of workplace fit fulfill different individual needs.

Self-determination theory, a workplace theory focusing on intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, suggests that intrinsic motivation is strongest when three fundamental needs are met, and research has established connections between workplace fit types with all of these needs:

  • Autonomy (having agency over how work gets done): P-O, P-J
  • Competence (feeling capable to do the work): P-O, P-J
  • Relatedness (feeling connection and support with others): P-O, P-G

Thus, looking at distinct needs and distinct types of workplace fit can shed light on what to do to improve gaps noticed in an organization or for a particular person6.

Workplace fit influences satisfaction differently for different people.

For people who have worked for a number of organizations, Person-Organization fit has a greater weight on satisfaction than P-J fit or P-G fit.

For people who have long tenure within a job and experience working with fewer organizations, Person-Job fit has a greater weight on satisfaction than P-O fit or P-G fit.

The implication: Tailor initial socialization experiences to focus on fit that is more relevant to a new team member. For example, when onboarding a new person who has worked for many companies, highlight fit between the person’s values and norms and those of the organization. When bringing in a new person who has worked in one role for a long time, highlight job fit10.

During hiring, different types of workplace fit matter at different moments.

During the initial decision to apply for a position, perceptions of P-J fit and P-O fit predict strength of organizational attraction. High attraction = more likely to apply.

Once in the hiring process, however, only P-J fit relates positively to intentions to accept a job offer. P-O fit is not related to acceptance intent. In other words, most candidates seem to stop considering P-O fit once they’ve made the initial decision to apply. P-J fit remains an active influence on intentions to join the organization.

Finally, when an actual job offer happens, P-J fit strongly influences intent to accept the offer. (Again, P-O fit does not show strong importance here.)

So, when it comes to building job descriptions, job postings, and recruiting content on your website, be sure to include information about the organization and its values, as well as the characteristics of the particular job opening. Providing this information supports prospective applicants in forming perceptions of both P-O and P-J fit - both of which will influence attraction and decision to apply.

However, during the hiring process (e.g., interviews), spend more time focusing on job characteristics, rather than a broader focus on the organization’s goals. Strong perceptions of P-J fit are more likely to influence a top candidate to accept the offer4.

Careful - Without clear definition, hiring for “culture fit” can lead to demographic homogeneity or discrimination.

When organizations emphasize cultural compatibility in hiring without clearly defining desired cultural values, hiring managers tend to assess fit based on similarity in leisure activities, professional backgrounds, self-presentation, and the perceived “personality” of the company (i.e. sporty, fratty, intellectual). As a result, hirees tend to mirror the interviewers’ gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.

To hire for deeper cultural compatibility, take the time to determine what that really means. Clearly define which aspects of the organization’s culture are the most relevant and important to hire for15.

It’s not about MORE workplace fit at the start, but whether fit grows over time.

Enculturation is the dynamic process by which people adapt to and fit with an organization’s culture over time. Importantly, fit develops from both directions.

Research shows that while both initial culture fit and enculturation are related to individual career success (e.g., promotions, longevity in the organization), enculturation may be more important in the long run.

People with low initial culture fit but high enculturability tend to be more successful than those with high initial fit, but low enculturability.

Additionally, people who devote time and energy to enculturation—actively prioritize increasing their fit—generally demonstrate stronger organization commitment than those who don’t prioritize fit.

Assessing individuals’ adaptive capabilities during hiring may be another way to predict long-term culture fit.

Workplace fit can be a powerful tool within your organization. Below we discuss 4 ways to build perceptions of fit5,16.

Craft onboarding practices that foster opportunities to have positive fit perceptions and experiences.

It matters what happens as a newcomer begins work in an organization. Intentional newcomer socialization experiences can increase perceptions of fit.

Learning about the organization’s history and values provides the opportunity for a newcomer to find congruence between personal values and those held by the organization.

Socialization practices that build relationships with others in the organization create a sense of connection and being part of a larger whole for the new person, and create opportunities to experience interpersonal fit3,9.

Leverage training and development programs to increase perceptions of workplace fit.

Training programs can also enhance perceptions of fit.

Training helps people tune in to important job requirements and build the skills necessary to meet demands. People who are confident in the skills needed to be successful are more likely to feel like they are a strong fit for the position3,6,9.

Boost perceptions of fit via performance conversations.

Another way to promote perceptions of fit is through performance conversations and other feedback opportunities.

Having dialogue about how individual work connects to the organization’s vision, mission, and strategic goals can positively influence perceptions of fit.

Additionally, job performance feedback enhances perceptions of fit through an increased sense competence and perceptions of support3,6,9.

Use job crafting to increase perceptions of meaningful work and person-job fit.

Job crafting refers to changes individuals make in the:

  • Tasks they perform (e.g., taking on additional tasks, changing how tasks are performed)
  • Social characteristics of the job (i.e., increasing the number and quality of interactions with coworkers)
  • Way they think about their job (e.g., reframing their contribution - the janitor in the hospital thinking “I save lives. If the rooms weren’t clean, patients wouldn’t be safe”)

Job crafting increases perceptions of meaningful work and boosts feelings of person-job fit. More specifically, job crafting increases individual perceptions that they are a good fit for their job and that their job is meeting personal needs7,17.

References

  1. Afsar, B., Badir, Y., & Khan, M. M. (2015). Person–job fit, person–organization fit and innovative work behavior: The mediating role of innovation trust. The Journal of High Technology Management Research, 26(2), 105–116. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.hitech.2015.09.001
  2. Arthur, W., Bell, S. T., Villado, A. J., & Doverspike, D. (2006). The use of person-organization fit in employment decision making: An assessment of its criterion-related validity. Journal of Applied Psychology, 91(4), 786–801. https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-9010.91.4.786
  3. Boon, C., & Den Hartog, D. N. (2011). Human resource management, person–environment fit and trust. In R. Searle & D. Skinner, Trust and Human Resource Management (p. 13519). Edward Elgar Publishing. https://doi.org/10.4337/9780857932006.00013
  4. Carless, S. A. (2005). Person-job fit versus person-organization fit as predictors of organizational attraction and job acceptance intentions: A longitudinal study. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 78(3), 411–429. https://doi.org/10.1348/096317905X25995
  5. Doyle, G., Goldberg, A., Srivastava, S., & Frank, M. (2017). Alignment at work: Using language to distinguish the internalization and self-regulation components of cultural fit in organizations. Proceedings of the 55th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers), 603–612. https://doi.org/10.18653/v1/P17-1056
  6. Greguras, G. J., & Diefendorff, J. M. (2009). Different fits satisfy different needs: Linking person-environment fit to employee commitment and performance using self-determination theory. Journal of Applied Psychology, 94(2), 465–477. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0014068
  7. Kooij, T. a. M., Woerkom, M. van, Wilkenloh, J., Dorenbosch, L. W., & Denissen, J. J. A. (2017). Job crafting towards strengths and interests: The effects of a job crafting intervention on person-job fit and the role of age. Journal of Applied Psychology, 102(6), 971–981. https://doi.org/10.1037/apl0000194
  8. Kristof, A. L. (1996). Person-organization fit: An integrative review of its conceptualizations, measurement, and implications. Personnel Psychology, 49(1), 1–49. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1744-6570.1996.tb01790.x
  9. Kristof-Brown, A., & Guay, R. P. (2011). Person–environment fit. In S. Zedeck (Ed.), APA handbook of industrial and organizational psychology, Vol 3: Maintaining, expanding, and contracting the organization. (pp. 3–50). American Psychological Association. https://doi.org/10.1037/12171-001
  10. Kristof-Brown, A. L., Jansen, K. J., & Colbert, A. E. (2002). A policy-capturing study of the simultaneous effects of fit with jobs, groups, and organizations. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87(5), 985–993. https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-9010.87.5.985
  11. Kristof-Brown, A. L., Zimmerman, R. D., & Johnson, E. C. (2005). Consequences of individuals’ fit at work: A meta-analysis of person-job, person-organization, person-group, and person-supervisor fit. Personnel Psychology, 58(2), 281–342. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1744-6570.2005.00672.x
  12. Lauver, K. J., & Kristof-Brown, A. (2001). Distinguishing between employees’ perceptions of person–job and person–organization fit. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 59(3), 454–470. https://doi.org/10.1006/jvbe.2001.1807
  13. Muchinsky, P. M., & Monahan, C. J. (1987). What is person-environment congruence? Supplementary versus complementary models of fit. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 31(3), 268–277. https://doi.org/10.1016/0001-8791(87)90043-1
  14. O’Reilly, C. A., Chatman, J., & Caldwell, D. F. (1991). People and organizational culture: A profile comparison approach to assessing person-organization fit. Academy of Management Journal, 34(3), 487–516. https://doi.org/10.5465/256404
  15. Rivera, L. A. (2012). Hiring as cultural matching: The case of elite professional service firms. American Sociological Review, 77(6), 999–1022. https://doi.org/10.1177/0003122412463213
  16. Srivastava, S. B., Goldberg, A., Manian, V. G., & Potts, C. (2018). Enculturation trajectories: Language, cultural adaptation, and individual outcomes in organizations. Management Science, 64(3), 1348–1364. https://doi.org/10.1287/mnsc.2016.2671
  17. Tims, M., Derks, D., & Bakker, A. B. (2016). Job crafting and its relationships with person–job fit and meaningfulness: A three-wave study. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 92, 44–53. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jvb.2015.11.007