Do You Regularly “Fit Test” Your Employees?

Photo by Dreamstime
Photo by Dreamstime

One of the biggest conundrums in performance management is knowing how best to address the needs and possibilities of the different groups in an organization’s talent base.

In particular, there is the challenge of how to bring out the best from the “thick middle,” the 80 percent or so of “Steady Eddies” who get the job done but don’t necessarily stand out in their roles.

Anthony Tjan, founder and CEO of the venture capital firm Cue Ball, highlights a number of suggestions in his HBR Blog post The Challenge of the Average Employee. One particular idea worth noting is what he calls a “Fit Point Test.”

Tjan argues that we may be spending too much time discussing performance and not enough time discussing job fit in our regular conversations with employees – a particular pitfall for those in the middle of the pack.

At regular intervals of a person’s career, there should be not just “performance reviews” but also what I call a “Fit Test Point.” Too many times we see someone who can do the job, but if we are truly honest know that in the long-run they will be stuck in the middle of the organization. My sense is that companies spend more time discussing performance than they do “fit.”

Performance reviews are biased towards looking out for the best interests of a company — as long as someone is doing their job they have a place. A “Fit Test Point” is a tool to carefully consider the best interests of an employee. Is this person in product development really better served finding a position as an industry or market researcher, or is that analyst who can clearly make the next two rungs of the management track better served making a switch in her career now given the opportunity cost of time?

We all know situations where instincts and experience alerted us that a job was not the best fit for someone, yet we let the person continue because they filled a short-term need or because we lacked the courage to have the honest “Fit Test” conversation. Consider key inflection points of one’s career advancement and have the parallel conversation of performance and fit reviews.”

What do you think of the idea of a regular Fit Test conversation – above, beyond and/or distinct from any performance review process? What support and resources would managers need to conduct this conversation in a productive and appropriate manner?

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Who out there is already doing something like this and can share any lessons from their experience?

This was originally published on Ann Bares’ Compensation Force blog.

Ann Bares is the Managing Partner of Altura Consulting Group. She has over 20 years of experience consulting in compensation and performance management and has worked with a variety of organizations in auditing, designing and implementing executive compensation plans, base salary structures, variable and incentive compensation programs, sales compensation programs, and performance management systems.

Her clients have included public and privately held businesses, both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations, early stage entrepreneurial organizations and larger established companies. Ann also teaches at the University of Minnesota and Concordia University.

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