Exploring person/organisation fit and appraisal and reward options for small to medium enterprises.

Published: 2019/12/05 Number of words: 4384

An informative e-mail to Kamala Balu, CEO, exploring how to achieve person / organisation fit when recruiting and selecting staff for Benkleys

Dear Ms. Kamala Balu,

Any organisational intervention needs to be preceded and substantiated by an adequate diagnosis of the current situation, in order to predict its outcomes, in terms of benefits and risks. This is precisely the case regarding Human Resources Management at large and the person–organisation fit as involved in the staffing process.

Concerning the work content analysis, job descriptions must be designed and constantly updated in view of the specific objectives, tasks and responsibilities incurred by each position. Furthermore, together with collaborators in the headquarters and those engaged in fieldwork, a shared vision must be aligned on job specifications, as the ‘blueprint’ of what Benkley’s ideal candidate should know, practice and believe as per thinking patterns. The KSA model (explained by Bratton & Gold, 2008) is useful in this respect, to clarify the organisational expectations in terms of candidates’ personal attributes and features, as follows:

  • Knowledge (“K”) – the thesaurus of inter-connected information in the subject’s field of expertise
  • Skills (“S”) – the distinctive set of abilities and competencies that contribute to an above-average performance
  • Attitudes (“A”) –both the cognitive and emotional orientation to certain aspects of reality that is difficult to modify

It is advisable that the organisation’s decision-makers distinguish between generic requirements from the entire Benkleys staff and the specific set of competencies, professional experience, certificates, exposure and know-how applicable to a particular job position. Given the great variety of Benkleys employees’ profiles, ranging from teenage pickers to marketing manager or CFO, the job specifications are undoubtedly very complex and diverse, whereas the organisational culture requires a creative integration of all these different persons.

When embarking on a recruitment project, a personalised message and an iconic graphical representation need to be included in the recruitment advertisement. The visual impact often outweighs the written content, and these images are especially powerful when they depict colleagues and teams in relaxed meetings and laid-back work settings, as Burt et al’s (2010) research concludes. It is mandatory to get the employees’ approval for appearing in these public images in Benkley’s external HR sourcing campaign.

For the most part, it is noticeable that Benkleys, as a SME (small to medium enterprise), did not establish clear-cut rules and procedures, but rather choose a more adhocracy strategy, with scarce elements drawn from the bureaucratic model. With all these aspects considered, why not express its customer-centric approach and the strategic focus on expanding in search of new overseas markets as integrated in the values of entrepreneurship, enthusiasm, a can-do resolution, open-mindedness, flexibility, creativity and adaptability, as well as market orientation? These are seemingly the key assets that this organisation might advertise about itself.

The person–organisation fit for Benkleys can be investigated through the lens of the following model:

Figure 1. The inter-connected factors that contribute to the organization – person compatibility (adapted and synthesised from Noe et al., 2010)

Figure 1. The inter-connected factors that contribute to the organization – person compatibility (adapted and synthesised from Noe et al., 2010)

There are three categories of factors in this graphic representation. The individual’s behaviour must converge with the elements of the organisational setting and the organisation as the employer, to achieve person–organisation fit. The psychological or symbolic contract is complementary to the formal contractual provisions and constitutes the premise for trust building. The organisational culture and the relational climate, together with the HRM procedures and practices (including equity, internal communication, performance management, compensation and benefits), all contribute to the shaping of the organisational image.

The candidate’s eligibility is the first step towards achieving person-organisation fit. The significance of the vacant position for the organisation must be clearly understood, Armstrong (2009) explains. The resume screening phase ensures the compliance with eligibility standards and criteria. The candidate file (resume, motivation letter, recommendations and other application requisites) is analysed to check if the candidate fulfils the requirements related to educational level, career trajectory, computer skills, foreign language skills, previous supervision or financial accountability, availability for mobility or relocation etc.

If the formal hiring criteria are met and the applicant is considered eligible for the respective position, a more challenging stage determines the compatibility between the organisation, the job profile and the short-listed candidate. The face-to-face selection interview is far more revealing than a phone discussion. This meeting needs to establish the candidate’s ‘human quality’, his/her self-presentation skills, the area of vocational interests (explained in the research of Holcombe Ehrhart & Makransky, 2007), emotional intelligence (the influential concept introduced by Goleman, 1998), the less apparent, subtle non-verbal communication patterns (gestures, posture, rhetoric abilities, smile, handshake, salutation etc.), his/her likes and dislikes, temperament and other significant details that have a substantial impact on the applicant’s adaptation in Benkleys ‘micro-climate’.

The person/organisation fit are involved in all the stages of the recruitment and selection process, synthesised by Ployhart (2006) as staffing strategy:

  • Identification of the recruitment needs and the decision to create a new position or to occupy a vacant job
  • Defining the job mission and drafting the job description, including its positioning in the organisational chart and the job evaluation – obtained by calculating its place in the organisational hierarchy, its complexity and importance for fulfilling the business objectives
  • Elaborating the recruitment request, approved by the managers
  • Establishing the ideal candidate profile
  • Conceiving and publishing the recruitment ad, disseminated either internally (aiming to facilitate the promotion and mobility of your own employees, in order to motivate them) or externally (to attract outside candidates and thus offer a ‘refreshed’ talents pool)
  • Receiving, analysing and screening CVs. Job applicants’ performances are compared to the essential or desirable specifications
  • Scheduling and leading the meetings and/or handling the tests (assessing personality traits, competencies, intelligence, interests)
  • Short-listing and presenting the employment offer to the best (e.g. most suitable) candidate
  • Monitoring the new employee’s effective insertion

The person–organisation fit is best assessed throughout the standard stages of the selection interview. This is usually led by a panel of Benkleys key employees (including you, the direct manager for the position in question and another department representative). Three assessors are usually enough, since a larger number is prone to trigger negative emotional reactions of susceptibility and intimidation to the candidate, as Lee, Reiche & Song. (2010) claim. Please find below these stages:

  • The introduction (ice-breaking techniques used to secure the candidate, make him/her more comfortable in a potentially threatening situation and create the framework for sincerity and authenticity in self-disclosure).
  • The content of the interview itself is shaped as a series of questions and answers that typically follow two routes. One track is the classical biographical interview that investigates the candidate’s previous work experience, and corresponds to the resume outlined trajectory. The other track revolves around the behavioural interview, as competency-driven: it requires candidates to describe how they reacted in a concrete circumstance, either past or imaginary.
  • The final part involves clarification about future meetings, the assurance that the candidate will receive an answer, regardless of the favourable or unfavourable outcome, in the shortest possible delay, the technical but very relevant aspects of salary expectations and candidate time availability, other legal provisions etc.

The behavioural interview is a valid investigation tool when it comes to selection techniques because, when compared to the traditional biographical account, it proves beneficial by diminishing the social desirability effect (as Armstrong, 2009, ascertains) and by providing the employer with a more realistic glimpse into the world of the candidate’s beliefs, values, attitudes, experiences and life goals. The candidate offers more authentic reactions because he/she feels less threatened and therefore less likely to display a kaleidoscopic and chameleonic ‘parade’ of accomplishments, trophies and other pride-boosting prizes, be them real or invented on the spot. Here are some behavioural questions that are recommended for a selection interview wherein the recruiter wants to evaluate both quantitatively and especially qualitatively the person-organisation fit in terms of work style, expectations, beliefs, norms and values:

  • Please give me an example of a situation when you were confronted with a difficult customer? How would you define a difficult customer? What was your approach towards this customer?
  • What do you do in the case of a customer complaint? What is the outcome thereof?
  • Do you remember a context when you had to solve a problem very quickly, using initiative? What happened?
  • Please give me some examples of daily assignments you really like to do at your workplace? What activities do you dislike?
  • What do you find most complicated about the job at hand?
  • Can you tell me about a project particularly dear to you, which you managed to accomplish, perhaps against all odds?
  • Can you think of an example of task which involved teamwork and which you found very interesting? What role did you hold in the team?
  • What did you do in a situation wherein you had to act on the spot and the necessary information was unavailable, for some reason or another? How did you gain access to this piece of information?
  • Did you practice multi-tasking? How do you cope with simultaneous and divergent priorities?
  • Please tell me what a regular working day looks like for you.

If the candidates do not remember such an occasion or they did not encounter such an occurrence, they can certainly imagine how they would behave if they came across such a situation in the future. The person-organisation fit is an essential dimension of the selection interview guidelines, as well as the report drafted after the interview finished. The candidate profile is thus juxtaposed to the job specification and the most compatible and promising applicants are selected for the short-list. Generally two to four or five short-listed candidates are included in this second interview, finalised by the presentation of an employment offer or pre-contract and hopefully by its acceptance. The quality of hire reflects in the HRM return-on-investment and depends upon the correct assessment of the person/organisation fit, as Adler (2009) states.

Organisation/person fit is particularly relevant for sourcing the most suitable candidates. It reduces the costs of lengthy, reiterative sourcing processes because the HR specialists focus on the precise specifications for the winning resume. This approach is highly recommended as on-going strategy for training and development optimisation as well.

Despite its above-stated merits, person–organisation correspondence has its limitations and pitfalls, which need to be scrutinised and thus avoided. This approach is not infallible, of course. It is criticised (e.g., By Robbins, 1998) especially for being lop-sided, as it does not consider the vocational dimension of the person’s compatibility with the position inside the organisation. For example, if an IT assistant is appointed in a field sales job inside Benkleys, he/she will be disappointed, will display under-achievements and eventually quit, even if this employee happens to adore the positive work atmosphere and the team outings your company offers. This employee is simply inclined to an office job in the field of IT, and the agreeable work climate does not compensate for his disappointment with the conflicting job appointment he was offered.

To conclude, this compatibility between the individual and the organisation does not just require the employee to adjust to the organisation, in terms of formal policies and procedures, as well as informal practices, norms and values. In exchange, the organisation itself needs flexibility to accommodate people with a diversity of cultural backgrounds, life and work styles that constitute the most valuable asset and resource for development.

Besides, this compatibility is not a pre-determined condition or diagnosis, but a working progress, as Gardner et al. (2009) examine. The initial hiring is only a milestone that needs re-confirmation through follow-up meetings in the induction period, as well as afterwards. Thus, not only does this approach bring forth the reasons for satisfaction or discontent among the workers, but the employer also shows genuine interest and consideration for their voice, and people are glad to get their message across.

Yours faithfully,

ii) Report on appraisal and reward options, based on organisational concepts and theoretical models. Recommendations based on strengths and limitations for each option.
The appraisal options must be diverse and flexible, since they belong to the heterogeneous field of the employee’s needs, expectations and overall motivation. As a guideline, Armstrong & Baron (2005) state that performance evaluation must stand at the core of all appraisal and reward systems. An effective performance management strategy brings multi-fold benefits to the organisation, in that (according to Fletcher, 2006) it positively contributes to the following aspects:

  • It improves productivity and profitability
  • It optimises the decision-making process
  • It minimises dissatisfaction, frustration and turnover
  • It ensures legal compliance
  • It renders and safeguards a sustainable competitive advantage

An influential, yet debatable appraisal model is based on McClelland’s synthetic motivation theory. As Noe et al. (2010) discuss, in organisational settings the individuals’ main needs refer to:

  • Affiliation (persons who seek friendship, social belonging and cooperation above all. They find most motivating close, longstanding relationships)
  • Power (they need to exert control, social influence and authority on the surrounding persons. They favour managerial positions and show leadership potential)
  • Achievement (these persons need to make use of competency, to excel in a certain field, to accomplish high standards and audacious objectives. They actively seek challenging, innovative tasks, are not discouraged by defeat and are able to delay gratification; they also like to assume full responsibility for projects and wait for feedback regarding their performance).

Regarding the field staff, Molly and Don Peppin seem to have an affiliation-oriented motivational mindset, as they enjoy the pickers’ company; they offer them accommodation with almost no material benefit and are steady and disciplined supervisors. In fact, all supervisors seem more of an affiliate nature. Their achievement drive, as well as their power orientation both needs to be nurtured, through the participation to specific trainings, resulting in a granted supervisory qualification. Besides, their performance-based incentive needs to account for a more substantial part of their income (more than half of the monthly salary, anyhow). This commission-based payment scheme should depend on individual, as well as supervised team’s performance, since on the pickers’ output rest the whole of Benchley’s’ results.

As temporary staff, the pickers should be more encouraged, also by the upper echelon management and not only by their direct supervisors to take part in competitions for extra prizes. The returning, stable pickers should be encouraged by a small token of appreciation, a symbolic gift or the possibility for them to get promoted to superior positions within Benchley’s’, as field supervisors or head office staff.

Another theoretical model with solid practical implications for the case studied organisation is Herzberg’s two-factor theory, discussed also by Caruth & Humphreys (2008). Herzberg (cited in Noe et al., 2010) distinguished between two categories of motivating or de-motivating factors at the workplace, presented in the below table:

Table 1. Herzberg’s bi-factorial theory (adapted from Bratton & Gold, 2008)
Motivating factors: intrinsic, content or satisfaction-inducersHygiene factors: extrinsic, contextual or in satisfaction reducers
Work content itself (special projects, stimulating assignments etc.)
Accountability and ownership
Career advancement
Organisational policies and procedures
Workplace stability
Managerial style
Interpersonal relationships
Work conditions (facilities and amenities)

Herzberg’s theory, cited in Robbins (1998), indicates that material rewards only lead to the lack of dissatisfaction, whereas symbolic aspects such as the involvement in significant projects, promotion, appreciation, autonomy, all account for enhanced job satisfaction. In the headquarters-based order management team, the distinctive profiles of the five specialists (including the four account managers and Lucy Gadd, the Marketing Manager) can be explored through the motivational models of Herzberg and Adams.

Adam’s equity theory states that the members of any organisational team measure their input by comparing their own effort, results and subsequent reward with those obtained by the others. If, when comparing themselves with these relevant persons, they perceive the effort–reward ratio as just, then they perceive an equitable situation – a fair exchange between the employee and the organisation. If this relationship is perceived as unjust, a de-motivating feeling of inequity as tense uneasiness ensues and employees act to support the equity restoration. People compare their input (i.e. effort, experience, education, competency, ideas) to the organisational relationship to the expected output, in terms of salary increase, promotion opportunities, recognition, other incentives etc.

As terms of comparison, people use four basic elements:

  • Self-inside: one’s experiences in a different position inside Benkleys
  • Self-outside: one’s experiences in a professional standing outside Benkleys
  • Other-inside: with reference to another individual or group from within Benkleys
  • Other-outside: with reference to another individual or group outside Benkleys

The model is illustrated in the representation below:

Figure 2. Adams' equity-based motivation model (adapted from Robbins, 1998)

Figure 2. Adams’ equity-based motivation model (adapted from Robbins, 1998)

As tactics for equity restoring, the employees have the following options:

  • Modify the effort (were she less ambitious and determined, Arabella Millet might invest less effort or take more leaves of absence, since her colleague Hamish McArthur ‘affords’ to be so little involved)
  • Modify the reward (because of fulfilling two managerial roles, as head of IT and Chief Operating Officer, Marek Novak might demand a raise, improved work conditions, status and recognition or an assistant to be appointed and delegate a part of attributions to this new employee)
  • Cognitive distortion – resort to re-shaped perceptions on one’s own efforts and rewards (e.g. Eveline Peppin might think she is over-qualified for her current assignment and needs more challenging tasks, in the light of the MBA she is enrolled in)
  • Leave the transactional relationship (by transfer or simply quitting; Eveline and Arabella are most vulnerable to resort to this measure)
  • Choose another reference group (e.g. another account manager from inside or outside Benkleys)

As your business objective is expansion to foreign developing and emerging markets, the account managers have a key responsibility in bringing new customers. A flexible compensation system must be introduced to reward this aspect on a commission basis (as percentage of sale). People who display counter-productive behaviour, like gossiping, absenteeism and repeatedly asking for raises in a short space of time and without a correlated work performance (the case of Hamish McArthur) should be approached by their superiors (the Marketing Manager and the CEO) to discuss this state of affairs and adjustment measures and, if no agreement is reached, they should be excluded from the company altogether.

In a dynamic company in a fast-paced growth rhythm, like Benkleys, the performance outcome should outweigh the seniority criteria in the compensation and benefits scheme, as Nielsen & Ejler (2008) argue. This is why, even if she is a newcomer when compared to the Peppins, Arabella Millet deserves to be better rewarded on account of winning the Dubai hotel deal. She must be stimulated to be performance-driven, close more deals and develop her obvious creativity and networking strengths.

Lucy Gadd should be evaluated as per her managerial skills and she should also oversee the Peppins and convince them to adapt to new market orientation strategies. The flexible package of benefits should prevail over fixed salary for all operative positions directly concerned with sales. Lucy should be evaluated not only by her direct manager (the CEO), but also by her subordinates, to investigate the points to be improved.

Even if it is still a relatively small company, it is recommended that Benkleys sets out in its organisational development path by hiring an assistant for Marek Novak, to delegate either the operational assignments or the IT tasks. Eveline should also be granted more responsibility and be evaluated and rewarded accordingly, as economist. If Harry Benkley is not available, he should appoint someone else as CFO to work with Eveline and supervise the balance sheets. The appraisal system must be carefully monitored, ongoing and consistent enough (as Armstrong & Baron, 2005 argue), to prevent it from being turned in a mere formality happening once or twice a year.

The offering of constant constructive feedback is of the essence for all of Benkleys staff to feel motivated and treated in a thoughtful, dignified manner. Even negative feedback can be rewarding if ‘wrapped up’ in the correct wording, constructively phrased to underline optimisation tactics rather than emphasise what went wrong and to what extent. The following principles for feedback giving are stated in the acronymic STAR model (as explained by Bratton & Gold, 2008):

    • “S” for Situation – specify the particular context in which the assessed employee’s behaviour occurred, by answering questions such as: “Where?”; “When?”, “Who?”; “What?”; “How?” and eventually “Why?”
    • “T” for Task – the employee’s input to this circumstance
    • “A” for Action – the manner in which the employee proceeded to accomplish the task
    • “R” for Result – the actual impact of the employee’s action, be it intended or involuntary

Each reward method obviously has its downsides; however, effects must be tracked by measuring the expected outcomes, in terms of business targets, as well as employee’s satisfaction and commitment.

Bibliographic references
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Armstrong, M. (2009). (Ed.). Armstrong’s Handbook of Human Resources Management. (11th Edition). London: Kogan Page.

Armstrong, M. & A. Baron (2005). “Managing Performance, Performance Management in Action’. London, CIPD.

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Nielsen, S.B. and N. Ejler (2008). “Improving Performance? Exploring the Complementarities between Evaluation and Performance Management”. Evaluation, Vol. 14, No. 2: pp. 171-192.

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