If you’ve just hired someone, congratulations. Recruiting is a challenge for most leaders at the moment. But, if you believe that new person is a good fit, beware, you could be in trouble.
Consider what happens when a leader reflects on a recent new hire that has gone badly, resulting in that person exiting the company. The leader might explain the exit by saying, “The person was a bad fit.” “How do you know?” one might ask. “They didn’t fit,” the leader replies. “But why?” the other person presses. “We know they didn’t fit because they don’t work here anymore!” the leader answers.
The actual reason for the person’s departure is never uncovered in this conversation.
Now let’s consider another situation where a person who was hired recently still works at the firm. “They were a good fit,” the leader might explain. “How do you know?” their co-worker asks. The leader might then say, “Because they still work here!”
In both cases, the leader is likely considering the individual a good or bad fit before they start working for the organisation. They do not understand the most important aspect of hiring: when you hire someone, you’re provided with a person who is a potential fit with your organisation. Then the onboarding process takes them from a potential fit to a successful fit or an unsuccessful fit.
What is onboarding?
Let’s consider the definition of onboarding. Onboarding is the process of taking someone from outside your organisation and making them a productive, independent, and confident member of your team who understands the culture, the technical and process expectations, and your expectations as their manager.
That definition results in a successful fit or an unsuccessful fit. It doesn’t result in a good or bad fit.
Fit is not binary.
Fit is a spectrum.
The problem with binary fit
When we think about fit as being binary - that a recent hire will not work out if they’re not the right person - we are indoctrinating our teams with the tyranny of low expectations.
A binary fit mindset advocates that it is pointless to follow an onboarding process and give new hires a better understanding of the organisation - they’ll either fit due to who they are, or they won’t. We’re saying that once the employment contract is signed, there is nothing we can do to increase the new hire’s chance of success in their role. If the person is a bad fit, it’s on them, and we’re not responsible. The worst part about this is that it excuses poor onboarding practices because the manager has an excuse already prepared - the person just 'wasn’t a good fit.' This excuse allows managers to shirk responsibility for spending time with their new hires.
You might hear leaders saying things like, “We’ve had such a bad run with hiring people,” or “We’re so unlucky with hiring,” or “There are no decent candidates in our industry or geography or market.”
It’s like they’re caught in a vicious loop where they say to themselves, “That former employee was a bad fit; any time spent with them would have been a complete waste. Therefore, we should not spend time with this other new hire in case they too are a bad fit because that would also be wasted time. Anyway, if they are going to work out well, we shouldn’t need to spend time with them because they are a good fit.”
To think that a person is a pre-determined good or bad fit is to discount the importance of the onboarding process and its purpose: to make your new hire a productive, independent, and confident member of your team or to confidently validate their exit.
To break this binary fit loop, instead of thinking about people as a good fit or a bad fit, which implies their success is entirely out of your control, I recommend using the phrases successful fit and unsuccessful fit. These phrases indicate that your onboarding process has validated whether the person is a successful fit. This represents a spectrum mindset.
The binary mindset thinks that a bad fit definitely won’t work and that a good fit definitely will work. On the other hand, with a spectrum mindset, all recent hires are on the spectrum between definitely will work through to definitely won’t work. The onboarding process validates whether they are a successful or an unsuccessful fit.
If you’ve just hired someone that you are labelling a good fit, they probably don’t understand how to succeed in your firm. And that’s the job of their manager, to help them understand. An effective manager would help someone who might be a successful fit, understand how to successfully fit, through an effective onboarding process.