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Why Values Fit Is Key to Hiring (and Keeping) Talent

Insight

05 March 2015

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Today, Sky News reported that Mark Zuckerberg held one golden rule when hiring – to only hire people who he would himself work for. Recognising the significance an organisation’s hiring procedures can have on performance, the extent to which one simple guideline is sufficient may be questioned. Nevertheless, Zuckerberg has defended this heuristic, contending “the rule served me well”. Indeed, the success speaks for itself, with Zuckerberg now being worth approximately £23 billion. It is therefore befitting to investigate: is Zuckerberg on to something?

Values Fit

Through utilising this one rule when hiring, Zuckerberg is contrasting his own values with those of the potential employee. This is a shift from assessing whether an individual reaches a certain benchmark of capability, to assessing based on person-organisation fit. Those who Zuckerberg chooses not to employ, may be more than capable to perform in the job role, but they may not share the organisation’s values. Indeed, Zuckerberg has admitted that ‘Facebook is not a company for everyone’.

Is Values Fit Important?

Research from occupational psychology suggests that those who share the values of their organisation, stay significantly longer than those who do not. Thus, this simple rule of thumb may in turn increase talent retention. Indeed, an employee’s psychological relationship with their organisation is inevitably strengthened by aligning values, as it would with their relations with other employees. What is more, research has equally hinted at person-organisation value fit, leading to greater job satisfaction, organisational commitment and, crucially, performance.

Implementation

In practice, implementing this rule in an objective way presents challenges. Specifically speaking, values adopted by organisations can often be abstract concepts, interpreted in divergent ways from one interviewer to the next. Moreover, psychological literature brings attention to the fact that the unique experiences, beliefs and values of each interviewer creates equally varied perceptions, even of the same ‘objective’ environment. To overcome this hurdle, it is therefore necessary to translate values into behaviours: What does valuing good customer service look like? If someone values honesty, how might they behave? This lessens the subjectivity to the assessment of fit.

A Caveat

Of course, this is not to discount the importance of other tools and tests utilised throughout the hiring process. It would be an untenable stance to argue that cognitive tests, past experience and group tasks are not a crucial part of the assessment process. Organisations need to be able to assess whether an individual has the capability to perform in the specific role. Nonetheless, Dominic Mahony, Client Services Director at Lane4, has himself admitted that when hiring, “attitude and values-fit trumps everything else”.

Summing Up

In conclusion, Zuckerberg’s decision to draw on his own values when hiring others is in fact aligned with psychological research which boasts the benefits of this process. However, successful implementation of this assessment may be tricky and should accompany further assessment of the capabilities specific to the job role. That said, Zuckerberg rightly brings attention to the fact, that values fit may be the single best test of a potential employee’s suitability to your organisation.

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