ORGANISATIONAL FIT

jigsawMy main body of research work has been in the field of organisational fit (aka person-organisation fit). This is a field of study in applied psychology and organisational behaviour that is concerned with the 'fit' between employees and their employer. Put another way, it is that form of fit that applicants are thinking about when they ask themselves, "will I fit in here?" or that terrible feeling that employees sometimes feel when they start feeling like a misfit. I am interested in understanding these phenomena in more depth and, in particular, keen to help people find jobs where they will 'fit in' and help people have descending into the horrors of misfit.

 

PhD

My first fit study was my PhD work. I was intrigued by Ben Schneider's propositions that people are attracted to, selected by, and retained by organisations whose values they share. Studies had been done to establish the last phase of this cycle (e.g., Chatman, 1991), but there were no direct test of the attraction and selection phases. So that's what I studied in my PhD. I measured fit as work value congruence. The idea being the values are fundamental determinants of behaviour and that when an individual's values align with those of the organisation, there will be fit. Looking back now, this is a remarkably narrow conceptualisation of fit, but it sufficed for a PhD. Interestingly, although I thought at the time I was doing a person-organisation fit study, it's clear to me now that this was a values congruence study with very little relevance to fit.

I focused on people looking for work after their undergraduate studies. I gathered the work values of people applying to the various units of a large utility company in the UK and compared these to the same values of a general population of undergraduate students seeking work at the same time. I also gathered the values of the organisation by (i) asking senior members of the organisation to describe the values of the organisation, (ii) asking department members to describe the values of their department, and (iii) asking department members to report their own values. I had quite a large sample size and was able to distinguish the various business units and departments apart based on their values. I was also able to that different disciplines (e.g., marketing, engineering, HR) had distinguishable value profiles. All interesting and these helped validate the instrument, which was useful given the largely null findings of the main hypotheses.

H1: Do people apply to join organisation whose values they share? No. Apparently they apply to organisations because they want a job! (see Billsberry, J. (2007). Attracting for values: An empirical study of ASA’s attraction proposition. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 22(2), 132-149.)

H2: Do people get selected by organisations whose values they share? Not really; there is only the smallest effect and only when prolonged face-to-face contact happens.

As it's a pain for most people to get hold of my doctoral thesis (University of Nottingham, 2003), I published the thesis as a book: Billsberry, J. (2010). Person-Organisation Fit: Value Congruence in Attraction and Selection Decisions. Köln, Germany: Lambert Academic Publishing. ISBN 978-3-8383-3729-6

Since completing my doctoral thesis, I have conducted a series of fit studies which are increasingly moving away from value congruence and person-organisation fit and more towards perceived fit.

 

Studies into the Nature of Perceived Fit

Most of my postdoctoral work in organisational fit has focused on perceived fit. My interest in fit is when it refers to a 'felt experience' of employees (and potential employees). I am less concerned with interactions of people and the environments they inhabit and more interested in people's feelings of fit and misfit. At the Open University, I set up and ran The Fit Project. Originally this was a research project dedicated to the study of person-organisation fit in high fit environments. During the early stages of data gathering, we realised that everyone seemed to conceptualise fit differently and these didn't relate well to extant definitions of the term. Accordingly we changed track and focused on people's experience of fit instead. We (primarily John Moss-Jones, Natalie Van Meurs, Dannie Talbot, and me) employed causal mapping to get insights into people's fit and misfit. Ultimately this lead to a complex breakdown of organisation fit and the development of a staff survey instrument based on these types of fit.

In follow-up work Julian Edwards and expanded our range and conducted preparatory studies that could have lead us towards the development of a personnel selection tool. Sadly though, my departure from the Open University terminated this project early, although I hope to resuscitate it one day soon. Julian and I published an interesting paper in the Journal of Managerial Issues in which our empirical data suggested that organisational employees who have been working in an organisation for a little time do not have an overarching sense of fit. Instead, their various forms of fit (job fit, people fit, manager fit etc.) influence their psychological states (e.g., job satisfaction and organisational commitment) directly.

 

Fit Conference

In 2007 I launched the Global e-Conference on Fit. This was an online conference focused on organisational fit. The online nature of the conference proved very popular and we had more than 200 'attendees' over the two days. Submitters supplied relatively short papers which were released on the website gradually during the conference. Attendees could download and read the short papers and then engage in debate in forums on the paper. This worked exceptionally well and proved an excellent model for online conferences. I repeated the conference in the following three years, each year trying something new. In 2008 we added a Second Life island where we hosted our coffee breaks, opening and closing speeches (with fireworks), and evening discos. In 2010 submissions were considered for inclusion in a book dedicated to the conference. This edited by Amy Kristof-Brown and me and was published in 2013.

With my job moves, emigration, marriage, and house purchase, the conference has enjoyed a hiatus. But I am planning a conference in 2015, which will be the fifth conference. In fact, one of the reasons I have developed this new website is to control the platform upon which the conference runs so that all the history isn't lost. This year's innovation may be the podcasting or some other form of audio or video delivery of the papers.

 

Looking Ahead

I haven't done any organisational fit research for several years now. I have been doing more management education research instead. Nevertheless, it is my intention to return to organisational fit with three particular projects in mind. First, I am working with Dannie Talbot, Amy Kristof-Brown, and others using causal mapping to understand perceived fit. Second, I want to understand misfit properly. Third, ultimately I want to develop a personnel selection tool that is properly grounded in the theory. This is quite an endeavour, but I feel it is possible, and it would be the most useful thing we could develop in this field.