By Thembile Cele
More often than not when employees leave a new employer within the first six months the issue is around misalignment because they have realised that either they were not the right fit for the company, or the company was not the right fit for them. How an employee ‘fits’ into their new environment will ultimately determine the success that employee will have in the company. So, what are the questions to ask your future employer to determine if the company will be the right fit for you?
A ‘fit’ can relate to the shared values, common attributes or characteristics that are found within an organisation. In HR speak, we are talking about the company’s culture which underpins the relationships within an organisation. You will see it in the way that people interact with one another, the values they hold and how they make decisions. A company’s culture can be intentionally created, or it can result from decision-making processes over time. Either way, it sets the tone in an organisation.
In a company where the employees fit into the culture of the company; employees most likely enjoy their work because their values match with the company values, and they will build better relationships with colleagues and will be more productive. Having the right ‘fit’ is just as important for employers as well because the cost of recruiting the right individuals and the cost of attracting the right individuals is often very high.
Company culture is important to employers too because workers who fit in with the company culture are likely to be happier, and more productive as well. When an employee fits in with the culture, they are also likely to want to stay with that company for longer, which reduces turnaround and the associated costs of training new hires.
With rising unemployment rates and rising operating costs It is very easy to just recruit any person that fits the specification on paper. Similarly for job seekers who are competing for limited job opportunities, it would be very easy for them to rush to secure the opportunity because they have been unemployed for so long and are wanting to no longer be part of the 34% South African individuals who are currently unemployed
Taking the time to conduct research on the company that is inviting you for an interview will save you a lot of time in deciding whether they would be suitable for you or not. At the interviewing stage this is the best time to ask some probing questions to save yourself that angst of having to explain that ‘Oops!’ period on your CV.
As a recruiter and someone who has sat across future employers, the following have been my favourite list of questions that either I have used, or have been asked of me as an HR professional, that will tell you a lot about the culture of your future employer
What words would you use to describe the culture here?
You want words like “friendly, open, encourages communication, and team-orientated”. You should be cautious if you are told “it’s tough, challenging, only the only the strong survive”. My follow up question would be, “why is that the case?”
I remember asking a potential employer why, on their BEE scorecard, they only reported on five female employees among their junior to senior management. Beyond being told it was a tough environment, I was told it was not a suitable place for women. As a woman, I knew I was not a suitable candidate for them.
What is the most surprising adjustment I would have to make to fit into the company?
This will tell you the company’s onboarding processes, how employees are treated when they start with the business, of if there is a support structure or is it a ‘sink or swim’ situation. If you are told it is challenging and will take you a year or years to settle in, or the environment is not for everybody? Nine out of 10 employers know the challenges that employees deal with in their organisation. You want to get a sense of what those challenges are.
How do the managers motivate their team if they have failed to achieve targets?
How your future employer answers this question will tell you about the learning culture or lack thereof in an organisation. For example, if they tell you that failures are not tolerated or discussed, then you know that if you don’t deliver, you are out. Yes, meeting targets is important, however, how an organisation addresses a deviation will tell you a lot about the management style or how discipline is dealt with.
Can you describe what is “conflict” referred to in the organisation and how is it handled?
How an organization resolves issues between employees or teams will tell you a lot about how managers engage with their staff and whether openness is encouraged or not. In the same way they will ask you to ‘tell us about a situation’, you can do the same.
How are decisions made?
Here you will get a sense of the company structure, who are the decision-makers, and what is the psychological company structure when it comes to making decision. As a junior employee, am I encouraged to think independently or am I micromanaged?
As a line manager, how do you manage your people?
You will learn a lot about team dynamics from how the recruiting manager relates to the team. Is independence encouraged or must all decisions taken be approved by the manager? If for instance you like to solve problems independently before you involve your senior, then in an environment where such decision-making is discouraged you will be frustrated.