Cartoon of businessman jumping with lightening flashAn older but still very illuminating study by Leadership IQ has revealed the worrying statistic that apparently 46 percent of newly hired employees fail within 18 months and only 19 percent achieve what they describe as unequivocal success.

What was most interesting in this study were the reasons for this new hire failure. What they actually found was that, most commonly, employees did not fail as a result of not having the right technical skills; failure was mainly attributed to a lack of interpersonal skills, with many of these shortcomings having been overlooked in the hiring process.

This is an especially interesting study for recruiting and resourcing professionals as it extends the performance impact period of the initial recruiting decision far beyond the probationary period and well in to the second year of service. It suggests that the quality/suitability of the initial hiring decision can have an impact on the overall success of the candidate in the medium-to-long term. This is both a potential cross to bear and a drum to bang for the hiring profession.

But, back to the study, what were the top 5 reasons for new hire failure? They were:

  1. Coachability (26%): The ability to accept and implement feedback from bosses, colleagues, customers and others.
  2. Emotional Intelligence (23%): The ability to understand and manage one’s own emotions, and accurately assess others emotions.
  3. Motivation (17%): Sufficient drive to achieve one’s full potential and excel in the job.
  4. Temperament (15%): Attitude and personality suited to the particular job and work environment.
  5. Technical Competence (11%): Functional or technical skills required to do the job.

Before I go further, it’s worth pointing out that while the study is a few years old, it is very substantial as it looked at 5,257 hiring managers from 312 businesses who had collectively hired more than 20,000 employees during the period. This suggests to me that the study is really worth listening to and, fortunately, it dovetails with current thinking in strategic resourcing circles, which is bringing a greater emphasis on cultural fit relative to technical competency during the hiring process.

But, what this study helps to define is what is meant by cultural fit, which I feel is necessary as cultural fit is often used in a vague and unquantified way that leaves its open to misuse. This study helps to bring a deeper emphasis on cultural fit, beyond more superficial measures of “do they drink at the same bars?” “do they like the same TV shows?” or “share the same sense of humor?” with the interviewer, to more tangible areas such as coach-ability, and whether the hire will be able to thrive and grow within the team management culture and broader company management culture. And/or do they have the emotional togetherness to work through conflict, or even avoid conflict; the right temperament to function well in our environment?

This study should be a great steer-and-call to action for recruiters and employers. I think it urges them to have a much more surgical focus on cultural fit hiring, which could involve cultural profiling of positions with respect to the qualities needed to work within the team, department and company at large. And then these cultural success profiles can be used in the hiring process to more effectively benchmark candidates for cultural fit – and to help to eliminate the new hires failures arising from cultural fit.

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