Identifying Person-Organization Fit

The Organizational Culture Profile (“OCP”) developed by O’Reilly et al. and subsequently refined by others has become a widely recognized and used tool for assessing “person-organization” fit.  The OCP originally used a typology of dimensions of organizational culture that included innovation, stability, people-orientation, outcome-orientation, aggressiveness, detail-orientation and team-orientation.  Each of these dimensions was associated with various “characteristics” that could be used in surveys and questionnaires to develop profiles of organizational members as well as the entire organization and specific groups within the organization.  Examples of characteristics included “adaptability”, “being innovative”, “being rule oriented” “fairness”, “tolerance”, “informality”, “decisiveness”, and “achievement oriented”.

 Handler provided a clear and simple explanation of the process of using the OCP to measure person-organization fit:

  • A baseline for the organization’s culture is established by having a representative sample of the organizational members provide their opinions on which of the dimensions is most and least representative of the organization.  The baseline is established by aggregating the ratings provided by the survey participants.  At this stage participants should be reminded to focus on “how the organization is” as opposed to how they would prefer it to be or their own personal preferences as to the cultural environment in which they would like to work.
  • Organizational members create their own personal value profiles by ranking each of the characteristics referred to above from most preferred for their work environment to least preferred.  This is the stage where participants need to visualize their ideal situation and avoid speculating as to whether it would be possible for the organization to deliver all of the characteristics they would prefer.  Realizing there are a large number of characteristics, respondents should be urged to focus primarily on the three to five items that are “most characteristic” and “least characteristic” and not spend too much time sorting out the others that fall into the middle.
  • The personal value profiles of the organizational members are compared to the profile of the baseline organizational culture constructed in the first stage and the overlap between the organizational culture and a member’s personal values or preferences provides a data-based estimate of the person-organization fit for the member.

Handler conceded that the approach outlined above is relatively “soft” and somewhat subjective and thus may not pick up harder and more objective aspects of performing a particular job; however, Handler argued that the OCP and the concept of person-organization fit (“P-O Fit”) can provide value to organizations and their leaders and members.  For example, research has shown that good P-O Fit increases tenure and reduces the costs of turnover. In addition, P-O Fit has been linked to increased worker satisfaction, organizational commitment and organizational identification.  P-O Fit can also be used as a tool for selecting the best candidates for work groups and teams and determining whether a member would do well if he or she is transferred to a new area within the organization.  Handler noted that there are often a large number of groups within an organization and that groups may have values that differ from other groups that can and should be profiled to determine whether a particular member would fit well within that group.  Finally, the output from the OCP survey can be used to develop an “employment brand” for the organization that can serve as a recruiting tool and the basis for messaging to job candidates regarding the values and practices of the organization with respect to its members.

Sources for this post included C. O’Reilly, J. Chatman and D. Caldwell, “People and organizational culture: A profile comparison approach to person-organization fit”, Academy of Management Journal, 34 (1991), 487; D. Cable and T. Judge, “Interviewers’ perceptions of person-organization fit and organizational selection decisions”, Journal of Applied Psychology, 82 (1997), 546 (see here for an illustration of a worksheet to be completed by an organizational member to determine his or her personal values profile); and C. Handler, The Value of Person-Organization Fit, Building an Interview (Website).  To learn more see the materials on Organizational Culture at the website of the Growth-Oriented Entrepreneurship Project.

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