Service & Experience with J. N. Halm: Compatibility and Compassion

The Service Line with J. N. Halm: It’s A Joke...employing Humour at the Front Line
J.N. Halm is a columnist with the B&FT

…how job fit affects employee and customer experience


It is a big deal.

The lack of compatibility has led to more heartaches, heartbreaks and divorces than one can ever imagine. According to experts, it is a lack of compatibility that leads to the feeling of loneliness in a marriage. Compatibility is so important it is advised that it should be the first thing every individual looks out for in a future partner, especially if it happens to be a romantic relationship. Unfortunately, when people are in love, experience shows that physical attraction trounces any other determinant on most occasions. It is only some time down the line that the couple finds out they might not have been compatible all along.

But compatibility is not only important for lovebirds. Compatibility has also been found to be of great importance in the workplace. The concept of Person-Organisation Fit – or simply Job Fit, as some prefer to call it – is widely studied. Described as the congruence or alignment of an employee’s own beliefs and values with the mission, values and ethics of an employer, Employee-Employer Job Fit is not the same as Person-Job Fit. An individual can be fit for a job but not fit with an organisation offering that particular job.

Your temperament and outlook could be best-suited for the job of a frontline professional. However, you might not fit with a certain company that might offer you that frontline role. In other words, you are fit for the job but not fit for the company. It is therefore entirely possible that you might be working for the wrong company. This is not because the company is doing something wrong or you are doing something wrong. It’s just that you and your employer are not the best fit.

But why is it important that an employee’s values square on all fours with those of the organisation they work for? Aside from the ‘feel good’ factor of sharing the same values with a company one works for, what are the benefits of Person-Organisation Fit? Why should an organisation look out for and bring in those individuals who share the same dreams and aspirations as the organisation? Apparently, there is good enough reason why this should be so. Apparently, a good employee-employer fit is good for customer service.

According to a study whose results were published in the April 2023 edition of Cornell Hospitality Quarterly journal, employees who exhibit a high level of fit with their employers tend to also exhibit increased organisational citizenship behaviour. Organisational citizenship behaviour has been described as the set of behaviours that employees put up for the benefit of organisations they work for, without necessarily being told to do so; that is why these behaviours are referred to as ‘extra-role behaviours’.

The only motivation for these kinds of behaviours is a desire to see the organisation functioning as it should. Employees do these things because they just want to see things work out well for the organisation. These behaviours are mainly voluntary and discretionary in nature. Besides, these behaviours are mostly not going to be recognised by the formal system – and thus the positive behaviour might not get rewarded as such. An employee who turns off the air-conditioner in an empty office does so just because the one believes it is the right thing to do. Management might never see the one doing this, and so the one might never get rewarded.

The researchers claim that one of the reasons why employees exhibit these positive behaviours is because they feel a compassion for the organisation. The study was titled ‘Compassion in Hotels: Does Person–Organisation Fit Lead Staff to Engage in Compassion-Driven Citizenship Behavior?’ Although the study concentrated on the hospitality industry in general and hotels in particular, the findings have implications for businesses across other industries.

Collecting data from 280 hotel employees in Spain, the researchers concluded that staff who fit with the hotels they work for are “more likely to be sensitive to others’ setbacks and misfortunes, lessening or alleviating them compassionately”. By sharing the same values with the organisation, these employees begin to think and behave in ways that were more aligned to the organisation’s values.

One can say that compassion is a relative of empathy – which is a very important part of the measures with which customers assess the quality of a service. There is just a slight difference between the two: whereas empathy is attempting to feel what the other is feeling and trying to see things from the other’s point of view, compassion goes a little further. Compassion attempts to do something about the situation. Compassion prompts one to want to take action to alleviate the other’s suffering. That’s why it is almost impossible to have compassion without empathy. The latter mostly precedes the former.

Anyone who has spent a little time serving customers will appreciate the importance of compassion as a tool in delivering exceptional customer service. Without compassion, frontline employees will only go so far to help their customers. Without that desire of wanting to help a customer in need, customer service employees will only talk the talk but will not be willing to walk the talk.

From the above, it is easy to see how important compassion is in providing great customer service. But as gleaned from findings of the aforementioned study, employees who exhibit compassion are those who buy into the organisation’s values. They are those who love what the organisation stands for.

The study also touched on two types of organisational citizenship behaviours – one that is directed at the organisation and another that is directed toward individuals. This means that employees who share the same or similar values with the organisation will not only do things that are beneficial to the organisation, but also show the same positive attitude toward both colleagues and customers alike.

It is however important to state the study in question was quick to point out that the extent of effect from Job Fit on organisational citizenship behaviour is dependent on whether the employee is a permanent or temporary staff. When temporary staff exhibited organisational citizenship behaviour toward the organisation, it was more compassion-driven than the pro-organisational behaviour of permanent staff.

It is easy to understand how some particular industries might greatly benefit from the ongoing discussion. For instance, Job Fit will be very critical in the insurance industry, where empathy can play a very important role in customer experience. If Job Fit leads to greater compassion as argued by the above-stated research, then it means that in employing for the insurance industry administrators and HR managers must really be on the lookout for Job Fit. Just bringing smart people into the organisation without finding out if their values and goals are compatible to those of the company might backfire down the line.

The same can be said of employees working in the healthcare industry. A patient who is going through pain will definitely need a compassionate frontline professional to help alleviate that pain. Unfortunately, experience tells us that over a period of time these frontline professionals rather become indifferent – and might even be disturbed when they encounter others in pain. Could it be because they do not share values with the organisations they work for?

It might even be entirely possible that individuals who struggle to offer the best service to customers at the frontline are struggling because they are not the best fit – not for the job, but for the employer. This is a possibility that the ongoing discussion throws up, and it is something organisations’ management cannot overlook. If the employee is being hired to man the front office, then it is important for emphasis to be placed on finding out if that person believes in the same things as the organisation they are going to work for. The organisation’s core values must not only be words engraved on plaques around the office. Prospective employees must be grilled about their take on these values.

Unfortunately, in a market where jobs are scarce, the issue of Job Fit is the last thing on the minds of prospective employees. Individuals who are desperately looking for a job will not even consider values – theirs or those of the prospective employer – when applying for a job. As a matter of fact, one would be considered ‘crazy’ in this town to turn down a job offer because they do not feel their values are compatible with those of the hiring company.

It is a luxury many people cannot afford in this part of the world. It’s true that there are those who can use lack of compatibility as a reason to turn down a job offer, but those will be very few. They would include those few individuals whose skills set, experience and expertise means it is the company that needs them most and not the other way around.

The implications for service experience from the concept of Job Fit and the compassion it elicits from employees cannot be treated lightly. As a matter of fact, if the results from Cornell Hospitality Quarterly are anything to go by, then probably Job Fit should be one of the key determinants when employing for the front office.

Customer-facing employees should be individuals who have the same values as those of the businesses they work for. Without shared values, it becomes difficult – almost impossible – for those at the front to put themselves in the shoes of customers they are supposed to offer service to. A lack of compatibility will ultimately result in an absence of compassion.


Leave a Reply