The Wrong Blood Type: Understanding the Risks of Mismatched Employees in Your Business (Part 3)

Blood Type

When I wrote my book, I choose a title that summed up risk management for business leaders, “Risk Starts And Ends With People.” At the end of the day, your people touch every aspect of your business, and every decision and action, or inaction, either provides benefit or risk to your business. Just remember, the tasks within your risk management strategy, or on your risk management ‘tick box’ list, rely on your people to execute.

It is also worth noting that people are your greatest asset in management risk. Yes, two sides of the same coin – Risk and Opportunity. You could easily swap out the “Risk” in my title with “Opportunity. You choose. In my work, I see and interchange with both, because I know the gateway to opportunity is often through risk, and it is by working ‘with’ and ‘through’ your people that you can make the biggest difference.

Your people are key, and the importance of a cohesive and well-functioning team cannot be overstated. Building upon our analogy of a business as a living organism, let’s examine the risks and impacts when the wrong “blood type” – represented by mismatched or poorly suited employees – is introduced into the system, and the steps businesses can take to mitigate these risks.

The Importance of Compatibility

Just as receiving the wrong blood type can have serious consequences for the human body, hiring employees who are not a good fit for your organisation can lead to dysfunction and discord within the business. Whether it’s a mismatch in skills, values, or cultural fit, the repercussions of hiring the wrong person can be felt throughout the organisation, affecting morale, productivity, and ultimately, the bottom line.

This is why it is important all organisations to ensure their communication in relation to their organisational identity (heart) and how they operate and show up (stomach) is transparent. One of the most common risks associated with mismatched employees is a clash of organisational culture. It is far too easy for businesses to use throw away statement when things go astray that it was a ‘Cultural Clash’. When individuals who do not align with the company’s values, norms, or ways of working are brought on board, it can create tension and resentment among existing team members. This can erode trust, hinder collaboration, and damage the overall cohesiveness of the team.

However, upon closer examination, it often becomes evident that the initial alignment was flawed from the outset. Take, for instance, scenarios where a business compromises on cultural fit in favour of specific skill sets, or where the position and/or company were misrepresented. Countless instances abound where highly capable and skilled individuals, boasting a track record of stellar performance, join a new company only to encounter unforeseen challenges. Despite ticking all the boxes during the recruitment process, they find themselves struggling. The discrepancy arises when the actual work environment differs significantly from what was portrayed or expected. The role description and organisational culture may have seemed similar to their previous experiences, but upon integration, the reality is polarizing. What was promised during interviews fails to align with the truth, leaving the candidate ill-prepared and unable to make an informed decision. Consequently, their ability to thrive within the new environment is compromised, impacting both their behaviour and performance. Regrettably, such scenarios are more prevalent than commonly assumed.

Skills Gap: Failing to Deliver on Expectations

Imagine if you needed to receive blood and were given the wrong type; your body would become very sick, and your immune system would kick in and attack the wrong blood type. The receive blood does not have the specific requirements for your body. Another consequence of hiring the wrong blood type is a mismatch in skills or qualifications. If an employee lacks the necessary expertise or experience to perform their role effectively, it can result in loss of productivity, missed deadlines, subpar work quality, and frustration among colleagues and clients alike. This can tarnish the organisation’s reputation and undermine its ability to compete in the marketplace.

There can be a range of reasons why this can happen, for example, in some sectors finding candidates with the necessary skills can be challenging, especially in specialised or emerging fields where talent is scarce. To meet the headcount target, companies are willing to make compromises to meet the business demands. Perhaps some believe they can train on the job, but then fail to have a suitable onboarding and training program for lesser skilled candidates. In reality, this can be setting up both the new employee and the business for failure to deliver on expectations and deliverables. No body wins, and the risks that can be created by this type of situation, can lead to employees becoming overwhelmed, frustrated, and disengaged, which dilutes the value of your resource pool, and can create other people-based risks.

Cultural Toxins: Toxicity Spreading Through the Organisation

Just like when a toxin enters the bloodstream it can spread and make you sick, including affecting organs, a mismatched employee may not only fail to contribute positively to the organisation but may actively undermine its culture and morale. Whether it’s due to a negative attitude, unethical behaviour, or poor interpersonal skills, toxic employees can poison the work environment, leading to disengagement, turnover, and a loss of valuable talent.

This is why it is critical that the right blood type is identified, so it will strengthen the heart (organisational identity) not compromise it. When employees feel a sense of alignment with the organisation’s purpose and mission, and they believe they have a work environment that supports them to be successful, then you have reduced the likelihood of the employee becoming a risk. In the most part, employees support the business in kind, and will rise to protect the business that supports and protects them.

Many people-centred risks present themselves when there is a misalignment, and employees don’t feel aligned, valued, or they are being set up for success. So often eager new employees come into a business with aspirations to make a difference, and as mentioned earlier, if the workplace is different from what was pitched, this is often where seeds of frustration can appear, leading to more concerning risks, like disengagement, disgruntlement, and even be a pathway to becoming an insider threat, either through neglect or malicious intent.  

Protecting the Organism: Strategies for Mitigation

A body’s heart is responsible for pumping blood throughout the body and to key organs. This is why alignment to the organisational identity when selecting people can make a huge difference. With one caveat, the organisational identity, the heart of the business, must be real. It can’t be “lip service”, or a few words on poster. If it is not how the business operates and shows up in the world, then you will always have a higher risk of mismatched employees.

Having clarity and alignment of your organisational identity allows your human resources team and recruitment selection process to be developed more in line. You get to create the experience all new candidates go through as they enter your work environment. Right from the beginning, that sets the tone of how your business operates.

In truth, the recruitment process offers ample opportunities for refinement and enhancement beyond the foundational steps of delineating job roles, conducting comprehensive interviews and assessments, and evaluating cultural compatibility with the company’s values. Moreover, investing in continuous training and development can effectively address skill gaps, empowering employees to excel in their positions. It’s essential to emphasize not only the ‘what’—the resources provided—but also the ‘how’ these resources are delivered, as the manner of implementation is equally crucial.

Returning to our analogy of the human body, consider people as the bloodstream coursing through its veins. Just as we can sense when our body is in a state of wellness or illness, we intuitively recognise when something is amiss. When we’re unwell, particularly when illness strikes severely, our primary focus naturally shifts to getting better.

Conclusion: Nurturing a Healthy Organism

In conclusion, the analogy of a business as a living organism highlights the importance of cultivating a cohesive and well-functioning team. By being mindful of the risks associated with hiring the wrong blood type – whether it be a cultural misfit, skills gap, or toxic behaviour – businesses can take proactive steps to protect their organisational health and foster a positive work environment where employees can thrive and contribute to the success of the business.

Like our bloodstream is key to providing energy to our vital organs and body, people are key and touch every aspect of your business, and it is our heart that is responsible for pumping that blood. That is why the final blog in this series is exploring, “Contagion in the System: How Business Threats Impact the Heart of the Organisation.”

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