UNR business professor: ‘Fit’ between people's interests, jobs can improve over time

Alexis Hanna, an assistant professor of management, explains why it is important to view each employee as an individual with unique sets of values and interests.

Alexis Hanna, an assistant professor of management, explains why it is important to view each employee as an individual with unique sets of values and interests. Courtesy Photo

What do your employees want from their job? Alexis Hanna, an assistant professor of management at the University of Nevada, Reno’s College of Business, explains why it is essential for organizations to re-evaluate how jobs fill employees’ career goals and needs over time.

“Now more than ever, it is extremely important to view each employee as an individual with unique sets of values and interests,” Hanna said. “I study something called ‘fit,’ which captures the degree to which people’s attributes such as abilities, interests, personality and values match their job and their company.”

Fit is a popular topic these days in both academic settings and workplaces. The importance of hiring well-fitting employees is clear. It can impact an applicant’s willingness to accept a job offer, employees’ performance on the job and a range of job attitudes.

According to Hanna’s newest research, fit may also drive people to pursue new educational and career opportunities that are a better fit than their current situation. Enhancing employees’ fit with their jobs can help keep talented employees in place.

In the research study, Hanna and her colleagues utilized 12 years of longitudinal data, which tracked the same samples of young adults from education to the workforce across different points in time.

Using several different analytical techniques, the researchers discovered that the fit between participants’ interests and their educational majors and jobs improved throughout young adulthood.

Why does interest fit improve over time? Hanna’s research found that people’s interests do not change much in their environment, but rather they tend to change their environment to fit their interests.

“Fit between people’s interests and their type of job tends to improve over time, largely because employees who are in jobs that they do not like tend to leave and find jobs that they like better,” Hanna said. “This is great for employees, but turnover can be very expensive for organizations.”

Due to the pandemic, many employees were thrown into work situations they never before anticipated.

Hanna went on to say, “Some employees are considered ‘essential’ to society but are making minimum wage, while other workers miss the social interaction and co-worker camaraderie they are used to in their day-to-day lives.”

To reduce turnover risks, it is more important than ever for organizations to understand what their employees need from their jobs.

“Based on this research, my suggestion is for organizations to re-evaluate what their employees want from their job,” Hanna said. “Are their interests being served? Are there positions in the company that might be a better fit? Are there ways that job tasks can be tailored to fit an employee’s best skill sets? What do employees’ value in a career?”

Career choices and behaviors are essential topics to managers, career counselors, human resources professionals and employees because they are relevant to all workers across all different industries.

“Rather than giving up when the going gets tough, treat fit as a dynamic process that can change and work to help employees achieve a better fit to reduce the likelihood that they will leave,” Hanna said. “Also, make fit a key component when you recruit and select new employees. Taking steps such as these will help build a strong, productive workforce with more satisfied employees.”

Reilly Moss is a Student Content Creator at the University of Nevada, Reno College of Business. This article first published April 29 in NEVADA Today and is republished here with permission.


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