Why is one company’s underperformer another’s star?

The success of an individual does not just depend on him alone, the culture and team members of the organisation play a significant role

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Picture this — Shilpa is promoted twice in a year, with her annual package increasing three fold. Her manager is happy with her, and her subordinates are inspired and motivated seeing her performing well and climbing up the ladder of success in no time. Soon she is flooded with calls from other companies ready to hire her and compensate her even better. These lucrative opportunities no doubt tempt her given that her confidence is at a peak. She decides to join the other firm lured by the prospect to grow even more.

However, as a new entrant in the other firm, she does not feel the same confidence. Things are not only different, but do not go the way she wants them to. Her tasks are more challenging and seem almost impossible to accomplish. Despite giving her best and working hard, she is unable to achieve the desired results. She realises she is just not performing the same way that she used to at her previous firm. Why is that?

Such experiences are not uncommon. The reverse is also true. One may be a big loser in one’s previous firm, but the moment one joins a different company, everything just seems to fall into place, facilitating great performance.

“The reason for the success of a person does not just depend on him alone, the culture and team members also support them. When there is a change in the team members and the culture of the company, it is difficult for the person to fit in.”

Rattan Chugh, business & leadership consultant and former CPO, Times Internet

Our HR experts point out that such phenomena are not unheard of. In fact, they happen quite frequently in the lives of HR leaders and talent-acquisition experts too.
Let’s take the case of a senior sales professional who relocates from Hyderabad to Delhi. He possess all the skills required in a media sales personnel, but for some reason, he found it very challenging to adjust to the working model in Delhi-based media firm. Not only was the product slightly different, the mindset of the clients also varied. Within four months he put in his papers, as he was not performing at par.

Rattan Chugh, business & leadership consultant and former CPO, Times Internet, gives an example of top investment firms that hire the best-performing analysts from their rivals only to witness their success rate as low as 30 per cent. Giving another example from his own experience, when Chugh was working with a global banking firm, he hired a business person with expertise in a particular platform backed by a great track record. However, within a few months he realised that he was not a good fit for the role. Chugh realised that the person could not understand the organisation’s method of operation, culture and the dynamics of the stakeholders. So eventually, he had to be moved to another role.

“The success of individuals is determined by the behavioural competencies they have. If individuals reflect certain behaviours which align with the organisation’s functional and leadership behaviours, they are more likely to perform well in that company. For instance, some functional and leadership competencies at Tata Motors, will be very different from other firms.”

Biswaroop Mukherjee, head – HR, commercial vehicle business unit, Tata Motors

But why does this happen? Is there any one formula to success?

Well, as per Biswaroop Mukherjee, head – HR, commercial vehicle business unit, Tata Motors, this usually happens when the behavioural competency of an individual is very different from the organisation’s functional competencies. This leads to the individual not being the right culture fit.

“The success of individuals is determined by the behavioural competencies they have. If individuals reflect certain behaviours which align with the organisation’s functional and leadership behaviours, they are more likely to perform well in that company. For instance, some functional and leadership competencies at Tata Motors, will be very different from other firms,” points out Mukherjee.

So what are behavioural competencies? These competencies develop from the beliefs and motives of an individual.

Prashant Vishwa, head of talent acquisition, Jubliant Foodworks, begs to differ. He believes that just by aligning the behavioural competencies of an individual with that of an organisation’s functional competencies does not guarantee that person’s success. It is also essential to analyse the attributes of the role while hiring the individual.

“I am a firm believer of the Myer Briggs indicator which shows the personality type of a person. People may reflect certain behaviours which indicate that they are a great fit for the company but that does not necessarily mean that they will be successful in that role,” shares Vishwa.

“I am a firm believer of the Myer Briggs indicator which shows the personality type of a person. People may reflect certain behaviours which indicate that they are a great fit for the company but that does not necessarily mean that they will be successful in that role.”

Prashant Vishwa, head of talent acquisition, Jubliant Foodworks

To this Chugh adds, “The reason for the success of a person does not just depend on him alone, the culture and team members also support them. When there is a change in the team members and the culture of the company, it is difficult for the person to fit in.”

In fact, according to Vishwa, after having accumulated years of experience, people get tuned to a certain method of working. When they shift to a different firm, it takes time for them to adjust to the operational methodology of another company. People who understand this and never give up are likely to sail through, but most of them succumb.

Another reason could be a business transformation. Giving an example, Vishwa explains that if we hire tech talent from a company which has already adopted technology and believes in it and that talent moves to a company which is in the process of adapting to technology, the productivity curve of that individual is likely to be more.

Is there a way to identify these signals? Will a hiring manager hire a person who comes with a bad track record in his previous firm? How will one predict or anticipate that one is hiring the right person?

Mukherjee mentions the STAR (Situation, Task, Action and Result) technique which is very much useful during interviews.

“STAR is a very useful method of identifying whether a person is faking or genuinely has the competencies to fit in the given role,” opines Mukherjee.

But for Vishwa, it is more clear when the person is actively working in the role. It is only then that it is possible to identify if that person is really fit for the job. Past experiences can be an illusion. They can act as a barrier to a seeing a person’s real capability.

Therefore, from all that, we can conclude that there is no one formula to be successful. It keeps changing from company to company and organisational culture to culture. One just needs to identify those key points for success and make efforts to adapt to the working style or methodology of different firms.

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