Managing staff who don’t ‘fit’

by Stephanie Zillman08 Oct 2013

Organisations are increasingly looking to ‘vocational assessments’ as a constructive way of managing the situation when a staff member appears to not ‘fit’ in a role, or is struggling in their current role, according to a leading workplace psychologist.

The process of consultation with the employee can be hugely beneficial to all parties when conducted correctly, said Rachel Clements, psychologist and director of psychological services at the Centre for Corporate Health.

By admitting that a role is not playing to an employee’s strengths, and looking for alternatives, Clements said, the process can be a relief for all parties.

While vocational assessments have traditionally been used after problems have been identified, Clements said some organisations are now conducting the assessments during the recruitment phase.

Conducting the assessments upfront may minimise the risk of employing someone who may be technically competent but has not realised that the particular type of work does not fully engage them.

Clements said there are damaging consequences when an employee is not a good fit, such as absenteeism, inability to complete tasks, team conflicts, low morale, performance issues, client issues, a risk to the brand reputation and dysfunction that causes tension and stress.

Where an organisation finds that encountering fall-out from poor vocational assessments is common, the assessment can instead be conducted as part of inducting the employee, to ensure that they get off to a good start with strong culture, job and team fit.

When to use vocational assessments

  1. New employees – to ensure fit for role, team and organisation

  2. As a HR tool – seeking to understand if there is a misalignment between the role and what the person wants to do (which provides a good tool for honest constructive discussions)

  3. Following redundancies – where a person may express confusion about their next career steps

A typical vocational assessment process

  1. The individual meeting with an organisational psychologist to review his/her vocational history, find out how career decisions have been made in the past, and clarify his/her future career goals.

  2. A thorough assessment process whereby the individual completes a variety of psychological inventories measuring aspects of the individual such as skills, values, motivation and interest for various roles, behavioural preferences and personality style.

  3. A comprehensive report is then written by the organisational psychologist who outlines the results of the assessment process and arrives at specific recommendations for future career options.


  • by Tony B 9/10/2013 9:51:05 AM

    An interesting short article. I disagree that an organisational psychologist is needed to undertake such assessments. Many organisational development practitioners and career development coaches/counsellors are highly trainined and skilled in this area but aren't neccesarily org psychs.

  • by JoW 9/10/2013 1:18:59 PM

    I think Tony B's comment is valid, and I used to be of the same opinion. However, if using a psychometric instrument as the basis for a vocational assessment, an organisational psych is probably best to interpret the results. This doesn't invalidate the expertise of organisational development and other HR specialists, it just recognises that there is a reason that psychologists have a degree in what they do.

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