How to Address ‘Person-Environment Fit’ Theory Amid Coronavirus

The Covid-19 pandemic is arguably one of the most unprecedented events in human history. It is sparing no one. Each sector of society has been affected by this health crisis to different degrees. 

Many retailers who relied on conventional in-store visits had to adapt to an online shopping model. Some restaurants were forced to focus heavily on food deliveries to make ends meet. 

Sales people had resorted to virtual selling to reach potential customers. Moreover, human resource teams struggled to formulate appropriate work practices and policies in a remote work setup. The list goes on.

But just recently, travel restrictions have eased up, businesses have started to reopen,  and supply chains are returning to normal, even if new coronavirus cases are increasing. Some businesses are adapting months after the onset of the pandemic. 

Companies are getting used to the “new normal.” Although they have realized that the Covid-19 pandemic is nothing short of a disaster, it gave them the opportunity to study their employees’ needs, having been subjected to abrupt business changes.

For one, many employees noted the disadvantages of working in a remote setup and have expressed their interest to return to offices to resume work activities. Perhaps, this revelation has something to do with the Person-Environment Fit Theory.

According to this review, a person-environment fit suggests that a relationship between individuals and environments exists. Over the years, many have influenced the theory resulting in different domains namely: person-organization fit, person-job fit, and person-group fit. What do these theories mean in today’s context?

Person-organization fit

This theory generally refers to the compatibility between an individual and an organization. Most studies associate this compatibility with an employee’s shared mission, vision, values, and principles and the employee’s organization, and vice-versa.

One particular study sheds light on its impact on job satisfaction and performance. It explains that companies who craft ideal working conditions derived from company culture initiates improved person-organization fit levels. This, in turn, positively affects job satisfaction which further boosts employee performance. 

But circumstances now differ with most companies adopting a remote workforce model. It has become more difficult to communicate the company culture businesses want to instill in their employees. And this difficulty is magnified for those companies managing global talent. 

Jason Xenopoulos, CEO and chief creative officer of marketing agency VMLY&R, has highlighted the importance of shared human energy in a Forbes article. He said once companies begin to change their views on their employees and apply this shared energy in their workforce, they can begin to focus on culture over structure. 

Employees, now more than ever, seek companies that clearly embody their company culture to them. Not easy in the age of the pandemic. So HR and global mobility managers have to build and sustain forward-looking company cultures, especially when they aren’t able to see their employees physically.

Person-job fit

On the other hand, person-job fit is defined as the match between an employee and an employee’s job. Many HR and global mobility managers utilize this theory as a key indicator whether a candidate is fit for a specific job position. It also helps them properly define the tasks that new hires and existing employees should expect and matches it with one’s skill set — both hard and soft. 

A study points out that person-job fit supports Barrett’s congruence theory which suggests that when an employee’s skills and desired job characteristics match with the job itself and what it entails, job satisfaction and performance are achieved.

In the middle of a pandemic, HR and global mobility teams have to satisfy the new demands of employees who have undergone the complexities of remote working. Workers had to navigate through digitization at a rapid pace just to ensure their contribution to business continuity. New work activities have also been assigned to adapt to the drastic changes in remote working.

Employees now face many hurdles in this workplace model such as mental health issues, boundaries between work and personal life, and safety. This begs the question if employers are taking steps to address these employee concerns.

Person-group fit

This theory pertains to a person’s compatibility with a group or team. Similar to the mentioned domains, a systematic review presents that this compatibility positively impacts job satisfaction as well. In addition, an employee’s match with his or her workgroup affects the likeliness of an employee’s intent to leave the organization. 

A sense of belonging is needed by any employee regardless of personality type. Many employees have found themselves performing poorly when they’re unable to identify themselves in the group they are assigned to, and this can cause more harm to the business when not detected in its early stages.

And with most companies shifting to remote work, virtual communication has become a major roadblock for some employees to experience genuine camaraderie with their assigned teams. However, virtual camaraderie, albeit difficult to implement, is actually attainable. 

Gonzalo Shoobridge, Ph.D, director of strategic partnerships & client solutions of Great Place to Work UK, recommends companies who took the remote workforce route, to effectively manage their virtual teams, motivate employees to use video communication channels amongst co-workers, and encourage workers to have casual chats in an attempt to foster camaraderie.

Like any other theory, these are still subjects to debate, and it’s not at all surprising given the qualitative nature of the subject matter. HR and global mobility managers should understand that there is no one-size-fits-all solution, but these are definitely worth studying.