Ability-Job Fit

Physical Abilities:
To the same degree that intellectual abilities play a larger role in complex jobs with demanding information-processing requirements, specific physical abilities gain importance for doing less-skilled and more-standardized jobs successfully. For example, jobs in which success demands stamina, manual dexterity, leg strength, or similar talents require management to identify an employee’s physical capabilities.

Research on the requirements needed in hundreds of jobs has identified nine basic abilities involved in the performance of physical tasks. Individuals differ in the extent to which they have each of these abilities. Not surprisingly, there is also little relationship between them: A high score on one is no assurance of a high score on others. High employee performance is likely to be achieved when management has ascertained the extent to which a job requires each of the nine abilities and then ensures that employees in that job have those abilities.

Our concern is with explaining and predicting the behavior op people at work. In this section, we have demonstrated that jobs make differing demands on people and that people differ in their abilities. Therefore employee performance is enhanced when there is a high ability – job fit.

The specific intellectual or physical abilities required for adequate job performance depend on the ability requirements of the job. So, for example, airline pilots need strong spatial visualization abilities; beach lifeguards need both strong spatial-visualization abilities and body coordination; senior executives need verbal abilities; high-rise construction workers need balance; and journalists with weak reasoning abilities would likely have difficulty meeting minimum job-performance standards. Directing attention at only the employee’s abilities or only the ability requirements of the job ignores the fact that employee performance depends on the interaction of the two.’

What predictions can we make when the fit is poor? If employees lack the required abilities, they are likely to fail. If you’re hired as a word processor and you can’t meet the basic keyboard typing requirements, your performance is going to be poor irrespective of your positive attitude or your level of motivation. When the ability job fit is out of sync because the employee has abilities that far exceed the requirement of the job, our predictions would be very different. Job performance is likely to be adequate, but there will be organizational inefficiencies and possible declines in employee satisfaction. Given that pay tends to reflect the highest skill level that employees possess, if an employee’s abilities far exceed those necessary to do the job, management will be paying more than it needs to. Abilities significantly above those required can also reduce the employee’s job satisfaction when the employee’s desire to use his or her abilities is particularly strong and is frustrated by the limitations of the job.