The importance of feeling good at a company

On February 12 we were the headliner on Belgium’s ‘TechCrunch’:
Journalist Hannes Dedeurwaerder did an extraordinary job, capturing Twegos’ story in a condensed and spot-on way.
Probably the best 4:12 minutes of reading time you will spend today, if you ask us. The original article in Dutch on Bloovi’s website can be found here. Below our translation into English.

“To enhance retention, you must work with data. And you can’t pull those out of the slogans on the wall about your company’s vision.”

It is often said that a cultural fit between employee and organization is the prerequisite for a healthy working relationship. But does that even exist, and if so, how do you measure something so ‘elusive’? Based on academic research, HR-tech company Twegos developed a broadly applicable online tool to predict the fit between an individual and a company’s values, with a proven impact on turnover and performance of that individual. “With a bad fit, the risk of turnover is simply drastically higher”, says co-founder and CEO Arend van Itterbeek.

With the test, developed in collaboration with the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), HR-tech company Twegos checks whether there will be a match between a (future) employee and the organization. Not only does cultural fit lead to better working relations and performance, but a bad match also costs a lot of time, energy and – above all – tons of money. And the tool pays off, as evidenced by the fact that Twegos succeeds in explaining the KPIs of more than one-third of the turnover intentions in companies, which is quite unique.

Recurring cost

“Our intention is to tackle the major problem of retention,” begins Arend Van Itterbeek, co-founder and CEO of Twegos. “The turnover in companies – especially in blue-collar sectors – is extremely high today, mainly because of the scarcity in the labor market. Even people with the very lowest level of education have many options to get a job somewhere. As a result, turnover rates in the logistics sector, for example, are 50 percent and more. And that has an economic impact: both the costs for recurring recruitment and onboarding are huge”.

“Most employers, however, have resigned themselves to this, but at Twegos, we say there is absolutely no need to do so. By mapping out why employees are leaving en masse, you can reverse this negative trend. And one of the predictors of this is cultural fit. Today, more than ever, young people, in particular, are looking for the perfect match. They want to feel good in their professional environment, while the generations of their parents and grandparents went to work primarily to support the family and often stayed at the same company their whole life”.

No psychological tools

The cultural fit that today’s generation is looking for does in fact exist. “We don’t just provide neat tools, we developed an assessment in order to have the greatest possible economic impact on the recruitment costs of our clients. We can provide crystal clear, statistical proof that there is such a thing as cultural fit”, Arend Van Itterbeek continues.

“In conversations with clients, we often hear that cultural fit is an art, not a science. Well, give us six months, and based on the client’s own data, we will show what the impact will be. A catch-all term, culture has two components that you can effectively measure: the first is employee values – which is what our tool is all about – that you can extrapolate to the entire company. The second is the concrete behavior, for which we are currently developing a new tool”.

“If you link those two components, this results in a purely an objectifiable measure for soft skills. In this way, we succeeded in reducing turnover by 35 percent at the bakery-restaurant chain Le Pain Quotidien. And we also achieve a similar impact at customers such as bpost and DHL”.

Match between truckers

“But we do more than just check if there is a match between employee and team”, explains Arend Van Itterbeek. “We also carry out one-on-one research: does it click between people and their immediate colleague?

“We have implemented this for an American trucking company, for example, where two people often spend a long time together in the same truck cabin. By mapping this out and finding the right match, we were able to reduce turnover in that company by 20 percent. We are currently rolling out the mini tool Truckermatching that was used for this in several major American trucking companies”.

“In other words: we always determine the scope in advance, together with the client, ” adds Jurgen Noel, co-founder, and COO. “Are we looking at the company in general, or at a department, or even at two employees in one cabin? Everything depends on the customer’s needs.”

“Companies that work with us usually need three things: first, optimizing the recruitment process by excluding people who don’t fit and fast-tracking very good fits; second, reducing recruitment and training costs due to excessive turnover; and third, increasing individual performance by placing people in an environment where they feel at home – even 1-on-1-fit with a direct supervisor is crucial in this regard”.

A deeply ingrained feeling

Twegos is now also very active in the United States. We want to know whether cultural fit is something universal. “It’s deeply ingrained in people to feel at home somewhere,” answers Arend Van Itterbeek. “That feeling is boundless, which is why our model can also be used cross-culturally. It’s for that reason that our model is based on 25 international academic models”.

“In total, we measure 13 company values, which are also universal,” adds Jurgen Noel. “The values we measure are universally the drivers for a good fit, but purely culturally there are differences in terms of impact. Somebody who grew up in Asia, for example, will place different emphases and give the value of ‘conformity’ much more weight than is the case with us in Belgium, for example”.

“However, this does not mean that our tool contains or would reinforce cultural prejudices. On the contrary, we are advocating for a culturally diverse workplace, best achieved if the mindset of the employees is as close as possible to the values of the organization”.

Gap with reality

Twegos’ research is often an eye-opener for the company in question. It sometimes turns out that the company’s mapped corporate culture does not correspond to the culture the company intends to adopt. “That is often very confrontational, but at the same time enlightening,” says Jurgen Noel. “As a company you can, of course, hang framed sayings on the wall, or express your vision of the future in slogans. That’s useful to get everybody aligned or to create uniformity in internal communication, but it’s often independent of what’s going on in reality”.

“If you then start recruiting on those desired values and the gap with reality is too big, people you draw in will feel that and that will lead to turnover. If you want to strengthen retention, you have to work with data. And you can’t pull data out of wall statements and slogans.”

“That being said: we have a number of clients who are very conscious of the fact that today they are culture A (as is), but within x number of years they want to transform into culture B (to be), for example with more autonomy”, says Arend Van Itterbeek. “Those companies will then look up the subculture of employees who respond to this and recruit accordingly. In this way, this evolution will be very organic, provided that you onboard these new people well”.