by Vinod Balagopal

I have been asked countless times by prospective employees if I think they will fit in a particular company.  My response then and now has been, “It depends on them and you”.

Let me explain.  For a person to fit in anywhere, there must be congruence in both the expectations of the company and the person.  Company structures vary widely, as do personal working styles.  Over the years, I have been exposed to many companies and working styles and I now group companies as belonging to one of 3 broad categories, just in terms of their organizational maturity.

While I have a preference for one type of organizational maturity, the different levels of organizational maturity aren’t necessarily superior to another as it is a matter of “goodness of fit”, that will see an employee thrive in a company.

The three categories are

  • the young start-up,
  • the mid level, and
  • the mature organization.

Mid level organizations make up the widest and largest category as they are those that have been around anywhere from five to fifty years.  This is the most varied category and there stands to be multiple working styles existing and also conflicting with each other.  Working in these companies are people of different ages, developmental levels and varied expectations.  A “top down” approach describes how bosses deal with employees.  Some bosses micro manage, while others guide and then empower employees and allow them to grow. Mature organizations are ones where everyone working in them has the awareness that there is more than just work to sustain life.  The employees and the management are seen as a system that operates in harmony, for the common good.  Appraisal systems are two-way, as they serve to strengthen the organization.  The resultant is a group ethos that “infects” new employees in a positive way.  Organizational attachment is more to the company or brand, than any one department.

In Singapore, there is prevalence of young start ups and mid level organizations.  Mature organizations make up the smallest category. Most small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and large employers tend to only be at a mid level of organizational development. So when choosing an environment to work in, it is important to know which type of organisation best suits the person at that particular point in his or her career.

It can however be a real “dog’s breakfast” as multiple systems serve to confuse, more than they educate, and consequently, there may not be a systematic way to deal with employees.  A mentoring framework consisting of older employees looking to groom younger employees may sometimes be introduced but it tends to be forced, as opposed to be naturally evolving from a desire to transfer corporate knowledge.  Organizational attachment tends to veer to individual departments and not to the company as a whole.

Young start-ups generally have people who are of the same age group working for them.  Everyone, from the bosses to the employees, takes initiative to varying degrees, is self motivated and driven to either prove themselves or have the company succeed. There also tends to be open discussion and the flow and exchange of ideas. People also tend to work late, socialize within the company and the in-group attachment can be very strong.  As people learn to manage themselves, micro management is a rare phenomenon.