Incorporating Organizational Competencies Into Hiring

Every so often I get asked to recommend a hiring tool that meets some very simple criteria:

  • Incorporates existing company competencies
  • Fixes a chronic performance problem
  • Is inexpensive
  • Is easy to use

In this article, we’ll focus on the criteria related to competencies. Sorry folks, this criteria should be stored in the same place as the perpetual motion machine, the car that gets 100 mpg, the cure for balding and big hips, and the diet that makes every woman look like George Clooney and every man like Catherine Zeta-Jones (sorry, got that backwards!). That is, it’s only in our dreams. On the surface it sounds so simple. Why not use competencies that already exist? After all, the organization spent considerable time and effort developing a competency model; executives bought in to it emotionally and financially; the model is widely distributed throughout the entire organization; and employees are earnestly trying to use it. So what’s wrong? Simple. An existing competency model will probably self-destruct within three to five years. Why? Because home-grown competency models are seldom more than a missal from executives outlining what employees are expected to do; they’re not scientifically identified competencies that define job requirements and business necessity. In trying to be all things to all people, a generic competency list actually becomes confusing and useless. Then what? Instead of seamlessly integrating hiring, training, and performance management, it confuses them. Thought Leadership and the Intent of Competencies Achieving consistently high employee performance is a simple process: 1) know exactly what skills the job requires; 2) be sure each applicant (or jobholder) has matching skills; and 3) give the jobholder clear direction and feedback. In theory, it works like a three-legged performance stool. In practice, employees describe it more like a one-legged stool without the seat. What happens when an organization has no effective competency list?

  • Screeners are not able to effectively screen-out applicants who anticipate “canned” questions and prepare “textbook” responses. The operating mantra for screeners: “Questions! Questions! Where can I find better questions?”
  • Employed managers and employees either tend to do today what they did yesterday or spontaneously react to random events (i.e., the “whack a mole” style). As a result, the employee discovers what he or she was supposed to do last year, but only during this year’s performance review. Too late! The operating mantra for managers and employees: “Lead! Follow! Get out of the way! We’ll tell you what later!”
  • HR tends to stand on the sidelines holding placards that say, “Sign up here for workshops your manager will probably never support!” Workshops become short, on-the-job vacations measured by the quality of food and “smile sheets” at the end. The operating mantra for HR: “We may not be respected by management, but we’re very good at it!”
  • Meanwhile, senior managers sit around the boardroom table, first complaining that the company won’t go the right direction, then resorting to budget-based amputations that lead to short-term financial gains. The mantra for senior managers: “Motivate or amputate!”

Some Real-World Competency Examples Here are a few competencies posted on the Web by a state civil service department. Read them carefully:

  1. Values diversity in hiring choices, assignments, teams, and interactions.
  2. Uses efficient and cost-effective approaches to integrate technology into the workplace and improve program effectiveness.
  3. Sees most of the forces, events, entities, and people that are affecting (or are being affected by) the situation at hand.
  4. Weighs the costs, benefits, risks, and chances for success, in making a decision.

Yes, they all sound nice. And, yes, I’m sure that many people in that state have a politically vested interest in them (for now, anyway). But let’s tease them apart to see which one is likely to survive. Competency 1: “Values diversity in hiring choices, assignments, teams, and interactions.”

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  • Can a “value” be taught or managed?
  • How can we know whether or not someone “values” a hiring choice or team assignment? What does valuing an interaction mean?
  • Can a manager direct a subordinate to “value” something he or she might be opposed to?
  • Can a trainer change a person’s value system using a workshop?
  • What does “diversity” mean? Diversity of people? Skills? Backgrounds?
  • How can this be fairly and accurately evaluated? Manager: “You didn’t value diversity!” Employee: “Did so!”

Competency 2: “Uses efficient and cost-effective approaches to integrate technology into the workplace and improve program effectiveness.”

  • Does “efficient” have a universally accepted definition between subordinate and manager?
  • What does “integrating technology” mean and how is it measured?
  • How is “program effectiveness” evaluated?
  • Does the employee have the appropriate authority?

Competency 3: “Sees most of the forces, events, entities, and people that are affecting (or are being affected by) the situation at hand.”

  • What “forces at hand”? Economic, political, financial, social, environmental?
  • What is an “entity” or an “event”?
  • How could anyone ever identify whether this was done or not without subjectively evaluating the results?

Competency 4: “Weighs the costs, benefits, risks, and chances for success, in making a decision.” Bingo! This is the only competency that will probably survive, because it can be used to define specific decisions for each jobholder (management), can be used to evaluate applicants in a reasonable period of time (hiring), and can be used by the training department to develop programs (development). Furthermore, it can be backed with documentation illustrating costs, benefits, risks, and chances for success. Subjectivity is minimized and personal accountability is maximized while meeting all three HR objectives. Conclusion Home-grown competency lists almost always look better on paper than they do in practice. That’s why a professional can seldom do much with an existing list without first carefully working through the list, tweaking and tuning each competency where possible. Anything else will just waste time and money by raising management, recruiting or training confusion. Where does than leave senior managers who think they have finally discovered the “golden key” to success or developers who think they have finally earned executive respect? That depends on how they handle the next step. In the next article, we’ll focus on fixing chronic performance problems.

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28 Comments on “Incorporating Organizational Competencies Into Hiring

  1. I always have to start with the disclaimer that I agree with Dr. Williams more than 90% of the time-his focus on the Uniform Guidelines and the REAL issues around defensibility are spot on.

    But every time he advises that you only hire people with exact skill matches, I have to raise the point that such advice may only be useful with rote or semi-skilled jobs. For creative and symbolic work, especially any kind of leadership role, I believe such a strategy may harm your long-term competitiveness because innovation often radically reorders required skillsets. In addition, skills are relatively easy to acquire, while character changes far less over time.

    The person you hire today will not be the employee you have tomorrow, and a substantial part of any change for better or worse will be generated by the workgroup dynamics involved. Its extraordinarily difficult to know which teams will gel, and when they do, the sum can be much greater than the parts; and if you are only measuring parts, you may not be able to achieve the performance you hope for.

    Hire for character, carefully consider the workgroup involved and what kind of player would fit that group, and remember that skills will come and go. While some minimum skillset is obviously essential, a demonstrated history of skill acquisition may be more valuable than the best direct skill fit if the other elements are there. I’ve seen it a hundred times and so has every good TPR.

  2. Right to it:

    ?if intelligence is required, measure applicants for intelligence: if planning is required, measure planning skills; if interpersonal skills are required, measure persuasion, coaching, or whatever; if attitude is important, measure AIMS?

    The point is that were not going to be hiring anybody who’s not intelligent, who can’t plan, who is unpleasant to be around, who is unpersuasive etc. But if one person scores a few percent higher on a GMA test, or another person apparently has a better attitude, do you really believe that business outcomes can be traced to these variations?

    Attitudes can change quickly; differences in GMA, the most correlated success characteristic of all, simply may not matter when two candidates are within a few percent of each other.

    ? BTW I’m not sure what ‘character’ is..but, I do know that square pegs won’t fit round holes…poor salespeople tend to remain poor salespeople…poor managers tend to remain poor managers…and poor executives tend to remain poor executives. The only way to hire high- producing folks is to reduce risk by screening-out potential incompetence BEFORE hiring?

    Poppycock- you end up screening out creativity, variability, and failure. Without failure, nothing fantastic is possible.

    If you want a plain-vanilla, average looking, average acting, competent workforce, by all means measure aplenty and make your decision on what the measurement says. You will enjoy plain-vanilla ROI and nice average performance.

    Square pegs not fitting round holes; that’s exactly what you DO want if innovation- the driver of all extraordinary success- is what you are after.

    And please note that I’m talking about creative and leadership roles only- rote and semi-skilled hiring is a completely different animal and should respond well to Dr. Williams? prescription.

    But applying that medicine to important creative and leadership roles, in my opinion, is far from the certain winner that it’s advertised to be.

    As the famous Supreme Court Justice said on a subject other than character; I know it when I see it. I’m sure most good TPR’s and the best corporate hiring pros do too.

  3. I’m not sure where this ‘exact-match’ thing came from…if intelligence is required, measure applicants for intelligence: if planning is required, measure planning skills; if interpersonal skills are required, measure persuasion, coaching, or whatever; if attitude is important, measure AIMS. These are core skills, not exact matches..

    And even if they were exact matches, what goal- oriented line manager is ‘willing to take a chance’ on untested and unproven candidates? Want the best employee? Find someone with skills AND character.

    BTW I’m not sure what ‘character’ is..but, I do know that square pegs won’t fit round holes…poor salespeople tend to remain poor salespeople…poor managers tend to remain poor managers…and poor executives tend to remain poor executives. The only way to hire high- producing folks is to reduce risk by screening-out potential incompetence BEFORE hiring.

    I don’t make this stuff up folks…I’ve heard Martin’s arguments before…I just like the comfort of using science backed by 50 years of hiring research, follows the process recommended by the EEOC, utilizes best practice, and knowing its used by many of the nation’s largest organizations.

    Expect a fully competent workforce by hiring character instead of skills? Only on TV.

  4. Hello, Martin…thanks for giving me something more to write about.

    Point by point:

    Yes, job performance can be traced to intelligence…

    Yes, job performance can be traced to attitudes, interests and motivations

    Yes, job performance can be traced to interpersonal behaviors

    Yes, job performance can be traced to planning ability

    No, we are not talking about small points of difference…we are talking about a demonstrated ability to perform critical job requirements.

    No, key work-related attitudes do not change significanlty over time.

    No, we are not talking about building a plain vanilla workforce any more than we are talking about building a plain-vanilla Olympic team (unless you define ‘vanilla’ as having a full set of competencies to do the job).

    Yes, creative and leadership roles need more and somewhat different component skills than other jobs.

    When people are selected for their critical job skills, excellence becomes the norm…not the exception.

    Some people might be totally convinced the earth is perfectly flat…but that does not change the fact it is very round.

  5. Thank YOU, WW for the back and forth–

    ‘No, key work-related attitudes do not change significanlty over time’

    I present Mr. Corey Dillon. Not too happy in Cincy- not a team player….big mouth….good stats but not a game breaker. Quits pounding when the going gets tough.

    Now, in New England, works hard, breaks games open, respected by teammates. If you saw the Indy game, you could see that he was beat- dead on his feet- but still busting big runs late on sheer drive.

    Same guy, new leadership and workgroup.

    Listen to Belichick talk about his success (when he rarely does)- its always about the quality of the character of his players- he even explicitly says he does not care so much about skills as he does about how the player will work with the team and the system; what kind of a person they will be when the chips are down, when the mo belongs to the other guy, and negativity is in the air.

    He knows he can bring skills up, that great skills don?t translate to great outcomes in a complex team effort.

    Had he measured Mr. Dillon only on what had gone before, he would not be in his third Super Bowl and being compared to Vince Lombardi this morning.

    That’s the point I am making, but it does not mean that any measuring is useless or that you have to trust to the fates. It only means that past is not future, and that people do change, and often greatly, based on the team and the leadership that they find themselves working with.

    Martin Snyder
    President
    Main Sequence Technologies

  6. Great Article!
    Leadership makes such a difference. Attitude of Leaders and Co-workers will make or break an organization.

  7. That is a EXCELLENT analogy, Martin!!!

    The player you mentioned was not hired based on an interview…he was required to successfully pass a battery of tryouts and work samples. He was not a ‘normal’ person…he was a highly skilled athlete.

    Skills must always preceed character (I like to call them AIMS, because they are easier to quantify).

    However, too many people take skills for granted…or assume skills can be learned on the job….or think skills can be measured with one test or an interview…Not so. Skills must be thoroughly and effectively defined and measured…something that I doubt 95% of the hiring profession does regularly.

    No matter how well intentioned, character cannot offset foolish decisions, disorganization, personal abrasiveness, inability to learn, dysfunctional personality traits, and so forth.

    First things first!

  8. Martin,

    Very nice analogy, it is reminiscent of a post I wrote a few months back also using football as the backdrop for an excellent example of how people respond to their environment and others around them…and that tests, no matter how ‘scientific’ cannot measure an individual’s character.

    It seems that we all have something to sell and to that end we must defend our position. Even at the cost of logic, reason and common sense.

    The scientists of hiring would have us believe that there is a complex set of formulae, which if followed correctly and in the exact proportions will make us all rich. Reminds me of medieval alchemy and the promise of gold from lead…unfortunately, the only ones who got rich were the alchemists…

    If interested, I have included a link to my previous post:

    http://www.erexchange.com/forum/default.asp?cid={F3586C72-FAA0-466C-ABE0-418925B81120}

    Regards,

  9. WW, you and I are going to end up like the Crossfire guys sooner or later! Let me dig back at ya-

    The story of the hiring of Mr. Dillon actually did not involve any major tests of his ability- New England knew he was a horse, but they were worried about team chemistry and his fitting in the system.

    New England actually did an intensive call-around to his past coaches, executives, and teammates, all focused on the question of his character, not his skills.

    At the top levels, everyone can play- and for the purposes of the discussion we are having here, we are talking about top leadership and creative talent and NOT semi-skilled or rote positions.

    I absolutely disagree with you when you say ?character cannot offset foolish decisions, disorganization, personal abrasiveness, inability to learn, dysfunctional personality traits, and so forth?.

    In fact, people such as you describe often are JUST the people who drive the innovations that create extraordinary success in every field of human endeavor.

    Your description could easily describe someone with Asperger?s syndrome; and the moneymaking performance of some of those people can be unbelievable- for example, a certain Mr. Bill Gates is rumored to sport a nice case of AS.

    Skills can be learned on the job, and in fact, they are often learned on the job, as many jobs in dynamic economies evolve right on the spot.

    Its like being a stock picker who only picks stocks that are doing great and have been doing great for years; you wont go broke doing that, but don?t expect to kill it either.

    On the other hand, careful picking of overlooked ?losers? can sometimes a) wash you right out of the market or b) put you on the beach somewhere, watching the money roll in with the waves.

    WW, you have the whole field of industrial psychology and the long practice of scientific hiring behind you, and there is NO doubt that 90% of it makes perfect sense and can be usefully applied.

    Nobody suggests hiring people with zero record of achievement or no measurable skills; but on the other hand, sometimes picking an offbeat candidate or someone who has not done much elsewhere can be the difference between winning and winning BIG.

    The key is knowing when to take a flyer and when not to, and I would be very interested to know how you advise dealing with this quandary- for surely everyone who does a lot of hiring has run up against it, and anecdotally, we all know of situations where a person from left field has unexpectedly turned out to be an MVP.

  10. I could not have put it better myself 😉

    Like in Denver, remember what happened when Dallas hired the Tuna ?

    Big jump in winning% and much harder to win against -same set of players-as you might expect.

  11. Interesting point…’pray you never have to argue it to either the EEOC or in a court of law…

    While we are at it, can you help me locate the ‘character’ criteria in either the Department of Labor’s 1978 Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures or the 1990 Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing? I must have overlooked that part.

    Finally, before anyone chooses to log-in and join the science disparagement crowd, I would suggest going to any good library and reading a personnel psychology book (at last check, I counted over 12,910 cases that prove my point…but, then I might have missed something).

  12. Exactly my point good Doctor, last I checked nobody ever wrote (or published for that matter) a book with out the expectation of renumeration….As I said…we all have something to sell…but then again, I may have missed something.

  13. I’m not going to stand here and let anyone badmouth Google.com, and by extension, the United States of America and our entire way of life !

    I guess we have reached the end of the line for this year’s edition of this discussion WW- catch you on the flip, and in all seriousness; thanks for the responses and I’m looking forward to doing it again in the next round !

  14. 60-3.6 – Use of selection procedures which have not been validated.

    B. Where validity studies cannot or need not be performed. There are circumstances in which a user cannot or need not utilize the validation techniques contemplated by these guidelines. In such circumstances, the user should utilize selection procedures which are as job related as possible and which will minimize or eliminate adverse impact, as set forth below.

    I dont think there is a test for ‘when to take a flyer’, which was the question I closed my last post with; by what means do you advise that this issue is approached ?

    You can find 1.6 million documents on Google with the keywords ‘character evaluation employment’ but I’m not sure that that means.

  15. I’m still not exactly sure what triggered this discussion, although I greatly appreciate the opportunity to expand on it..

    Let’s review the scope and purpose of the Guidelines (something we encourage all readers to do):

    60-3.1 Statement of Purpose….to determine the proper use of tests and other selection procedures……all users are encouraged to use selection procedures which are valid.

    60-3.2 Scope…These guidelines apply to … other selection procedures which are used as a basis for any employment decision.

    If the Purpose and Scope mean anything, the unvalidated test use section (60-3.6) is clearly intended as a catch-all clause…not a recommended best practice.

    Basically, ALL placement decisions are based on (some kind of) tests and ALL placement decisions are ultimately based on ‘gut’… However, a well-informed hiring decision will always be better than a poorly-informed one.

    Re: Google. I conducted the very same key word search on the American Psychological Association research data base (containing articles from over 1,945 journals published in the last 165 years): 76 responses. ‘Very sad to learn that a street search engine is now considered a better hiring authority than our universities.

    As mentioned in the beginning of this post, I am not sure what triggered this exchange. But, the sooner our profession starts acting like a profession and embraces what 165 years of hiring research has shown…instead of rejecting it..the better off we will all be.

    ‘Want more respect? Stop defending nonsensical hiring practices and start earning it.

  16. Can’t enjoy peanut butter without chocolate WW, I’m glad for the chance to have the conversation and you bet we are friends 😉

    Next year when we do this again, I’m gonna have some more science for you !

  17. A day late, but maybe not a point short – I had to jump into this conversation.

    It takes a lot more than skills, knowledge, competency, college education, industry experience and even Gosh Forbid Psychology to determine the right candidate. It takes a lot of intuition, personal background checks, personal evaluation and personal judgement of personality and Yes Character to see if the person is good for the job, will fit in with the team and structure and even the local environment.

    In my career I have seen some excellent qualifications – people who just seem to match a position like a glove. The individual was extremely polished, worked at the best companies, showed valued successes quantative and qualitive, they did extrememly well on their phsych tests, and glowed on interviews. Ultimately they were hired.. and something went amiss…

    What usually gets missed – They may have worked well in a GE type of corporation environment, but could not fit in a less structured less formal environment. (the reverse also holds true), and their employees rebel, some quit, some cannot handle the stress and the offices become mismanaged. Personality and Character does get missed with regards to how a person may fit in a particular team.

    2- The individual has done extremely well in the East Coast, and is moved to the West Coast. This person decides to manage the structure the way that he/she is familiar to – bringing an East Coast Culture and Personality to Los Angeles.. Of course that does not work – Again something that would not have been determined in a personality profile, or meeting past performance criteria.

    3- Another big one, the family all Relocate, they have relocated several times in the past without any issues. Mom hates the environment, the kids are not getting along well in school. Traffic is a big bummer, and everyone is just unhappy with the New location.. No one could have seen this comming.. No tests or prequalification would have brought this to the table…

    4- I have seen individuals come out of a different industry and did not have the knowledge, skills and background for a position, the tests say that they probably should not consider hiring this guy, but the VP took a chance, and after 6 years and several promotion
    this individual is the strongest area manager in the Corporation. The manager saw in this individual what the ‘tests’ and criteria missed. -an ability to learn and learn quickly, creative thinking and problem solving, strong self esteem and goal setting ability and a willinginess to consistently develop his personality and career. He had strong intepersonal skills, and showed the teamwork, even with the employees under him, not only with his peers. Knowledge of the job was not there, neither was a formal education… It did take some time to get this individual up to key regarding knowledge.. But it proven to be the best thing they ever did.

    Intuition is the strongest and biggest key in hiring… Gut instinct. What would work for one company will not work for another, what will work in one environment will not work with another. Who a person is in one location may change in another place, and that usually is based on the personalities that are in place when they come on board. One must know the personalities in place to determine how that person will operate with in that particular organization. No predetermined skill sets, no personality test, no outlined criteria will be able to visualize or recognize that. Only personal gut instict will.

    Remember, people tend to hire themselves, and if a manager had been in place 15 years, and new manager is found to replace that individual, then there could be chaos if he/she could not get along with the team, if they did not like him/her. Personality and Character are and should the strongest determining factors in hiring an individual.

    My personal thoughts.

  18. Nice post Karen- could not have done better myself 😉

    Maybe future fit-testing will include a whole group of people?

    I ws hoping that Dr. Williams or others would weigh-in on the topic of fitting people to a team, rather than seeing employment decisions as only being about the candidate and the role by themselves….

    I hate to use the term ‘gut’ for what really is a complex intellectual decision, because its not a feeling per se, but an opinion arrived at by calculation of complex factors-some of which resist verbalizing for any number of reasons; like how do you describe it when someone gives you the creeps?

    How do you make a business case that people prefer working with physically attractive peers (within the legally protected boundaries) or that classism is often the real decision driver in our society? – Both of which may lead to worse outcomes that might be achieved absent those distortions, or better outcomes, based on unrelated factors culture, location, customer base, and plain old fashion?

    How do you explain that the hire won?t work out because a perfectly scored candidate showed up with lapels two feet wide and a tie-knot the size of a baseball?

    Sad to say, so much of life is not rational?..or dare I say, scientific…

    But that?s just what a high-powered TPR or corp. recruiter does- they figure it out, make the best call, and stand by their opinion.

    You can call it ?gut?, ?intuition?, or whatever, but it?s the ability to take that flyer and win big as a result that I have been writing about; and I want to know how that manifest skill fits into a scientific hiring regime- as it must, in the final analysis, if its to work in the ‘real’ world.

  19. There is one other thing I would like to say – and I will make this on more of a personal note ?

    Skill Sets can be taught and learnt ? what cannot be taught are the personal character work traits ? ie dependability, ability to communicate, ability to get along with others, honesty, work ethics.
    These things can be seen by work history, by the way the speak of their former employers, by the passion in their voices, how direct they are when they answer the question and by their body language.

    I do disagree that management and sales cannot be taught. I am grateful for the ?oriented line manager? who was willing to take a chance on me ? Having been married for 10+ years, and never having had a job, was currently in college trying to complete a formal education, and was also a ?foreigner?, only been in country for 1 year. I had a manager who took a chance on me? She saw something that many others did not.. Believe me in my first three mths. In sales I sucked// really bad, but I wanted to learn and I wanted to learn quickly. I continually asked for help, annoying many of my peers I am sure; I stayed late, came early, and opened any reading material I could find that would help me improve my sales, but I still had a hard time overcoming my fears. Finally my boss took the initiative? as one of the best trainers say out there ?instead of firing me, she fired me up?, she sent me to training within corporation ? first recruiter she had ever sent out to training, again because she saw something that she believed in. Funny thing is many of the other recruiters on our team could have gone as well, but they never asked.

    I came back and batted 1 million for my boss. I was probably one of the most loyal employees she ever had, because I appreciated what she had done for me. Yes Sales can be taught, and so can management skills. It is the desire to apply what one learns that cannot be taught. Poor Sales people come from poor management and poor management can also come from poor management.. By not determining peoples weaknesses, and helping them overcome them?. By ignoring, and just trying to find the quick and easy answer ?..

    Remember, ?Don?t fire, instead fire up?

  20. Greetings –

    I tried breaking this up, but in the ‘message preview,’ it is all one paragraph. Here’s hoping it is more legible than it appears when I preview it!

    I’ve been eyeing this conversation and decided to weigh-in, just because this is a fascinating topic. Good points so far. My opinion is that what Martin and Karen are talking about is, to some degree scientific, but I think we may simply be stating our thoughts in laymen’s terms, as opposed to scientific jargon. In other words, some of your points are spot-on, and applicable in the ‘real world,’ but let’s see if we can fit them into a measurable box.

    The thoughts about assessing for team fit (aside from the comment about physical appearance, which I wouldn’t approach with a 10-foot pole!) seem to fall into categories like communication skills, work attitudes, work interests and motivations (i.e., aptitudes like dependability and behavioral traits that speak to ‘social liking’).

    If you wonder how effectively someone will be able to communicate with your team, assess their verbal and written communication skills and comprehension; if your question is whether they will act with integrity on your team, assess the basis for relevant past decisions; if your questions is whether your team will ‘like’ how they communicate, you may have a problem with your current team that requires some other intervention…

    If you wonder whether someone is a dependable team player, we can address that as a quantifiable factor by assessing their attitudes toward work/authority/deadlines, their interests in the sort of work you need them to perform and their motivations (e.g., money, helping others, professional growth); if they have attitudes that respect high-quality work, authority and deadlines, they are interested in the work you want them to perform and their motivations are in line with your reward system, you can surmise they will be a dependable team player in your environment. You can also assess past behavior to determine dependability on a team ? asking behavioral questions that get at whether they tend to organize their time effectively, prioritize and ?prepare in advance.?

    Those are just a few examples I picked from the thread, but Martin made me think – he is absolutely right that some of these things may feel like ‘gut decisions’ to many people, when, in fact, we can see them as truly complex intellectual decisions when tinted a slightly different color. All hiring decision are complex decisions, and if we can relate the decision factors as quantifiable skills/behaviors/traits, then we can ‘fit them into a scientific hiring regime.’

    Just my $.02.

    Best ?
    Victor

  21. Martin Snyder asked ‘Maybe future fit-testing will include a whole group of people?’ We have been doing that for decades.

    ‘I was hoping that Dr. Williams or others would weigh-in on the topic of fitting people to a team, rather than seeing employment decisions as only being about the candidate and the role by themselves.’ We have more than 35,000 employers doing what it is Martin asked about ‘fitting people to a team.’ All team members get tested and the results are used to help select future team members. The top performers results however carry more weight than the bottom performers results. No sense in hiring additional bottom performers.

  22. Sorry..missed a few days reading..I thought the issue was dead.

    Why do so many people choose to defend silly test practices? There is so much to gain by doing a better job.

    No one in this camp is saying that gut feelings do not matter…in the end, almost all hiring decisions are gut feelings…the only choice is the amount of information used to make the final decision.

    Personal reports (interviews) and past behavior (resumes, interviews, and so forth) are important, but EVERYONE knows they are filled with error! What’s the point of defending error-prone methodology? Shouldn’t our profession be trying every day to deliver more accurate results?

    Is any hiring system perfect? I wish! Hiring systems are crap shoots…the only choice we have is whether decisions are 50% accurate or 90% accurate…(100% remains an elusive dream).

    Want to move out of the 50% bracket?…Use more accurate ‘tests’; work from job analyses; abandon silly interview practices; but for goodness sake, stop defending hiring practices that have no substance.

    Has anyone every considered that recruiting managers are expected to carefully screen applicants so the organization has minimal hiring mistakes??? No one hires recruiters for the opportunity to ‘take a flyer’ at company expense. That is occupational myopia at its worst.

    Don’t use tests? Please! Unless we hire everyone who applies, there is a test in use…it may be an interview, resume, or application…but make no mistake…It is a test! And, ‘mostly gut tests’ deliver ‘mostly gut mistakes’.

    Teamwork? ..forget about measuring only good team members. This is junk science. Bad team members are a valuable source of information. Why ignore them? Any legitimate quality improvement program is more concerned more with why the product was defective..not why it ‘passed’. Studying only one end of the performance spectrum is bush-league.

    Teams…there is some amazing research that shows highly productive teams are very DISSIMILAR. When team members become ‘alike’, productivity falls. Ideal job fit is not always a good thing….because, while it fosters a warm and fuzzy feeling of comfort, it also leads to idea stagnation and group-think.

  23. As always Dr. Williams makes some great comments.

    >the only choice is the amount of information used to make the final decision.< If we use only perfect information about job applicants, we will make more bad hiring decisions than if we used less than perfect information. Perfect information is always correct, i.e., height, weight, GPA, degrees, alma mater, courses completed, certificates acquired, past employers, former supervisors. Perfect information doesn?t predict job success. >What’s the point of defending error-prone methodology?< But that is how we have always done it. Some years ago Admiral Grace Hopper was the guest speaker at the Engineering Week luncheon in Boston. She said the worst thing she could hear from any manager is the phrase ?But that is how we have always done it.? > Shouldn’t our profession be trying every day to deliver more accurate results?< What do you mean by more accurate? >the only choice we have is whether decisions are 50% accurate or 90% accurate< What harm do we do if we keep waiting for 100% accurate information? >Unless we hire everyone who applies, there is a test in use.< Has anyone tried to justify a gut feeling to a jury? >Teamwork? ..forget about measuring only good team members.< Who said measure only good team members? Why presume that if the good team members are measured the bad team members are not also measured? In our business we measure all team members whether they are the good, the bad or the in between. >This is junk science.< Good point but who said measure only the good team members? >Bad team members are a valuable source of information. Why ignore them?< I agree which is why we measure all team members and don?t ignore the bad team members. >Studying only one end of the performance spectrum is bush-league.< I?m glad you agree that our practice of measuring everyone is the right approach. >Teams…there is some amazing research that shows highly productive teams are very DISSIMILAR.< Dissimilar from what? Do you mean from other highly productive teams or that the team members are not all alike? When team members are all alike their individual traits may become a team?s downfall. Imagine what happens when all team members don?t pay attention to detail or when all team members lack a quality orientation. >When team members become ‘alike’, productivity falls.< Which is why teams need to be designed not just assembled.. >Ideal job fit is not always a good thing because, while it fosters a warm and fuzzy feeling of comfort, it also leads to idea stagnation and group-think.< That will come as a surprise to our 35,000+ clients who hire to each job?s benchmark success pattern. Who would use the same job fit criteria for all team members if all team members are not doing the same job? If we are hiring to fill 10 outbound call center positions we need to hire people who meet the success criteria for the outbound call center position. I hope we are not being advised to hire people who have a poor job fit to balance those who have a good job fit. A good job fit is always a good thing, at least how we use the term. A bad job fit is always a bad thing. Employees with a bad job fit often need to be reassigned to a better job for them.

  24. This string for some reason bothered me so much that here it is 5 am on a Saturday and I am still thinking about this….
    One thing the issues that disturbs me is that employers are so worried about how to get the right candidate, the right individual for the job that there is no STRONG focus on looking at the personal side of the coin and the big issue as to how to KEEP the PEOPLE they have hired. When organizations develop incentive programs for specific departments, employee retention is often overlooked.

    Have we lost the human side in the work place, have we forgotten that the individuals we hire are people, with real human problems and real life issues…

    Many of the successful companies small and big are the ones that have strong employee retention. They believe that that is the force behind a company. They try to find ways to train their employees, educate them so that they can promote from within RATHER THAN to keep looking outside, they find ways to keep the employees they have happy, and creating an environment that allowed for contentment, success, creativity and loyalty.

    When I consider how companies were able to keep employees for 20+ years in the past versus today, and note that in the past there was no suggestions of incorporating hiring competencies into a work place – maybe there is something to look at there. Have we forgotten how to keep it simple?..

    One of the best companies I worked there was about 80+ people in this branch, the manager knew everyone by name, new who was getting married, or divorced, knew who had issues at home, knew their mannerism.. They had picnics and lunch parties regularly, so that the staff got to know each other, there was always knew ideas on motivation and there was always some type of training occurring.
    There was always knew equipment in the office, employee involvement, recognition for work done?.
    This company and branch had an 70% employee retention and tenure of over 15+ years.. they had expensive health benefits, no 401k or retirement, their salary was not extremely competitive, average, but they made up in the ambiance – you just wanted to work there, you like it, and you wanted to do the best for your boss… because they focused on addressing critical work-life issues and motivating us to continually improve performance, they created a fun environment. (I had to move out of state? )

    Today so many companies forget that aspect of the workplace.. WW, I am sorry but I must disagree with you.. A good team is vital ? they motivate their peers, they help reduce anxiety that comes from the job and also from human problems.. They provide support and will also assist in training, will work late to get the job done and done right, because they believe in the company they work for? they know the company believes in them?There is so much less chaos and anxiety in a good team.. long-term employees can produce better products, better value for the consumer, and better customer retention.

    Ask Sam Walton, and he would have told you that the key to his was to focus on employee retention and people who fit in his team.. He proudly stated that he often hired the black sheep that no one else wanted and found a way to utilize that person?s talents to the best of their ability, he allowed his staff to believe that they were a strong integral part of the organization, he provided the training to allow for advancement, and his staff knew good work came with rewards, he found ways to enhance his employees careers by linking employees with appropriate projects, roles, and positions in the company. Some excellent noted companies who have done well with this are the Container Store, CDW, and starbucks, Fannie Mae, Abbot Labortories and Even Microsoft made the top 20

    A great article on this In a landmark study involving a national food chain reported in The Service Profit Chain: How Leading Companies Link Profit and Growth to Loyalty, Satisfaction, and Value, James Heskett, Earl Sasser, and Leonard Schlesinger found that stores in the top 20 percent for employee retention were 55 percent more profitable than stores in the bottom 20 percent.

    The main thing to remember is a happy employee makes a happy employer?

  25. Karen Mattonen wrote:

    >? I am still thinking about this…< Then the string is doing a good job? >…employers are so worried about how to get the right candidate, the right individual for the job< When employers don?t get ?the right individual for the job?, the employer suffers and the new hire suffers because she is not in the right job. >there is no STRONG focus on looking at the personal side of the coin< Our clients are very focused on the personal side of the coin. They make sure they hire the right people not the best candidates. They know that when they hire people who fit their jobs their employees will be motivated and interested in doing their jobs and more likely to stay on the job for a long time. >the big issue as to how to KEEP the PEOPLE they have hired.< When employers hire the right people employee retention soars. >When organizations develop incentive programs for specific departments, employee retention is often overlooked.< Does that happen when managers believe they can pay their employees enough to motivate them? It is far easier to hire motivated employees than it is to motivate the employees we hire. >Have we lost the human side in the work place, have we forgotten that the individuals we hire are people, with real human problems and real life issues?< Employers owe it to their employees to hire people who will find job success. Employers do no one any good when they hire people who--fail on the job, don?t enjoy their jobs, are not motivated by their jobs, quit their jobs or get fired from their jobs. Employers need to be very selective when hiring. >Many of the successful companies small and big are the ones that have strong employee retention. They believe that that is the force behind a company.< I agree. Employers with high turnover lose a lot of knowledge and money every time they hire, train and replace an employee. Users of the Bllss-Gately Tool report that the cost to replace a $50,000 per year employee is about $75,000. That is a lot of money. >? There was always?employee involvement, recognition for work done?< The secret to effective management is a word ?That All Leaders Know? ---TALK. It is hard to be an effective manager if we never take the time to talk with, not at, our direct reports. >Ask Sam Walton, and he would have told you that the key to his was to focus on employee retention and people who fit in his team.< We call the process job matching while others call it hiring for talent. >The main thing to remember is a happy employee makes a happy employer?< Employee happiness is not the secret to effective management but rather the reward for effective management.

  26. Hello…I really do not understand why this thread is so controversial…the subject is as basic as dirt…

    Job-skilled people lead to job-skilled employees…and the best way to get the highest % of job-skilled employes is to: 1) thoroughly understand the job (job analysis); 2) accurately measure each applicant using legitimate test process (validated tools…including, yes, interviews); and 3) don’t let managers mess-up good people!

    Of course, the best way to keep and develop skilled employees is to foster, guide and develop them. That includes good management (see above) and productive environmental conditions. Asking highly skilled employees to work for incompetent managers under frustrating working conditions generates high turnover.

    Character (personality, and the like) is only one ‘side of a coin’…skills are the other..BOTH are required for high performance.

    The freeway toward professionalism?
    1) do thorough homework
    2) use only validated tests and hiring tools
    3) stop defending superstitious hiring practices
    4) use the same rigor to hire managers as jobholders
    5) match the ‘whole’ person to the ‘whole job’
    6) don’t frustrate skilled people

    There is an abundance of research in any library that explains how to do this. We encourage everyone in the profession to master it…then come to the forum fully informed to discuss HOW to use best practices…NOT whether they should be used

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