Wednesday, April 27, 2011

How to use Personality Profiles to Improve the Recruiting Process

Its no wonder that personality profiles have become a standard assessment tool in the hiring process for many companies. Hiring managers and recruiters know full well that resume screening, interviews and reference checks are not a very reliable or objective means for making hiring decisions. Recent surveys of HR executives show that up to 80% of organizations are now using personality profiles to improve hiring decisions. The same surveys also list performance management and succession planning as top priorities for these organizations. This indicates that the personality profiles are also being used for hiring decisions, and employee development as well.

All that being said, some organizations continue to struggle with hiring, even though they use assessment tools in their hiring decisions. The most likely reason for that is simple: any tool, be it an assessment tool or a hammer, needs to be in the right hands to get the great results. Used improperly, both of these tools can hurt you. The personality profiles are complex tools. And the information they provide are deep and not always easy to interpret. We humans are deep, complex creatures ourselves. To make their tools easier for HR professionals to use, the tool providers have simplified the computer generated reports to improve readability. The down side to simplicity, however, is that simplicity diminishes the depth of information and the power of the tool. Less granular means less detail. This often creates challenges to drawing useful and accurate conclusions that are helpful in the workplace.

The answer is that HR must work with an expert assessments practitioner who has deep experience in the interpretation of the personality profiles, and can effectively impart the valuable takeaways to HR personnel. The practitioner administering the assessments to candidates and employee makes all the difference in the world. They should be certified in the use of the assessment tool, and they should be experienced in imparting insight and value. The practitioner create a reliable profile of the candidate, or an effective action plan for employee development. Some assessments provide many raw scores, some of which may or may not contradict other scores on the same assessment. A certified assessments practitioner will know how to address some of the extraneous information on the computer generated report. In addition, they will be familiar with trends and patterns that indicate certain strengths or blind-spots in the individual. Most importantly, two individuals with very different personality profiles can still both be successful in the same role. The practitioner will help identify these scenarios so that HR does not overlook and miss out on great talent.

There are countless different personal assessment tools available on the market, and they vary significantly in what aspects of the personality they measure and how they measure those. But none of these tools measure every one of the human dimensions necessary to reflect a complete picture of the individual. The reality is that it’s just not possible in a single tool, because we humans are just too complex. In utilizing personality profiles, the goal is usually to “measure” the individual in their entirety. This includes expected behaviors, innate talents, cognitive abilities, decision-making biases, emotional intelligence, motivational drivers, and character. We also need the results to be accurate and reliable. That is a lot to ask from a single tool and a computer generated report. The only way of getting “how” a person behaves, as well as what drives those behaviors, and why they are drivers, is by utilizing more than one tool. The US Department of Labor also recommends a "whole person" approach wherein companies never rely on any single instrument for developmental or hiring decisions.

Personality profiles can be categorized into three separate categories:
1. Analysis of behavioral styles.
Marston’s DISC and Myers-Briggs are two of more popular behavioral assessment tools on the market. The DISC test does more quantifying than the Myers-Briggs test, and has gained in popularity in the last number of years. The DISC test creates a profile of how an individual behaves by reporting quantified behavioral attributes across the four DISC dimensions. This tool to be especially powerful for investigating internal conflicts within teams. Hiring managers will use these results to judge culture fit, but ascertaining culture fit is not as simple as that. Too often this tool is used in the recruiting process as the only profile for candidate assessment, which is not an ideal approach. It’s far more important to measure cognitive skills and talents and motivations than just behaviors. The other challenge is that the results of the behavioral tools can be skewed by the candidate by giving “expected” responses during the assessment process.

2. Analysis of cognitive abilities and talents.
This is one of the most important aspects of the candidate assessment, and is also powerful for employee development as well. These tools are about measuring talent and potential. The best tools will measure how well individuals are evaluating their surroundings, their judgment clarity, and decision-making focus. The result is a strong profile of the person’s communications skills, interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence, work ethic, engagement levels, and leadership potential. These tools are useful for candidate assessment, but even more powerful for talent management and succession planning.

3. Analysis of values and motivational drivers
These tools are invaluable for pre-employment. Some of the best tools are based on the Spranger-Allport work, and they identify and quantify the levels of motivation of an individual across seven motivational dimensions. They provide clarity on where the drive and passion is in an individual, and so it helps ascertain how well a fit someone is for their role and career direction. This is one of the most important assessments to use when trying to ascertain the likelihood for success of any individual in a given role. It is also useful in the midst of the talent management lifecycle to ensure that the individual is on the appropriate career path within your organization.

Respectively these can be referred to as the How, the What, and the Why of employee performance. By measuring each of these domains, one can obtain a very clear and accurate representation of the individual’s behavioral style, as well as a reliable predictor of their fit to a job role and how well they will perform. Best of all, when used in the development/coaching context, these profiles create a strong self-awareness for the employee that facilitates growth and development. But it is very important to note that it is very possible to have two individuals with very different assessment profiles that are both capable of succeeding in the same role. Your assessments practitioner will have the expertise and experience to identify those and ensure great hiring decisions.


Monday, April 18, 2011

5 Reasons Why You Need A Really Awesome Recruiting Process

Measuring the quality of your job candidates (and your employees for that matter) is vital for organizational success and competitive advantage. We are no longer in a manufacturing economy, but rather a service/knowledge worker based economy. This means that human capital makes all the difference toward organizational performance and the ability to compete. Successful hiring keeps the working culture healthy and productive, team performance and creativity high, and workplace turnover low. This translates to employee engagement, and there is enough research that shows organizations with high levels of employee engagement perform well in a poor economy. Getting the wrong people, even if they have the right direction, will never result in building a great company. To paraphrase Jim Collins in Good to Great, you have to get the right people on your bus, and the wrong people off your bus. Then you need to ensure that you have the right people in the right seats. Then and only then can you start your bus moving the right direction.

Here are five reasons why a really awesome recruiting process is necessary:
1. Employee salaries represents a significant part of the operating budget for most organizations, usually on the order of 40% to 50%. Given those numbers, its easy to see that there is a lot at stake in hiring only the best talent. It should be a safe assumption that a reasonable return on the salary investment is expected. It should also be a safe assumption that the recruiting process must take proactive measures to minimize the risk of hiring someone unsuitable for the positions that are open.

2. The labor market is flooded with great talent, and also with poor talent. Separating the producers from the pretenders has never been more difficult. Considering the way organizations have leaned out and reduced headcount, there is even less room for error in the hiring process. Those fewer people on the payroll are now dealing with higher management expectations and need to be more productive than ever. That also means that keeping the culture in a good place is that much more difficult. Hiring for culture fit as well as talent is crucial these days.

3. Turnover creates an insidious cost and impact for organizations, and the issue often is not taken as seriously as it should be by employers. Setting aside the recruiting fees, the costs in lost man-hours can be enormous. The lost productivity associated with interviewing and evaluating a replacement for the position, having temporary help to fill in for the position, and disruptions to the operations surrounding the position, is often overlooked. Then there is the training of the new hire, and then waiting for the new hire to come up to speed and become productive. If the role was a customer facing role, it also impacts the customer service operation, including customer service levels and the customer experience. Conceivably, there could also be additional impact from lost customer relationships if it was a key role in customer service. Impact to customer operations is not only visible, but can quickly translate to lost revenue. All in, published research puts the cost of turnover at 35% to 45% of the annual salary for the given position.

4. The consensus is that there is a leadership crisis in corporate America. Senior executives are now acknowledging the weaknesses in their leadership pipelines in research surveys. This is a significant problem as more and more baby-boomers are retired. Identifying leadership potential should begin at the recruiting stage. High potential individuals, upon hiring, should be identified and put into the leadership pipeline. They also need to be designated as people leaders, customer leaders, change leaders, etc. All of this assumes, of course, that the organization indeed has a leadership pipeline that is formally identified, managed and developed.

5. Great hiring practices (as well as delicate firing practices) builds the brand equity. Poor brand equity can drive up the cost of salaries because candidates will prefer to work in an organization with a good reputation for treating its employees well. Also important to note is that reputation influences the customer market as well. The labor market now pays close attention to the reputation and culture of an organization. Social networking and websites like and makes this information very accessible to candidates. They now have the ability to learn what the culture and environment are like within an organization before applying for a position. A company like Google Inc., with its powerful brand equity, will be able to attract a higher quality of talent. That talent will be less focused on salary, and possibly settle for less money just to have the opportunity to work at a company like Google.

So all that being said, how can we do better at recruiting? Many organizations have found the answer to an extent. They are using personality profiles as part of their assessment process to make a more objective data-driven hiring decision, rather than a hiring decision based on anecdotal evidence and intuition. Research shows that hiring decisions based on gut-feel carry a high failure rate, resulting in productivity issues, culture challenges, employee disengagement, and eventually turnover. These personality profiles present quantified values and criteria and make for much better predictors for performance and success. As a result, personality profiles reduce the number of unknowns associated with the hiring decision and add a good deal of quality control to the recruiting process.

The bad news is that there are a confusing number of these profiles, and all too often they are used ineffectively, or altogether incorrectly. Later this week, in our next post, we will discuss how to best approach these personality profiles and how to utilize them most effectively to successfully hire top performing talent.