How to Use Personality Tests for Employee Selection and Rejection

rejectedIn my experience, most users of personality tests aren’t aware of the practical distinction between using these tests to select candidates and using tests to reject them. In fact, selection and rejection are very different testing stratagems and, for both decision-making and legal reasons, users need to be quite clear on what those differences are.

Candidate selection is what most people associate with testing, but the reality is that tests do a better job of signaling who is unlikely to perform well in a job than they do of predicting who will likely succeed. Even one behavioral factor, by its presence or absence, might greatly increase the odds of job failure, but it rarely works the other way around. Complex roles are dependent upon so many diverse variables that no one test can accurately predict high-level performance on a sustained basis.

Using a test as a method of rejection means employing it in a frontline screening role where a cut-off score of some type determines who gets weeded out and who continues through the evaluation process. This is ideal for high-volume hiring situations where speed is essential. To some people, this seems terribly unfair or, at the very least, impersonal. Quite to the contrary, so long as the organization undertakes an objective, statistically based study of the job, preferably one in compliance with EEOC guidelines for such studies, it is very fair. Personality tests have not been found to produce an adverse impact on any protected group, so tests do not cull out candidates in any disproportionate way, and they provide an objective, as opposed to a subjective, means of differentiating job-performance potential.

The critical consideration for a rejection process to work is the quality of the job analysis. Sometimes less formal, but statistically sound methods work.  For example, accomplishing an indiscriminate group analysis of top and bottom performers in a job, but only where clear behavioral or trait differences exist between the two groups, can be an effective means of measuring candidate potential. Better still is an in-depth statistical study that generates at least one or more statistically significant correlations between the test measures and actual job performance outcomes. Such a study might show that sales revenues increase in unison with increases in assertiveness or initiative, in which case, candidates with more of those qualities will be more likely to generate higher sales.

Without rigorous job analysis, even ignoring possible legal concerns, the screening process could produce false positives, filtering out potentially higher performers in lieu of those with less likelihood to succeed. As implied above, when used in isolation, tests can only in the broadest way predict performance. In reality, no tool or process unilaterally has that type of predictive capability.

Alternatively, employing valid personality tests at the selection stage in conjunction with job benchmarks should enable users to objectively extract talents, motivational factors, as well as job-related behaviors that can only be inferred from interviews, yet with more precise calibration. One of the nuances of understanding personality is that the degree of various traits a candidate possesses is as crucial a consideration as the traits themselves! In some jobs, this gradation can be the one differentiating variable between top and middling performance.

At the selection stage, tests should also help validate and amplify what is learned from other tools and procedures, such as simulations, reference checks, résumés, and interviews. Effective assessment should leave no loose ends, so tests should either confirm insights from these sources or raise red flags where inconsistencies are evident.

Hiring is much like gambling: It’s always a game of odds. The issue is how to shift those odds more consistently in your favor. Tests can do that, but you have to be realistic in your expectations and know what you want testing to contribute to the overall assessment process. Even shifting those odds a couple points can have a tremendous accumulative effect on improving hiring success and job performance, and minimizing hiring and onboarding costs.

__________________________________________________________________________13259f4For more than forty years, Frank Gump has been helping corporations become more productive and profitable by helping management teams identify and hire top performers and manage them most effectively. Developed and refined through extensive experience in more than 1200 organizations in the United States, Canada, England, and Australia, ADGI’s Organizational Management System (OMS) is a finely calibrated, technologically advanced decision-making process offering the potential for enormous payback. Contact ADGI for more insight and connect with Frank on LinkedIn. Follow ADGI on Twitter @ADGIGroup. Like ADGI on Facebook and follow us on Google+.

Hiring for Cultural Fit… One More Nonsensical Idea

Businessman escapes from the crisis on a paper boatWe all know that human resource departments are fertile ground for fads and notions that sound much better than they actually are. Much of this irrational exuberance is due to the fact that HR managers, constantly in search of new silver bullets, are overly quick to embrace ideas that excite the imagination in the abstract but turn out to be speculative, overly simple, not really measurable in terms of what they contribute to the organization, and whose failure or lack of impact is relatively easy to rationalize after the fact.

Once such idea is called hiring for cultural fit. Implementation of this strategy means evaluating candidates against some broad (read ill-defined) statement of cultural attributes first and then, for those who pass that threshold, assessing skills or competencies. Some bloggers seem to endorse the idea, and there are consultants who now claim to be able to help companies hire precisely in this way. Who doesn’t love American opportunism?

The belief that culture is the principal driver of corporate greatness effectively took root with Tom Peters’ publication of In Search of Excellence in 1982. He argued very persuasively that he had discovered eight common practices that produced high performance cultures and led to exceptional performance. In 1994, with Built to Last, Jim Collins and Jerry Porras followed suit with their own list of eighteen visionary companies whose “enduring greatness” features (consciously driven cultural characteristics) could also be synthesized and replicated.

Other writers have also promoted these simple cultural formulae, but the point to be made is that in all of these cases, their research was dubious and their conclusions were based upon selective, subjective observations. For the full explanation and proof of this, read The Halo Effect by Phil Rosenzweig (Free Press, 2007). It is one of the most insightful business books ever written.

Rosenzweig’s research offers evidence that instead of cultures seeding high performance, the reverse is true: A highly performing organization spawns the cultural attributes that Peters and Collins saw as causal. Although these characteristics may be common in many highly performing organizations, they do not coalesce into some universal formula that explains success. In fact, a large percentage of those companies with “high performance” cultures – today’s heroes – eventually become tomorrow’s dogs!

Not convinced?

Just take a look at the lists compiled by Peters and Collins. A great many variables affect a company’s performance, most of them related to the marketplace and their competitors, which are beyond the control of a company’s management. Guess what happens to the cultures of those once high flyers when their performance begins to tank?

So, how does this relate to hiring for cultural fit? It’s a chicken and egg thing. Hire for the culture (most often a list of vague notions without an iota of supporting evidence) and you’re likely to overlook the exceptional performance skills and talents that fostered the “culture” in the first place! You may acquire some “good” team players and people who appear to meet some nebulous definition of leadership potential, but that’s shooting at the wrong target and is likely to exclude those rare, incredibly talented individualists who make the difference, but who don’t conform to stereotypes.

Cultures change as players come and go, starburst products flame out, strategies evolve leaving things behind and requiring a journey in a new direction, and the marketplace and competitors exert new and unexpected forms of pressure. What types of problems will you exacerbate by hiring people who are aligned, loosely at best, to a culture that will inevitably change?

Unless you have an HR mandate to experiment for the sake of experimenting, it makes more sense, financially and with respect to shareholder value, to look for exceptional talent in every role and let the culture take care of itself.

__________________________________________________________________________13259f4For more than forty years, Frank Gump has been helping corporations become more productive and profitable by helping management teams identify and hire top performers and manage them most effectively. Developed and refined through extensive experience in more than 1200 organizations in the United States, Canada, England, and Australia, ADGI’s Organizational Management System (OMS) is a finely calibrated, technologically advanced decision-making process offering the potential for enormous payback. Contact ADGI for more insight and connect with Frank on LinkedIn. Follow ADGI on Twitter @ADGIGroup. Like ADGI on Facebook and follow us on Google+.

Finding Candidates: It’s More than CAN Do; It’s WILL Do

hiring - mrgOnce candidates get by the can do hurdle, an effective selection process needs to target two considerations: their ability to do the job, and, if they are productive, their ability to remain motivated to stay in the job. This means that there must be some method of measuring candidate expectations and matching them to the reality of the job and, more broadly, matching these expectations to what the organization is likely to deliver. Reducing turnover that is attributable to mismatched expectations can have great impact upon a business and offer substantial cost savings, because these employees are, in all likelihood, the higher performers the organization least wants to lose.

The most prevalent and critical mismatches occur because candidates  a) want to use their talents, b) want to be managed in a certain way, and c) want the job and work environment to meet their personal needs.

People want to do what they perceive themselves to be good at – they want to use their talents. So even if they can do a job competently, feeling under-utilized is a self-esteem issue, and employees won’t stay if they feel their talents are being wasted.

Similarly, people want to be managed in a way that enables them to perform to their maximum potential in an environment that matches their personality type. For example, some people require structure and explicit rules whereas others enjoy the thrill of ambiguity and an environment with minimal structure. Whatever those personal preferences are, if they are not being met, dissatisfaction is inevitable.

Lastly, success in any given job is a matter of intrinsic motivation. Everyone likes to run on some track that’s taking him or her where they want to go. Unless they perceive that their career aspirations, developmental and growth needs can be advanced, and unless they enjoy what they actually do every day, in a reasonably mobile job market, they won’t put up with frustration for long.

Hiring the wrong person is expensive, but hiring the right person only to watch him or her leave is even more expensive – and demoralizing. With more predictive assessment tools that measure will do, you have the opportunity to better engage these high performers and retain them longer.

__________________________________________________________________________13259f4For more than forty years, Frank Gump has been helping corporations become more productive and profitable by helping management teams identify and hire top performers and manage them most effectively. Developed and refined through extensive experience in more than 1200 organizations in the United States, Canada, England, and Australia, ADGI’s Organizational Management System (OMS) is a finely calibrated, technologically advanced decision-making process offering the potential for enormous payback. Contact ADGI for more insight and connect with Frank on LinkedIn. Follow ADGI on Twitter @ADGIGroup. Like ADGI on Facebook and follow us on Google+.

Why Your Selection Process Needs to Focus on Will Do

interviewing - mrgMost hiring managers are better at evaluating whether or not candidates can do a job than they are at determining whether or not candidates will do a job. That opens the door for a lot of people who really shouldn’t pass through. Résumés almost exclusively focus on what people have done, and offer little insight into how they did what they did. And résumés don’t even come close to telling us how the candidate perceived what he or she did. Interviews, with their similar emphasis on accomplishments in previous and current jobs, aren’t much more helpful, and managers tend to learn little from them about a candidate’s motivation, preferences and perceptions.

Interviews Are Ineffective Hiring Tools

This helps us understand why interviews – all types of interviews – are so ineffective at predicting job performance and why companies continue to make so many hiring mistakes. I’m still searching for a valid study that proves interviews can predict anything other than a candidate’s ability to interview well! That doesn’t mean we should stop interviewing – interviews, limited as they are, add some value to the hiring process. But we should recognize that interviews only illuminate what a person can do and shed little if any light on if and how a person will do what he or she can do.

Not CAN, but WILL Do

The key takeaway here is that much turnover occurs with people who can do a job, yet for various reasons are not motivated to do the job and won’t stay in the job! Since determining who can’t do a job (rejection) is easier and different from the more difficult task of determining who can (selection), it is essential to augment the interviewing process with more predictive tools that more accurately measure the critical will do factor.

In my next post, we’ll discuss motivation and how that plays a factor in selecting candidates who not only can do the job but who will remain motivated to stay in it.

__________________________________________________________________________13259f4For more than forty years, Frank Gump has been helping corporations become more productive and profitable by helping management teams identify and hire top performers and manage them most effectively. Developed and refined through extensive experience in more than 1200 organizations in the United States, Canada, England, and Australia, ADGI’s Organizational Management System (OMS) is a finely calibrated, technologically advanced decision-making process offering the potential for enormous payback. Contact ADGI for more insight and connect with Frank on LinkedIn. Follow ADGI on Twitter @ADGIGroup. Like ADGI on Facebook and follow us on Google+.

The Most Important (and Easiest to Fix) Cause of Hiring Mistakes

hiredMany organizations, even those using tests as a recruiting tool, continue to struggle with mediocre employee performance and turnover, or too much of both. This is not surprising, considering the many variables that affect both performance and retention. But one causal factor above all others is the failure to precisely identify and calibrate the traits, behaviors and motivations that drive high performance in each job. Allegorically speaking, no test, no matter how effective, can help you if you are shooting at the wrong target.

You would think that understanding what is necessary for success in any job is not difficult to determine; obviously, it is. Mis-hiring examples are everywhere: hiring people with service personalities and then tasking them to sell; looking for self-motivated achievers in every sales role, because some myth says they should be that way; assuming that call center roles require the same attributes as outside sales positions, because selling is selling … the list goes on and on.

So why is effective hiring so difficult? To start with, too many managers and recruiters just pay lip service to the process of job analysis. They don’t appreciate how important it is, so they don’t put the necessary time and effort into the process. As with so many things, simplicity and speed trump accuracy. What is also evident in many organizations is that the recruiting processes themselves are flawed. When the people doing the hiring lack an effective job-analysis regimen that incorporates precise tools, the process becomes perfunctory and superficial – they generalize, they stereotype, they make inferences and they never see the behavioral subtleties and nuances that account for performance variances and that set apart top performers.

The fix? At least that’s simple! Put the time into the job-analysis process for every hire, use job analysis tools that precisely distinguish small behavioral differences and use a monitoring-feedback loop to measure performance and tweak your job models where needed. Putting effort into your job analysis may be the most important step you can take to improve your hiring and retention success.

__________________________________________________________________________13259f4For more than forty years, Frank Gump has been helping corporations become more productive and profitable by helping management teams identify and hire top performers and manage them most effectively. Developed and refined through extensive experience in more than 1200 organizations in the United States, Canada, England, and Australia, ADGI’s Organizational Management System (OMS) is a finely calibrated, technologically advanced decision-making process offering the potential for enormous payback. Contact ADGI for more insight and connect with Frank on LinkedIn. Follow ADGI on Twitter @ADGIGroup. Like ADGI on Facebook and follow us on Google+.

Picking a Test that Works and Suits Your Needs, Part 2

Furthering the discussion regarding test validity and reliability, here is a final tip to assist you with your analysis.

Avoid getting hoodwinked

testing mrgAs a reminder, a test should be able to predict in a statistically significant way performance differences among people or some performance outcome. Validity is always a statistical determination and never a subjective one. What is called face validity is not validity in the true sense of the word, but is really more akin to Facebook Likes and Dislikes. You should be justifiably cautious of any test that makes a claim, such as “89% of those who received feedback said the results described them accurately,” particularly if no specific statistical data is also provided. A test is not valid simply because people like what it says about them.

Validity and reliability are expressed as correlation coefficients, which essentially mean the extent to which two things move in unison and which evidence a cause–and-effect relationship. For example, in the first two years of life, we would expect to see a high correlation between the weight and height of babies. Correlations express likelihood – the extent to which one variable likely influences something else. So, if a vendor tries to explain validity in some other way, for example as an accuracy percentage, there is simply no scientific basis for that. It’s baloney.

As noted above, in this era of big data, spin is becoming more prevalent, and you need to watch out for it. As an example, in measuring test reliability, the generally-accepted cutoff for a trait scale would be a .70 correlation. The higher the correlation, the greater the reliability, so .85 is a lot better. Tests have multiple scales, so if one falls slightly below .70, that does not nullify the value of the test or mean that it shouldn’t be used. It simply means that specific scale should be treated more cautiously. The spin angle is apparent today with several instruments that have numerous scales that fall well below the traditional cutoff. The reality is that the scales are weak and their value is questionable. One vendor in particular is using a white paper to rationalize many weak scales by claiming new and more subjective measures of reliability make the .70 threshold less meaningful. That’s obfuscation by complexity just to defend something that may be indefensible.  If you drill into their literature and see scales where r=.55 or something similar, understand that the scale is weak and a poor measure of whatever it’s attempting to identify.

Follow up?

There’s much more to understanding all the considerations of test construction and validation than what can be covered in the space of two blogs, but as they say, this is a start. Please email me at fgump@2oms.com with questions, or comment below. You can also reach us on Twitter at @ADGIGroup or on Facebook.

__________________________________________________________________________13259f4For more than forty years, Frank Gump has been helping corporations become more productive and profitable by helping management teams identify and hire top performers and manage them most effectively. Developed and refined through extensive experience in more than 1200 organizations in the United States, Canada, England, and Australia, ADGI’s Organizational Management System (OMS) is a finely calibrated, technologically advanced decision-making process offering the potential for enormous payback. Contact ADGI for more insight and connect with Frank on LinkedIn. Follow ADGI on Twitter @ADGIGroup. Like ADGI on Facebook and follow us on Google+.

Picking a Test that Works and Suits Your Needs, Part 1

test mrg Trying to navigate through test validity and reliability is a jungle! After reviewing a myriad of validation claims over the years, you begin to realize that truth is sometimes hard to find.

Here are a couple of tips to help you with any investigation you might want to do. Remember, the goal of any test is to add situationally-relevant insight, so if it doesn’t do that, you need to move on to something that will.

“Frankly, I’m shocked!”

Whereas claims from some test vendors are straightforward, others are disingenuous. Some vendors simply make claims with no supporting documentation, others publish weighty tomes with irrelevant content in the belief that people will associate truth with weight and technical complexity, and still others try to support their claims with nonsensical information. And now there’s a new twist: Some vendors are trying to reframe accepted measures of validity or reliability to make their instruments look better than they really are. Lipstick on a pig? Sure sounds like it…

Pick the right tool for what you want to do.

If you are going to use a behavioral assessment, you first need to make sure that you are selecting the right type of instrument for your needs. There are two types of tests to choose from: a normative design and an ipsative design. A normative test is intended for decision making, because it compares individuals to a work group or a defined population and allows individuals to be compared to one another. In other words, when you’re trying to determine whether or not a new hire fits your company culture, this is the best option In contrast, ipsative instruments are most appropriate for personal discovery or group-understanding applications where people are not compared with one another and decisions are unnecessary. Such tests are based upon self-referent measures of relative behaviors and strengths and don’t offer a meaningful basis for comparing people. Ipsative tests are primarily intended for coaches and trainers who are trying to identify the talents of their clients and teams.

Although some vendors of ipsative instruments point out the purposes and limitations of their test design, others don’t. Here’s where the spin comes in: At least one vendor goes so far as to claim that, because they have more than 10 scales, their results approximate those of a normative test, which then begs the question: Why not just use a normative test rather than a wannabe?

The bottom line is: Don’t get blinded by brand or fooled by spin. Find out which tools are appropriate for your applications and information needs.

Understand what to look for.

Validity and reliability in a business decision-making context are really very simple:

A test or instrument should measure what it claims to measure, which is called construct validity. For example, if a test measures social initiative and friendliness, does it accurately distinguish between those who more sociable and those who are not?

A test should show evidence that the scales have internal consistency and that repeated test results are consistent. This is reliability. If that test supposedly measuring social initiative shows different results over several administrations, then it’s really not measuring anything.

Finally, a test should be able to predict in a statistically significant way some performance outcome. This is criterion or predictive validity. If you are using a test to make more placement decisions, then more accurately predicting performance or some dimension of performance is the goal.

In the next post, you can learn how to avoid statistical data spins.

__________________________________________________________________________13259f4For more than forty years, Frank Gump has been helping corporations become more productive and profitable by helping management teams identify and hire top performers and manage them most effectively. Developed and refined through extensive experience in more than 1200 organizations in the United States, Canada, England, and Australia, ADGI’s Organizational Management System (OMS) is a finely calibrated, technologically advanced decision-making process offering the potential for enormous payback. Contact ADGI for more insight and connect with Frank on LinkedIn. Follow ADGI on Twitter @ADGIGroup. Like ADGI on Facebook and follow us on Google+.

How to Get Real Payback from Behavioral Assessment

measurementAre you using some sort of testing to assess candidate or employee behaviors? Recent studies indicate that between 20 and 33 percent of employers now use behavioral tests and diagnostics, so it’s worthwhile to ask, as Dr. Phil would say, “How’s that working for you?”

For more than 40 years we have been observing how companies use tests and assessments, and it’s our belief that most organizations really don’t know how well their assessment tools are working. Of course, this is true for a lot of what goes on in HR, because a lot of what goes on is, in fact, difficult to isolate and measure in it’s own right.

But measuring the operational and financial impact of testing is essentially just keeping score. What really matters more is how organizations implement and manage the assessments they use. In a series of subsequent articles, I will uncover for you what we believe are the six most critical reasons why behavioral testing fails to deliver and fails to meet what should be reasonable expectations in any organization. Address these, and testing can work for you!

Where are we going to go with this series? We’ll take a look at:

  • The importance of interpreting the validity and reliability of data
  • How test proliferation and commoditization lowers user expectations
  • Why a poor understanding and use of job analysis guts the assessment process
  • What both HR and operational managers need to know about workplace behavior
  • What test users should be able to do with technology and data analysis
  • How weak command and control can cause unnecessary problems and undermine the potential value of assessment

Stay with us and let us know your experiences.

__________________________________________________________________________13259f4For more than forty years, Frank Gump has been helping corporations become more productive and profitable by helping management teams identify and hire top performers and manage them most effectively. Developed and refined through extensive experience in more than 1200 organizations in the United States, Canada, England, and Australia, ADGI’s Organizational Management System (OMS) is a finely calibrated, technologically advanced decision-making process offering the potential for enormous payback. Contact ADGI for more insight and connect with Frank on LinkedIn. Follow ADGI on Twitter @ADGIGroup. Like ADGI on Facebook and follow us on Google+.

How to Improve Coaching Success and Satisfaction

Recent studies on the effectiveness of coaching are pretty consistent in telling us that recipients perceive some benefit, but it’s limited, and managers continue to struggle with the process. The same studies also note that these findings are neither unexpected nor surprising when compared to other management interactions.

Coaching itself is not the problem – I doubt that I have ever heard anyone describe it as a bad idea. In fact it’s a very good idea that simply needs better execution.

How to do that? We need better training solutions to equip managers with widely diverse personalities handle their coaching interactions in a more personally comfortable manner and adapt their coaching strategies to accommodate the differences in the people they are coaching. In a world of vast individual differences, whether you are the coach or the person being coached, one size doesn’t fill all!

Traditional training methods don’t seem to prepare coaches very well. When you consider the results of all the millions of dollars that have been poured into classroom training in general and more specifically into coaching training, doing more of the same is not the answer. People can learn a process – what they should be doing and why, and the steps to follow in a classroom session – but the group training environment is not suitable for teaching managers how to leverage their own personalities and talents to make coaching more comfortable or successful, or how to map out a workable strategy with each unique personality they will encounter.

Here’s an analogy: an automotive technician knows the fundamentals of making different engine repairs, yet still consults a computerized instructional manual for the specifics of making those repairs on each type of engine. The repair process remains essentially the same, but it’s the small and individual differences they need to take into account and understand.

With a similar objective we developed our Coach iPhone ™ app to enable managers to personalize their coaching interactions to accommodate their own traits and styles as well as the traits and styles of those they coach. The app is not intended to replace methodology training and it’s certainly not a “how to” for coaching. Rather, the app layers on top of training to produce a context-specific strategy and the tactics that will be most likely to succeed in each coaching situation.

How does Coach work? It’s really very simple. The manager completes the OMS Questionnaire on the iPhone and instantly can view a comprehensive report describing the manager’s behavioral style, how that style relates to the process of coaching, and how the manager can reasonably stretch to improve personal coaching effectiveness. The app also has a quick but accurate tool the manager can use to identify the style of each person he or she is planning to coach. Once the recipient’s style is created, an interaction report is generated on the phone that includes a description of the person’s style along with a coaching strategy report specific to the styles of the manager and the recipient. The manager can review the reports just before entering a coaching dialogue. What makes the app particularly effective is that the manager’s behaviors are reinforced during the interaction, thus moving from the intellectual appreciation to become an embedded personal experience.

Try it. You’ll see. Try our companion apps as well, Interact for improving management effectiveness and SuperSell for improving selling and influencing success.

__________________________________________________________________________13259f4For more than forty years, Frank Gump has been helping corporations become more productive and profitable by helping management teams identify and hire top performers and manage them most effectively. Developed and refined through extensive experience in more than 1200 organizations in the United States, Canada, England, and Australia, ADGI’s Organizational Management System (OMS) is a finely calibrated, technologically advanced decision-making process offering the potential for enormous payback. Contact ADGI for more insight and connect with Frank on LinkedIn. Follow ADGI on Twitter @ADGIGroup. Like ADGI on Facebook and follow us on Google+.