Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The (lack of) Wisdom of Employment Interviews

With unemployment rates at historic levels many more individuals are applying for fewer jobs. Because there typically is no penalty for applying, many of today’s job applicants are not a good fit a given job. In this economy, selection really becomes critical. Unfortunately, the typical organization is still clutching to that old bastion of selection – the job interview
Despite the fact that many studies have confirmed that job interviews are among the least effective means of making a good hire decision, they continue to be the number one choice among employers. There are a few things employers should consider before simply hiring the best interviewee.
First: Interviews are notoriously ineffective at predicting performance.
Study after study show that even the best interviewers fall woefully short of informing good selection decisions. In fact, interviews rarely exceed an accuracy rate of 10%. Translation: If you hire a good employee via an interview, you probably got lucky. Moreover, nearly everyone with hiring authority has made a bad hire – it’s just too easy to select good interviewees.
Second: Some bad employees are good at interviewing.
The best interviewers may be the worst employees because they have relatively more experience interviewing. Translation: they’ve been relieved of employment more than less experienced interviewees.
Third: The book is out on interviewing.
Who doesn’t show up for an interview with a ready-made answer to the inevitable question concerning your strengths and weaknesses?
At a time when each selection decision becomes critical, we also have many job seekers ‘reaching’ for any job they can get. Now, more than ever is the time to use more effective and efficient means of sifting through the myriad of job aspirants.
Industrial Organizational psychologists are experts in helping individuals and organizations make better hiring decisions. As scientists, I/O psychologists go through rigorous training to become highly accurate in their prediction and placement of people at work. Unfortunately, the profession is still relatively unknown.
Business runs on talented people who share a common mission and commitment to a cause. It sounds trite to say, ‘build a strong team’. But if you think you’re going to identify your next ‘best employee’ via a simple two hour interview, I’ve got a bunch of old lottery tickets for sale.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Jargon Jousting - Corrected Correlation

Why would anyone need to correct a correlation? Correlations typically don’t run afoul of the law and certainly no correlation has ever been accused of committing a felony. Now it is true that some correlations are so trivial as to be misdemeanors, but certainly they aren’t deserving of correction either.

The only legitimate reason to correct a correlation might be prior miscalculation, in which case the numbers simply should be run again. But what justification could there possibly be for taking correlations that are at worst misdemeanors and pumping them up to look like relationships on steroids? If the correlation is non-existent or trivial to begin with, why not just admit it?

An unfortunate example of ruthlessly corrected correlations occurs in the Technical Manual for a recently released assessment of “Talent”. The report of the validity correlations for the twelve scales on the Talent measure reveals that only four of these twelve scales reach a correlation of .10 or greater with supervisor ratings of talent behaviors. The table reports that correlations of .10 or greater are significant at or beyond the .05 level of significance. Yet after not one, not two, but three different corrections, nine of the twelve scales exhibit significant correlations with supervisor ratings. Most miraculous of all is the way in which the five insignificant correlations below .10 became significant relationships.

If there really were a Psychometric Department of Corrections, it should be the correlation correctors, not the correlations themselves, that should be targeted for correction! Taking an already significant correlation and pumping it up on steroids should be a misdemeanor, but somehow pulling an insignificant correlation out of the hat and employing three corrections to make it significant clearly should be a psychometric felony.

by Leslie H. Krieger, Ph.D, SPHR, President of ATG

Jargon Jousting - Valid Assessment

Assessments can and should be key elements in such talent management processes as selection, promotion, and development. And choosing the correct assessment is critical for the success and the legality of these processes. A quick internet search or reviews of assessment publisher catalogues yields a bewildering assortment of assessments and equally bewildering claims about their suitability. Perhaps the most problematic of these claims is the pronouncement that a particular assessment is a “valid assessment”. Even more questionable is the claim that a particular assessment has been declared valid by the EEOC or other governmental entity.

Let’s start with the fact that there is no such thing as a “valid assessment”! Validity is not a property of an assessment; validity is a property of the relationship between an assessment and its use in a particular situation with an identified population. Repeated demonstrations of validity do not result in an assessment being valid; each demonstration is unique and must be made in compliance with established professional psychometric and legal guidelines. All that can be said about an assessment that has repeatedly demonstrated validity, is that the assessment has a history of demonstrating validity under certain known conditions.

As for the EEOC or other government entities, none of these organizations are in the business of declaring an assessment “valid” or “invalid”. They know better! What they can and will declare is the finding that a particular assessment has either demonstrated validity or failed to demonstrate validity in a particular situation with an identified population. They also may determine that the use of a particular assessment in a specific situation is not justified by business necessity or that the assessment disadvantages protected classes within the population from which applicants typically are or should be drawn.

So buyer beware. The claim that an assessment is a “valid assessment” is a guarantee that it is not!

by Leslie H. Krieger, Ph. D, SPHR, President of ATG

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Jargon Jousting - Irregular Ramblings on the Bizareness of Business Buzzwords

Next Generation Leadership

This week members of the local OD (Organization Development) Network are meeting to talk about “Next Generation Leadership”. But does anyone really know what next generation leadership is? The OD Network members may find themselves the members of the Over Dose Network as they try to parse the ambiguity of this phrase.

Does it mean organizations should be led by those who currently are the followers, a situation where the inmates run the asylum? Or could it mean that each generation requires it’s own leadership, a situation in which several age-linked cadres of leaders compete for ultimate control? Hopefully neither of the above absurdities is the real intent of this phrase. A look at some relevant research may be helpful.

In 1996 the founding event of ATG’s Futures Leaders capability was a gathering of educational leaders from all over the United States who were brought together to create a model of “The 21st Century Educational Leader”. This model became the driver for the preparation, selection and development of community college leaders across the country. Now, thirteen years later, these leaders are at the forefront of the reinvention of the community college and the evolution of many of these colleges into four year degree granting institutions. With thirteen years or two thirds of a generation elapsed since the creation of this highly impactful leadership model, is it really time to consider “next generation leadership”?

Is the effectiveness of leadership really determined by generations? Was leadership in the 1960’s actually very different from leadership in the 1980’s? Will leadership in 2020 be different from leadership today. Even if the answer is “Yes”, that answer doesn’t necessarily make leadership generational. It could just as likely be situational or inspirational.

If leadership truly were generational, than each leadership cadre would operate differently from the one before, creating constant chaos and instability in our organizations. Perhaps that’s what’s actually happening in many of today’s organizations, although the bet would be that they suffer from too little leadership rather than from too much. Either way, endless waves of change aren’t necessarily by themselves beneficial.

But defining next generation leadership ultimately may be a fruitless exercise since data from organizations as diverse as the Center for Creative Leadership, the Society of Association Executives, and ATG’s FuturesLeaders suggest that next generation leadership may prove to be a null set. These data point to the paucity of people prepared to take on the leadership roles of the future. And as if to insure this nullness, many of our largest organizations have used the recent economic downturn as an excuse to ditch whatever leadership development resources they might have had.

So when it comes to next generation leadership we have seen the enemy and they are us. Talent management professionals including those in organization development have failed miserably to make the business case even for leadership replacement planning. And forget about getting ahead of the need for leadership curve. The only useful response to the next generation leadership problem can be found in a paraphrase from the Jewish Rabbinic literature: “In a place where there are no leaders, you must strive to become one!”

by Dr. Leslie H. Krieger, Ph.D, SPHR, President of ATG

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Developing Candidates Before They Apply

Have you ever said to yourself (or to anyone else, for that matter), “These fresh-out-of-school grads understand collections, but they just don’t have what it takes to do it”? Organizations across the board have complained for years that recent graduates have basic job skills and specialized knowledge, but they are lacking “soft skills,” i.e., the ability to get along with others, to handle stress, to keep themselves organized, etc. Wouldn’t it be great if you knew ahead of time that your collectors were trained in both aspects of the job? Through a partnership between your agency, ATG’s FuturesLeaders division, and your local community college, you can do just that.

Candidate Development
Many community colleges offer courses in collections to train students in the technical skills they need to be successful collectors; others would be willing to offer such courses if employers (i.e., your agency) expressed enough demand. This college preparation takes away some of the training time and headaches you undoubtedly experience with brand new collectors. But that’s only half of it…colleges don’t usually teach their students how to be socially assertive, outgoing, or confident.

To remedy this problem, some colleges are offering to their students the opportunity to compare themselves to the job models of their desired positions. For instance, students in enrolling in collection courses can be compared to the job model of a successful collector (i.e., ATG’s “Collector Selector”). This initial comparison allows students to identify where they are currently the strongest and where they still need some work…before they ever set foot in your agency! Once they have this information, they can work with instructors, supervisors, and/or mentors to help them develop the “soft skills” they need to be successful collectors.

Agency. Your agency’s candidate pool becomes much deeper and richer with people who have prepared themselves for the collector position. You now have a group of people at your fingertips with the degrees, collector training, and people skills necessary to be successful in the collector position. All you have to do is decide who is the “best of the best”…not a bad place to be!

Students/Candidates. Students who wish to enter the collection business can also benefit from the development and training process. Essentially, they have a sneak peak into what agencies are looking for in their collectors and can work to meet those needs! By understanding what agencies want, the uncertainty and anxiety around whether they may be a good fit is eliminated.

The gap between classroom training and agency needs does not need to exist. By allowing students to understand what agencies need, they can eliminate these gaps to be successful collectors.

by Christina Adkins, Ph.D, ATG Organizational Consultant

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Employment Center


In these tough economic times, you’ve likely found the talent pool much richer than in years past. Former VPs are applying for barista positions at Starbucks, Sales Managers are hoping for the opportunity to “tote bags” – you know the story. But don’t be seduced by titles: even though these applicants have great experiences in other domains, they may not be the best fit for the way your agency hires. So, how do you determine which applicant is a great find and which is a pass?

It’s all about the fit.
When you think about a successful employee, what comes to mind? Assertive, detailed, outgoing? These responses differ according to which position you had in mind. An astute eye for detail isn’t as critical to success for an agency President as it is for an accountant; assertiveness isn’t always needed for an individual contributor role. When it comes to selecting your employees, it’s just as important to know the role as it is to know the person applying for the role.

Job. Understanding a job includes knowing the tasks an employee would have to complete, how important these tasks are to success in the job, and what kind of person would be successful in the job. It’s no longer just about the job description; it’s about the intricacies of the job itself. People in the role now often find it quite difficult to identify such details, especially if they’ve been doing it for a while. It’s not unlike driving a car…once you’ve done it long enough, you forget each step you take to start the car, get it going, stopping, etc. With that said, it’s often helpful to have an objective, outside source help you identify the specifics down to the amount of time a person spends doing each task. An outsider has no preconceived notions about the job requirements and can ask the questions you might take for granted, gathering the answers that will lead to the creation of a profile of the most successful incumbent.

Person. Now that you have a better understanding of the model, you can compare candidates to the profile of one who will be successful in this position. Remember the old adage, “it’s takes a special person to be a ___ ?” It’s true! It takes a special person to be an agency President, to be a Collector, to be an HR Manager, etc. The trick is knowing what “special” means in each of these roles. Each person has a unique personal style that describes how he/she approaches leadership, how he/she gets the job done, relates to others, and processes information.

The missing link in successful hiring is between the tasks that need to be done and the individual with the personal style best suited to do these tasks well. To effectively and accurately gather information on an individual’s style, you’ll need a scientifically valid tool (i.e., defensible in court) to assess each applicant for fit to the position. You’ll then have all of the pieces you need to screen through the talent pool and find the applicants who will best fit your agency’s needs.

by Christina Adkins Ph.D, Organizational Consultant, ATG

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Building the Dealership Talent Pipeline


Contract furniture dealerships face many talent management challenges, but conversations with several dealership leaders and principals indicate that the greatest talent management concerns center on the various stages of building the dealership talent pipeline. Although individual dealerships might differ in the priorities they place on each talent pipeline concern, all agree that four talent pipeline processes are critical for dealership success and sustainability. Those talent pipeline processes are:

I-Selecting the strongest entry level talent who will stay and grow

II-Developing individual contributors into supervisors and managers

III-Powering sales people to optimize their contribution to revenue

IV-Preparing leadership and dealer principal succession

Let’s look at each of these critical talent pipeline processes and explore the systems and activities that would optimize its effectiveness. Many of these systems and activities until fairly recently were available only to organizations much larger than the typical dealership. Now with online communications, scalable talent management architectures and expert system databases, even the smallest dealership can afford to access these talent pipeline resources.


Selecting the strongest entry level talent who will stay and grow

Sourcing and selecting entry level talent may be the single most important talent pipeline process for a dealership, since the depth of entry level talent sets very real boundaries on the dealership’s capabilities to deliver, innovate and grow. The sourcing and selecting process is best supported by implementing an integrated approach that includes hiring management automation, job-relevant assessments, and job-specific interview protocols.

Hiring management automation drives employment applications through an artificial intelligence guided web-based screening and qualification process. No paper is created and no effort is required on the part of the dealership’s human resource function until the process identifies a qualified candidate. Qualified candidates, then, can be routed by the software through job relevant assessments and, if appropriate, scheduled for an interview appointment with human resources and/or the hiring manager. This automation improves candidate quality while eliminating tedious hours of reading through stacks of resumes and then trying to connect with applicants who seem promising on paper.

Job relevant assessments also are web based and can be made available to an applicant either un-proctored at their own email address or proctored at a computer in the dealership. Typically these assessments include a measure of work style and one or more tests of critical thinking and/or job specific skills. If the dealership or a group to which it belongs has invested in building a model of a particular job, the applicant can be matched directly to that model. If no job-specific model exists, the applicant can be compared to appropriate population norms. Either way, the assessment process enables the applicant to demonstrate their suitability and capability to succeed in the available job.

Job specific interviews are much more likely to predict individual job performance than are the informal, unstructured interviews typically used by smaller organizations. In an integrated approach to selection the job specific interview is divided between the automated delivery of the artificial intelligence driven hiring management system and the live in person interview conducted by the human resources and/or hiring manager interviewer. Focus groups with people who have been in the dealership long enough to observe the success or failure of several people who have held a specific job uncover the biodata and behavioral elements that predict these performance outcomes. Then questions are written to assess the extent to which a job applicant displays the elements that contribute to success. An applicant’s response to each question is scored, and these scores tallied to provide an objective measure of likely success on the job.

Developing individual contributors into supervisors and managers

The leap from individual contributor to effective supervisor or manager is much greater than most people estimate it to be. Not surprisingly, therefore, many highly successful individual contributors need help in making this transition to their first role with responsibility for others. This transition process is best supported by implementing an integrated approach that includes early identification of supervisory and management potential, a menu of relevant internal and external training resources, and a structured coaching and mentoring program.

Early identification of supervisory and management potential can be made from a combination of behavioral observations, performance evaluations, and standardized assessment of readiness for supervisory and management roles. Data from these three sources are combined to highlight an individual’s already evolved supervisory and managerial strengths and also their needs for further development prior to taking on this additional level of responsibility. Feedback of this information with the individual should result in the co-creation of a realistic plan for career transition to a targeted supervisory or management position. The career transition plan should identify developmental resources and set target dates for the several recommended activities to be completed, assuring that the individual’s efforts remain focused.

The menu of relevant internal and external training resources is designed to meet the most frequent development needs of individuals making the transition from individual contributor to supervisor or manager. This menu might include books, films, online training, classroom training, vendor or association-sponsored programs, consultant facilitated programs, job rotations or project assignments, as well as formal course work from a college or university. An individual’s choices from this menu should be guided by their career transition plan and completed by the plan’s target dates. Many dealerships offer tuition reimbursement or a career development budget to individuals who elect to work toward a degree and/or relevant professional certification on their own time.

Structured coaching and mentoring often is necessary to provide individualized transition support beyond that available from training experiences. Larger dealerships are more likely to have a mentoring program in which senior executives are trained to offer long term guidance to one or more junior people who are in various stages of career evolution and/or transition. Organizations of any size may invite professional coaches to offer their expertise in working with individuals who are moving through these career stages. The personal connection with a mentor or coach greatly increases the likelihood that an individual will meet agreed upon career development goals.

Powering sales people to optimize their contribution to revenue

Powering sales people to optimize their contribution to revenue is essential to dealership survival, success and growth. Sales person turnover is extremely expensive and disruptive, making the retention and optimization of sales people truly critical to the dealership. This optimization process is best supported by implementing an integrated approach that includes detailed delineation of selling roles and strategies, assessment and training to increase sales potential, and rational compensation models keyed to the demand characteristics of each of the identified selling roles and strategies.

Detailed delineation of selling roles and strategies is essential in providing sales people with clear expectations for their behavior, performance, and revenue objectives. Most dealership have more than a single selling role, and these roles may not always be formally defined. Typically some distinction is made between sales roles focused on new business development, current client penetration, or client management. A more formal process of job definition that includes task identification, selling strategy rationale, and performance evaluation metrics greatly increases the likelihood that a sales person will understand and deliver to the expectations of their particular selling role.

Assessment and training to increase sales potential provide an avenue for continually improving sales person effectiveness. Assessment of individual sales people can identify their competency at each point in the business to business selling cycle and also uncover the underlying behavioral attributes that may be supporting a competency or holding back its development. Sales training, then, can be tailored to the needs of each individual rather than simply spending the money to send everyone through the same packaged sales training experience. And the return on a training investment can be measured by both changes in sales assessment scores and actual improvement in critical sales outcomes.

Rational sales compensation models deliver desired sales results while balancing the financial needs of individual sales people and the dealership. Appropriate models also are the key to retaining and motivating the best performers. These models work best when they are tailored to the demand characteristics of a particular selling role and/or strategy and also to competitive job pricing in the particular job market. Sales role definition, preferred selling strategy, and market compensation benchmarks therefore must be clarified before a rational compensation model can be put in place. It’s not unusual for a dealership with several different defined sales roles to have a different compensation model in place for each of these roles. And plans also need to be made for the sales person who transitions from one selling role to another.

Preparing leadership and dealer principal succession

Preparing leadership and dealer principal succession is the big elephant in the room that few dealers want to address until it’s almost too late to do what’s best for the dealership and its stakeholders. Completely unexpected transition needs brought about by death, disability, or unexpected departure of a leader or dealer principal inevitably create a crisis mentality throughout the dealership that highlights the need for a proactive approach to succession. Preparing leadership and dealer principal succession is best supported by implementing an integrated approach that includes career assessment and development activities, a key person internal vs. external succession strategy, and an “all facets” engagement with the dealer principal.

Career assessment and development activities that support succession planning are an extension of the processes used to identify and develop front line supervisory and management talent. The succession planning activities take a longer term view and are designed to identify individuals with high potential for leadership success and guide them through a series of formal learning and business experiences that will prepare them for increasing responsibility in the dealership. Mentoring and/or coaching relationships are essential in growing people toward the top roles in the organization. And active involvement in industry associations and dealer councils provides additional valuable perspectives on what a leader should be doing to power the dealership forward.

Key person succession strategies inevitably come down to an assessment of the talent available within the dealership and the talent that will need to be brought in from the outside. Although there are many strong arguments in favor of “growing your own”, a completely home grown leadership team may perpetuate an insular view of dealership direction. Bringing on board carefully assessed and selected outside leaders can invigorate the leadership team and bring new energy to drive dealership strategies and growth.

An “all facets” engagement with the dealer principal should be in place several years before that individual expects to transition out of their leadership role and/or give up ownership. Typically dealer principals involve their financial and legal advisors in discussions about their transition but pay little attention to the behavioral impact of the transition on the dealership, themselves and their families. An “all facets” engagement should include a psychologist or organizational consultant as a member of the transition trusted advisor team. Transition preparation activities should include ongoing psychologist facilitated discussions with the dealer principal and the successors to this role. Interventions also may be needed to help other stakeholders within the dealership handle the change of leadership and/or ownership with resilience rather than anxiety. And finally the dealer principal may need guidance in accepting their own changed role and understanding its impact on their self image and emotions.