Author Archives: Susan Rochester

About Susan Rochester

BSc MHRM CAHRI (Australian Human Resources Institute) Member CDAA (Career Development Association of Australia) and NAGCAS (National Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services). Distributor of Harrison Assessments in Australia.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Media multitaskers pay mental price

Stanford Report, August 24, 2009 by Adam Gorlick

Attention, multitaskers (if you can pay attention, that is): Your brain may be in trouble. People who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information do not pay attention, control their memory or switch from one job to another as well as those who prefer to complete one task at a time, a group of Stanford researchers has found.

multitaskingHigh-tech jugglers are everywhere – keeping up several e-mail and instant message conversations at once, text messaging while watching television and jumping from one website to another while plowing through homework assignments.

But after putting about 100 students through a series of three tests, the researchers realized those heavy media multitaskers are paying a big mental price.

“They’re suckers for irrelevancy,” said communication Professor Clifford Nass, one of the researchers whose findings are published in the Aug. 24 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Everything distracts them.”

Social scientists have long assumed that it’s impossible to process more than one string of information at a time. The brain just can’t do it. But many researchers have guessed that people who appear to multitask must have superb control over what they think about and what they pay attention to.

Is there a gift?

So Nass and his colleagues, Eyal Ophir and Anthony Wagner, set out to learn what gives multitaskers their edge. What is their gift?

“We kept looking for what they’re better at, and we didn’t find it,” said Ophir, the study’s lead author and a researcher in Stanford’s Communication Between Humans and Interactive Media Lab. In each of their tests, the researchers split their subjects into two groups: those who regularly do a lot of media multitasking and those who don’t. In one experiment, the groups were shown sets of two red rectangles alone or surrounded by two, four or six blue rectangles.

Each configuration was flashed twice, and the participants had to determine whether the two red rectangles in the second frame were in a different position than in the first frame. They were told to ignore the blue rectangles, and the low multitaskers had no problem doing that. But the high multitaskers were constantly distracted by the irrelevant blue images.

Their performance was horrible. Because the high multitaskers showed they couldn’t ignore things, the researchers figured they were better at storing and organizing information.

Maybe they had better memories. The second test proved that theory wrong. After being shown sequences of alphabetical letters, the high multitaskers did a lousy job at remembering when a letter was making a repeat appearance.

“The low multitaskers did great,” Ophir said. “The high multitaskers were doing worse and worse the further they went along because they kept seeing more letters and had difficulty keeping them sorted in their brains.”

Still puzzled

Puzzled but not yet stumped on why the heavy multitaskers weren’t performing well, the researchers conducted a third test. If the heavy multitaskers couldn’t filter out irrelevant information or organize their memories, perhaps they excelled at switching from one thing to another faster and better than anyone else.

Wrong again, the study found. The test subjects were shown images of letters and numbers at the same time and instructed what to focus on. When they were told to pay attention to numbers, they had to determine if the digits were even or odd. When told to concentrate on letters, they had to say whether they were vowels or consonants.

Again, the heavy multitaskers underperformed the light multitaskers.

“They couldn’t help thinking about the task they weren’t doing,” Ophir said. “The high multitaskers are always drawing from all the information in front of them. They can’t keep things separate in their minds.”

 The researchers are still studying whether chronic media multitaskers are born with an inability to concentrate or are damaging their cognitive control by willingly taking in so much at once. But they’re convinced the minds of multitaskers are not working as well as they could.

 “When they’re in situations where there are multiple sources of information coming from the external world or emerging out of memory, they’re not able to filter out what’s not relevant to their current goal,” said Wagner, an associate professor of psychology. “That failure to filter means they’re slowed down by that irrelevant information.”

So maybe it’s time to stop e-mailing if you’re following the game on TV, and rethink singing along with the radio if you’re reading the latest news online. By doing less, you might accomplish more

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Key factors in effective job behaviour assessment

The following information is an excerpt from the whitepaper ‘Best Practices in Talent Assessment’ by Dan Harrison, PhD, of Harrison Assessments International ©2008 Harrison Assessments International.  For a copy of the full report, please email us.

According to my 20 years experience in job behaviour assessment, there are several key factors that enable a behavioural assessment to effectively predict performance. These include:

  •  The ability of the assessment to measure more than 100 traits
  •  A questionnaire that is work focused
  •  The ability to detect false answers and to pierce self-deception
  •  Performance research that is used to create job success formulas for specific job
  •  Reports that are job specific, numerically quantified and easy to understand.
  •  The ability to weight and integrate eligibility score and job behaviour assessment scores.

Next in this series:  Measuring a sufficient number of traits

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Job behaviour assessment compared with personality assessment

The following information is an excerpt from the whitepaper ‘Best Practices in Talent Assessment’ by Dan Harrison, PhD, of Harrison Assessments International ©2008 Harrison Assessments International.  For a copy of the full report, please email us.

Personality Assessments have been available for about 60 years. Some of them have obtained a great deal of validation research. However, it is important to understand that they are not actually job behaviour assessments and such validation is not relevant to job performance. In most cases, the validation simply means that the assessment favorably compares with other means of assessing personality.

Many people are fooled into thinking that this large amount of research indicates that they are valid and useful tools for job assessment. In fact, many of those assessments specifically state that the instrument does not predict job performance.

It makes no sense to use an assessment for job selection that was never designed for the workplace and has no ability to predict job performance. Some people say that they can effectively use personality assessments for employee development. However, this also makes no sense. The main point of employee development is to improve performance and if an assessment does not measure the factors that relate to job performance, how can it significantly help to develop employees?

Next in this series: Key factors in job behaviour assessment

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Overcoming ‘interview infatuation’

When I met Matthew Farrell, Principal of Five Pillars Financial Planning, he was in the process of selecting a new financial planner to support the growth of his business.

business man closeupMatthew was impressed with a candidate but confided that one of the traps he’d fallen into in the past was loving someone at the interview, only to find they didn’t live up to expectations on the job.  This is a familiar scenario, especially when faced with a charming and enthusiastic interviewee.

To ensure he didn’t make the same mistake this time, Matthew decided to use Harrison Assessments to determine the candidate’s suitability for the role.

Matthew was keen to:

1.   Have a quick answer and
2.   Ensure the candidate had traits that met the specific requirements of the business.

Within 24 hours of our first conversation, Matthew had the result he needed and within 48 hours, the candidate had been offered and had accepted the role.  This is how we did it:

1.   After the first meeting, we sent the candidate a ‘questionnaire invitation’ so that he could complete the online assessment overnight.
2.   We sent Matthew a draft job template for him to consider.
3.   Next morning, Matthew and I discussed the template and I made adjustments to the template online.
4.   The candidate had completed the assessment so we were able to immediately run the  reports, comparing him to the customised template.
5.   Matthew and I discussed the reports and the candidate’s suitability straight away.

We asked Matthew to comment on his experience of using the Harrison Assessments:
“I was looking for an objective assessment tool that took away the temptation of me being swayed by the candidate’s pleasing personality and charm. I wanted to know if the candidate possessed the internal qualities required to perform in the position.

We had always tested for aptitude or the ability to perform the technical aspects of the position but we lacked a process to tackle the question of whether the prospective candidate had the disposition or personal qualities necessary to thrive in their new role.”

TIP:  Don’t let your heart rule your head!  Get some objective advice before you make decisions about the people in your business.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Using interviews to assess job behaviour

The following information is an excerpt from the whitepaper ‘Best Practices in Talent Assessment’ by Dan Harrison, PhD, of Harrison Assessments International ©2008 Harrison Assessments International.  For a copy of the full report, please email us.

handshakeIn the past, interviews have been used as the primary means assess attitude, motivation, and job behaviour. However, even if interviewers are extremely intuitive, there are many reasons why accurately assessing job behaviour with a normal interview process is nearly impossible.

1. Interviewers do not have access to a real behavioural success formula. There are dozens of behavioural factors that either promote success or inhibit success for any one job. Interviewers rarely have access to a job formula that identifies the behavioural success factors, weights the success factors against each other. And formulates how different levels of these success factors impact job performance

2. Even if the interviewer has access to such a formula, the interviewer would need to accurately assess specific levels of each applicant’s behaviour for each of the job success factors.

3. Some people are skillful at being interviewed. However, being skillful at an interview usually does not relate to job success and therefore it often confuses them into thinking that such skillfulness will relate to job success.

4. The interviewee aims to tell the interviewer what he/she thinks will be viewed as the best response. The interviewer aims to determine how much of what the person is saying reflects genuine attitudes and behaviour and how much is related to just trying to get the job. This in itself is extremely difficult to resolve in the short period of the interview.

5. Interviewers are biased. Research clearly shows that interviewers routinely give favorable responses to people who are similar to themselves, and less favorable responses to people who are different from themselves. In the end, the result is very likely to come down to how well the interviewer likes the candidate rather than how well the candidate fits the behavioural requirements of the job.

Many interviewers claim insights into the personality of applicants and certainly some interviewers are quite perceptive. However, predicting job success is an entirely different matter. It is not sufficient to perceive a particular quality of a person. Rather, the interviewer must be able to accurately assess the magnitude of each of dozens of qualities in relationship to a complex formula of behavioural requirements for a particular job. This is nearly an impossible task without the aid of significant research and tools.

Assessment research shows that interviewing has a moderate ability to predict job success. However, this doesn’t mean that interviewers can predict job behaviour. The moderate ability to predict job success comes as a result of exploring the candidate’s resume, previous experience, education, and job knowledge rather than the interviewer’s ability to predict job behaviour. If you doubt my assertion, I suggest you try the following experiment. Have your interviewers conduct the interview without ever seeing the resume and without discussing past experience, education or skills. Then have them write down their job success prediction. Later, you can compare this prediction to the actual job success. In fact, conducting interviews in this way would be so difficult that I doubt anyone would even attempt it.

Next in this series:  Job behaviour assessments compared to personality assessments

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Assessing suitability

The following information is an excerpt from the whitepaper ‘Best Practices in Talent Assessment’ by Dan Harrison, PhD, of Harrison Assessments International ©2008 Harrison Assessments International.  For a copy of the full report, please email us.

For most jobs, suitability factors are about 50% of the job success factors. Therefore, effectively measuring suitability is an essential part of assessment. However, suitability is much more difficult to measure than eligibility. The first challenge is to determine which suitability factors relate to job success for a particular job. However, even when that is determined, assessing job suitability accurately is unlikely unless you can determine how different levels of each suitability factor impacts job success.

For example, you may determine that self-motivation is an important factor for job success for a particular job. But you still need to determine how detrimental or how beneficial each level of self-motivation. In some cases, the more the person has the better. However, for other jobs, a moderate level is enough.

Each level of each factor needs to be scored according to its impact on performance. That is why HA contains significant previous research regarding suitability factors and their impact on performance for different job types and for different jobs. Without this, it is nearly impossible to assess behaviour effectively.

Suitability factors are behavioural and are much more difficult for people to change than eligibility factors. This makes it even more important to accurately assess behaviour during the recruitment process. Most organisations hire people for their eligibility and then try to develop their suitability. And in many cases fire them for their lack of suitability. Since behaviour is fundamentally more difficult to change than eligibility, it is better to hire people who already have the suitability for the job.

To illustrate different aspects of suitability, here are some examples of job behaviour factors that could be relevant to a specific job. These are just a small sample of more than one hundred important suitability factors that could relate to job success.

• What types of things will an applicant or employee accomplish or put off?

• What motivates them?

• How will they communicate, influence and lead?

    • How well they can handle autonomy, freedom and responsibility?

    • How much initiative will they take?

    • How much will they persist when faced with obstacles?

    • How innovative will they be?

    • How much will they accept and respond appropriately to feedback?

    • To what degree will they become autocratic, dogmatic, dictatorial or controlling?

    • How much will they resist change and/or be rigid?

    • What behaviours will they exhibit under stress?

    • How much will they be blunt or harsh in their communications?

    • How much will they tend to be blindly optimistic, impulsive, illogical or easily influenced?

    • To what degree will they avoid difficult decisions?

    • How well will they organise and handle details?

    • How much will they be scattered or chaotic in their approach to projects or planning?

    • How much will they seek to learn, grow and excel?

    • What kind of recognition do they need?

    • As a leader, how well will they provide direction?

    • How well will they enforce policy and standards?

    • How likely are they to steal?

    • How well do they handle conflicts?

    • How reasonable will they be when assessing the value of their contributions to the company?

    BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

    Assessing levels of eligibility

    The following information is an excerpt from the whitepaper ‘Best Practices in Talent Assessment’ by Dan Harrison, PhD, of Harrison Assessments International ©2008 Harrison Assessments International.  For a copy of the full report, please email us.

    Many organisations assess eligibility factors by setting minimum requirements. However, few organisations systematically formulate eligibility factors in order to score each applicant’s level of eligibility. It is not enough to ascertain that the applicant meets the minimum requirements. All that does is eliminate the people who don’t meet the requirements. It does nothing to assess the remaining people who do meet the requirements. Therefore, it is essential to quantify each candidate’s level of eligibility. This is the only way in which you can effectively compare candidates to each other and to integrate the eligibility score with the behavioural score.

    First, you need to determine what the eligibility factors are. For example, you may require previous experience in the same job, previous experience doing similar tasks that the job requires, certain educational levels, or skills such as typing speed or the ability to use software packages. The HA Talent Management System enables you to select from a comprehensive list factors and then weight them according to how important they are.

    Your next task is to score different levels of each factor. This is much more effective than just listing minimum level of requirements. For example, if you are looking for previous experience in the same job, and you set your minimum requirement for 2 years experience, you may want to score that factor in the following manner:

    • Less than 2 years – reject this candidate
    • 2 years – give 50% for this factor
    • 3 years – give 70% for this factor
    • 4 years – give 85% for this factor
    • 5+ years – give 100% for this factor

    By using gradient scoring, you are able to quantify the person’s experience and obtain a score for each factor. By weighting the factors in relationship to each other, you are able to obtain an overall eligibility score.

    Next post in this series:  Assessing suitability

    BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

    An Introduction to Best Practices in Talent Assessment

    The following information is an excerpt from the whitepaper by Dan Harrison, PhD, of Harrison Assessments International ©2008 Harrison Assessments International. For a copy of the full report, please email us.

    Assessing people for jobs is the most important task of any organisation. The quality of assessment ultimately determines the performance of new hires as well as the ability of the organisation to effectively develop employees. It affects every important aspect of the organisation’s success including management effectiveness, sales volume, customer retention and productivity. Assessment is not merely one of the functions of the Human Resource Department. It is the essential foundation for effective talent acquisition and talent management.

    High quality assessment used at the point of hire enables you to have the greatest impact on performance and productivity in your organisation. High quality assessment of applicants during the recruitment process results in less time and money spent on training and developing employees. This enables management to focus on important strategic issues. Good assessment reduces training costs, minimises losses due to poor decisions, increases employee retention and can even provide a foundation for better teamwork.

    Effective assessment also provides huge benefits for employee development. Assessing existing employees makes employee development much more efficient and effective. Good assessment can enable employees to clearly understand their performance in relationship to the job requirements. This can be a great boost to employee motivation. It can also provide managers with a means of pinpointing the development areas that will provide the greatest impact on performance. Harrison Assessments™ Talent Assessment System even goes a step further by providing managers and coaches with effective tools for encouraging and enlisting top performance as well as providing guidelines for developing specific job success behaviours. In addition, reports also help employees to better understand how to apply their strengths for their career development. These are key areas that promote talent retention and motivation.

    BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

    How will recent federal government changes affect you?

    There have been a number of recent changes at the federal government level in Australia that affect employers.  We recommend you take the time to find out more about them.parliament

    1.  Fair Work Bill

    Significant changes to industrial relations are on the way and they will affect your business.  The Fair Work Bill 2008 will come into operation on 1 July 2009, with full changes to be in place by 1 January 2010.  At the same time, an award modernisation process is underway.  You’ll find detailed fact sheets at workplace.gov.au

    New unfair dismissal laws (from 1 July) are likely to have the most immediate impact on our readers.  More information on fair dismissal can be found in the fact sheet provided on our website for your convenience.

    In preparation for the changes:

    • Check all your documentation (policies, procedures and contracts) is compliant with the National Employment Standards
    • Find out which new award(s) will apply to your employees, including award coverage where it may not have applied before
    • Review your recruitment process for non-award employees
    • Understand the new fair dismissal code and review your performance management and discipline policies for consistency with the code
    • Ensure you clearly communicate any policy changes to your staff

    2.  Fresh Ideas for Work and Family Program

    The Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Julia Gillard, announced the launch of the Fresh Ideas for Work and Family program on 1 March 2009.

    This national initiative provides grants of $5000 to $15000 to successful small businesses to implement practices that help employees balance their work and family obligations and improve employee retention and productivity.  Information on how to use the grant is available from experts in workplace flexibility, Flexibility at Work.

    The program aims to assist small businesses across regional and metropolitan areas. It is designed to support projects that benefit both the employer and employees, demonstrate long-term sustainable outcomes for the business and have the potential for wider application to other businesses. Applications will be accepted from:

    • Small businesses in Australia with fewer than 15 employees.
    • Not-for-profit and non-government organisations.
    • Consortia of small businesses.
    • Sole traders and incorporated sole traders that employ between 1 and 14 employees.

    Further information on family friendly work arrangements, work-life balance and the program is available at http://www.deewr.gov.au/WorkplaceRelations/FreshIdeas/Pages/default.aspx or call  the Workplace Infoline from 8am to 7pm Monday to Friday on 1300 363 264 or email FIWF@deewr.gov.au.

    3.  Federal Budget 2009

    The Budget has a number of consequences for employers that you should discuss with your advisers:

    • Changes to employee superannuation contributions and salary sacrifice concessions
    • Employee share schemes
    • Paid parental leave
    • Increased deduction for capital expenditure (to 50%) before 30 June 2009

    It’s important that you’re aware of these issues in case you need to take action.  We can then point you in the right direction to get assistance to make any necessary changes.

    BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

    Making the most of what you’ve already got

    While millions of words have been written about how to get more from your staff, there are really just three things you need to remember.Woman and chart
    For your employees to work the way you want them to, they need:
    1.  Something to believe in
    Why is their job important?  What are your core values, vision, mission and goals?  How have you communicated these to your team?  Your strategic plan describes the game.
    2.  Knowledge of what they’re supposed to be doing
    Your organisational chart, policies, procedures, job descriptions and employment contracts are the rules of the game.  You also need to let people know how they fit into the wider picture of the work that is done in your organisation.
    3.  Best job fitness
    Closer examination of productivity problems often reveal they result from ‘square pegs in round holes’.  Recently, we have been helping managers reassess the fit of key people within their teams and take steps to allow their individual strengths to shine. Sometimes, this may result in more training or restructuring, or it may simply lead to the shifting of some tasks between people.  With right people in the right positions, you can be confident you have built a winning team.
    Tip:  It’s easier to move forward one step at a time… Start by identifying the strengths you already have within your staff.  One tool to help you do this is Harrison Assessments.
    Action:  Just make sure you are taking steps and moving forward!

    BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

    Are you confident you can deliver on your Client Value Proposition?

    When you make a promise to a client, are you confident your staff can – and will – keep it? Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and managing staff performance are popular management concepts. This article looks at their practical application and importance in providing a consistent quality service for your clients.

    In the Future Ready III whitepaper, the Business Health authors say: ‘The results for those businesses willing to invest in their people are quite astonishing – the firms that implemented an effective performance management system deliver (on average) almost three times more profit to the business owners than those who are not yet leveraging the full potential of their team.’ How well do you leverage that potential?

    Every effective performance management practice has the following:

    1.  Expectations

    Everyone likes to know what they are supposed to do and what outcomes they can expect for their efforts. Figures from the Business Health whitepaper show that those practices where more than half the staff had personal objectives were 76% more profitable than firms where fewer staff had individual KPIs. KPIs need to be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, given a time frame and agreed with your staff. It’s important to write them down for future reference and review.

    Set expectations about consequences. What will you reward and how? For example, achieving KPIs may be worthy of one level of reward, and exceeding them will attract greater rewards. Also be clear about the consequences of poor performance.  

    2.  Review

    Monitor performance and adjust expectations if necessary. Consider, for example, if adequate resources and training have been provided to enable achievement of KPIs. Having a ‘no blame’ culture will encourage staff to learn from their mistakes, rather than try to hide them.

    3.  Feedback

    Giving feedback is a management skill that takes practice to perfect (which is why we sometimes avoid it until it’s too late!). Here are some tips that apply to both positive and negative feedback:

    • don’t avoid or delay
    • provide specific examples of the performance or behaviour the feedback relates to
    • be clear about consequences
    • agree on any changes that need to occur
    • take the opportunity to seek feedback yourself
    • set a date to review performance

    4.  Rewards

    If you are going to provide rewards and incentives, you need to be committed and consistent. How can you be sure staff will value the rewards you offer? Simply by asking what would be of value to them and ensuring you honour their individual preferences. For example, an afternoon tea celebration and public recognition might be relished by some people, while the attention would only embarrass others.

    You can use your imagination, and staff suggestions, to develop a reward program that will be motivating without breaking the bank. Whatever you do, remember that all the research indicates that the most important reward is your genuine appreciation. Saying ‘thank you’ and giving as much attention to your consistently strong performers as you do to managing poor performance can make the difference between keeping and losing your best employees.

    5.  Momentum

    For truly outstanding results, provide guidance and feedback on an ongoing basis. Studies have shown that feedback and rewards are quickly forgotten by employees, so they need to be applied continuously and consistently. Michael Gerber, of E-Myth fame, recommends weekly individual employee development meetings (EDMs) between staff and their managers. The EDM gives both you and your employees an opportunity to re-establish priorities and provide feedback.

    Industry data, again from Business Health, shows that practices where staff performance reviews were held within six months of the survey date had profit levels 35% higher than those where performance reviews had not been conducted for more than 12 months. Regular reviews enhance performance that can be tracked to your bottom line.

    One final comment on performance management: In ‘Good to Great’, Jim Collins says ‘If you need to constantly manage people and their performance, you know you’ve got the wrong people on the bus’. If you suspect this is the case, it might be time to review your recruitment and selection processes (see previous article in this series) and/or seek some external assistance.

    If you have any comments, or questions, about these articles, I’d love to hear from you. Please email me or call on 1300 785 150. For more information about Balance at Work’s range of people management services, visit our website or subscribe to our newsletter for more practical tips.

    "The last couple of years at batyr has seen incredible growth and the Balance at Work team has supported us along the way. They have helped us improve leadership skills across the team by helping us source and manage mentors, and even engaging as mentors themselves. As a young and fresh CEO Susan has also supported me personally with genuine feedback and fearless advice to achieve great things. "
    By Sam Refshauge, CEO, batyr
    "We used the Harrison Assessment tools followed by a debrief with Susan, for career development with staff, which then allowed us to work with Susan to create a customised 360 degree review process. Susan has a wealth of knowledge and is able to offer suggestions and solutions for our company. She is always ready to get involved and takes the time to show her clients the capability of Harrison Assessments. "
    By Jessica Hill, Head of People and Culture, Choice
    "Balance at Work are the ideal external partners for us as they completely get what we are trying achieve in the People and Culture space. Their flexibility and responsiveness to our needs has seen the entire 360 approach being a complete success. The online tool and the follow up coaching sessions have been game changers for our business. The buzz in the organisation is outstanding. Love it! Thanks again for being such a great support crew on this key project."
    By Chris Bulmer, National GM Learning and Development, ISS Australia
    "We use Harrison Assessments with our clients to support their recruitment processes. We especially value the comprehensive customisable features that allow us to ensure the best possible fit within a company, team and position. Balance at Work is always one phone call away. We appreciate their valuable input and their coaching solutions have also given great support to our clients."
    By Benoit Ribe, HR Solutions Manager, Polyglot Group
    "The leadership team at Insurance Advisernet engaged Susan from Balance at Work to run our leadership development survey and learning sessions. Susan was very professional in delivering the team and individual strengths and opportunities for growth. Susan's approach was very "non corporate" in style which was refreshing to see. I can't recommend Balance at Work more highly to lead, employee and team development sessions."
    By Shaun Stanfield, Managing Director, Insurance Advisernet

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