Category Archives: Assessments

Three things you should know about every new employee

You’ve read the CV’s, interviewed and done reference checks. Could you have missed something?

Assuming your new employee has the qualifications, experience, skills and attitudes required to do the job, there are three basic things every boss needs to know about their latest hire:

1.  How long are they likely to stick around?

Your needs will vary with the job, but the cost of hiring and training someone new usually means you would like them to stay working for you for a reasonable time.

2.  How well do they respond to feedback?

Some people strive to be the best they can while others are quite happy the way they are. What if you hired someone who sees no reason to change and views feedback as criticism?

3.  Are they motivated to put in effort commensurate with the rewards they expect?

If you are paying someone well, you will be expecting them to work at a certain level. It’s useful to know if they are likely to possess the self-motivation required.

These are just 3 of the 156 work-related traits we measure using Harrison Assessments to help you predict performance. 

We call these traits:

1.  Wants Stable Career

The desire for long-term or permanent employment.

2.  Receives Correction

The tendency to accept guidance intended to improve performance.

3.  Pay Minus Motivation

The tendency to have strong desire for money while lacking the personal drive necessary to earn it.

Would it make a difference to you to know these things before you bring someone on board?  Contact us to find out more.

A lesson in valuing your intuition

Employee on the way out

When you have a decision to make, do you put more emphasis on analysis or intuition?

If you believe decisions must be based on logic, it could be time to listen to your heart a little more often.  That niggling doubt could be a sign you need to pay more attention to your intuition.

Initially trained as a biologist, I tend to put a high value on rational thought, reasoning and analysis.  These skills were important when I was trying to measure native snails’ eating habits or cotton plant growth.

Not so useful on their own in other areas, like solving problems and making decisions.  In fact, most of the ‘wrong’ choices I’ve made in life were made when I had switched off my intuition!

To give equal weight to intuition as I give to analysing facts is a skill I’m yet to conquer, with an unfortunate choice of holiday accommodation being my most recent lesson.

The best quality decisions are based on a balance of feeling and facts.  Dr Dan Harrison, founder of Harrison Assessments, illustrates this as one of twelve paradoxes.

When both the left and right brain functions are used, we are able to sense what is important at the same time as we analyse the situation.  Good insight is the result.

To find out more about enhancing the quality of your decision making, please get in touch.

To read more about the power of paradox, click here.

Have there been times when your intuition has saved you when analysis alone could not?

Case Study: Online Recruiting

The first time I met Frank Stillone, managing director of The Silent Partner, he was looking for a ‘robust’ recruitment process.  

Finding the right people was difficult.  Most didn’t live up to what was required for the role.  Mistakes and poor performance from his staff were costing him business.  He needed a better way of finding the right person who would be an excellent fit.  Together we were able to develop a process that delivered the results Frank wanted to achieve.

Background

The Silent Partner, in Sydney, is a provider of virtual office, calendar management and help desk solutions.  The growth of the business requires regular recruitment of additional virtual receptionists to deliver these services.  Frank had previously done his own recruitment, with mixed results.

Designing the job requirements

Using his knowledge of what makes someone successful in the virtual receptionist role, Frank and I carefully selected the essential and desirable criteria, along with those characteristics he would prefer to avoid.

For each of the eligibility criteria – skills, qualifications, experience – points were allocated to each possible answer, depending on the job requirements.  For example, some of the company’s clients are medical specialists and allied health professionals, so bonus points were awarded for experience as a medical receptionist.

For the suitability criteria – personality, motivation, work preferences, interests – we were able to add relevant traits and rate them in terms of their importance and frequency of use on the job.

Setting up the campaign

Once the criteria were in place, Frank was ready to start taking applications.  He placed an advertisement on an online job board with a link back to The Silent Partner’s ‘Jobs’ page.  The advertisement also stated that the only way to apply was by following this link.

When an applicant reached the web page, they could see the job description with an ‘apply now’ button at the bottom.  By clicking on this button, the applicant would arrive at the beginning of the online application form.

The application process

Once they reached the application form, applicants were first presented with details of the job.  If they chose to proceed with an application, they completed their name and contact details before proceeding to the first part of the online questionnaire (eligibility).

Answering the eligibility questions took only a few minutes.  The applicant was then asked to upload their CV and cover letter.  Depending on their score in the first section, they were asked to proceed to the second part of the questionnaire (suitability).  Completing this section takes about 20 minutes.

The results

A total of 269 people viewed the online application form.  Of these, 69 decided not to apply after viewing the job description while a further 27 didn’t proceed after entering their personal details, therefore self-selecting themselves out of the process.

This left 173 applicants who completed the eligibility questions and/or resume upload, including 132 who went on to complete the suitability questionnaire.

The system automatically short-listed 24 candidates with scores over the pre-determined cut-off.  The CVs of the top 15 short-listed candidates were reviewed to decide who would proceed to preliminary structured telephone interviews.

Frank interviewed five people in the preliminary round.  Two candidates were selected for more detailed interviews and both were offered – and accepted – a virtual receptionist position.

The benefits

The Silent Partner’s recruitment process had rewards in terms of both efficiency and effectiveness.

Efficient

  • Frank didn’t have to receive and respond to 269 emailed applications, saving him days of unproductive work.
  • Once set up, the process was automatic and did not require management or input until Frank was ready to close the campaign and interview.
  • Frank only had to read the resumes of short-listed candidates.
  • Telephone interviews were structured and effective in further screening of candidates.
  • Candidates could be notified of their progress directly from the recruitment system.

Effective

  • Frank was able to monitor the campaign via a dedicated dashboard.
  • By deciding in advance what he did and didn’t want, all applicants were objectively and automatically screened.
  • Frank estimated the new process took less than 20% of the time he’s devoted to similar recruitment exercises in the past, representing a significant cost saving to the business.
  • All applications were checked for consistency by the system, flagging applicants who may not have been honest in their answers to the questionnaire.
  • Only those candidates who met pre-set criteria were considered for the role.

Frank says:  At the end of the day, your company is just a collection of people doing stuff and whether that company is Apple or Merv’s Mowing Services it doesn’t really matter.  If you want to be successful you need to get the right people doing things right.  As small business owners the same applies to us:  We can be experts at many things but we cannot be an expert in everything. That’s why we need to bring in someone with specialised knowledge and tools to help us find the talent we need to grow.

Download the case study

The time to ‘trust your gut’ is lunchtime…

…not when you’re hiring a new staff member!

Managers very often rely on their intuition or ‘gut feel’ when making staffing decisions.  In my experience, it’s amazing how often we hear  “it just felt right”, “she seems like a good fit” or “I feel very comfortable with him”.  There’s a lot of confidence in intuition.

When it turns out the person they hired is just not up to the job, have you ever heard a manager say “I guess my intuition isn’t reliable”?

You’re more likely to hear “he did a great job of selling himself at the interview” or “her referees obviously exaggerated her ability”.

For managers who rely on outdated and ineffective recruitment procedures, the wrong decision is usually someone else’s fault – often the new employee’s.

When was the last time you heard a manager use “it just felt right” as justification for an equipment or software purchase?  Of course, few would.  Yet many are prepared to take a gamble on their gut feeling when it comes to the major investment of hiring a new staff member.

A recent survey by the recruiter, Hudson, found that 44% of new hires were described by their managers as ‘not good’*.

Would a 44% failure rate be acceptable in any other area of their businesses?

The managers who regard recruitment as more art than science are ignoring the research and resources available today that enable much better predictions of employee performance.  For example

1. Past experience is a poor indicator of a candidate’s ability to perform well in a new role;
2. Motivation and cultural fit are the best indicators of future performance but only 6% of hiring managers assess these objectively*;
3. Matching the right person to the right job by measuring their ‘fit’ to the role is easy and inexpensive – especially when compared to making the wrong decision.

Next time you see someone recruiting without adding appropriate rigour to the process, suggest they just toss a coin instead.  The odds of getting a good employee won’t be much worse than 56%  – and it’s a lot less trouble!

*Hudson 20:20 Series:  New Generation Recruitment: Battle Strategies For the Talent War at http://au.hudson.com/2020/node.asp?kwd=latest-2020-whitepaper  Read more here: http://www.afr.com/p/national/work_space/why_you_can_get_good_staff_stP5BDsy9SJ2C1F9NqjsOO

If I knew then what I know now…

Wouldn’t you love to go back to being 16 – when you knew it all?

Teenagers are a great reminder that we don’t – and can’t – know everything.  The best we can do is limit the extent and the risks of our ignorance.

One very rewarding aspect of our work is giving people information about themselves and those around them that allows them to manage risk.

Here are some cases where we are providing this knowledge and changing businesses:

1. A business owner developing a succession plan with prospective equity partners

What they now know:

  • Values, strengths and challenges of each person;
  • Similarities and differences in what motivates them; and
  • Potential areas of conflict.

2. A management team planning a restructure

What they now know:

  • Who is in the right job;
  • Who has the potential to fill a new role; and
  • Who should probably be moved on.

3. A practice manager developing to take on more of the business responsibilities

What he now knows:

  • His strengths that may be perceived as challenges by others;
  • How to manage time better; and
  • How to express himself in ways that will motivate others while feeling authentic.

4. A manager developing her team

What she now knows:

  • Effective ways to communicate with and inspire her team;
  • The balance and range of strengths on her team; and
  • Individual team members’ expectations.

5. A business owner who is ready to hire more staff

What he now knows:

  • The characteristics people need to be successful in the role(s);
  • What he definitely doesn’t want; and
  • How to objectively measure performance potential.

Every one of the situations above are very expensive if you get them wrong.  Doesn’t it make sense to find out as much as you can before you make that investment?

Critical skill shortage 3: Strategic thinking

This is the fourth of six articles based on data about skills shortages in the banking and finance sector, collected in the Kelly Skills at Work 2010 study.  See our blog for previous articles in this series.

In the Kelly study, strategic thinking was identified by study participants as a key skill that is in critical shortage among managers in the financial services industry.  It has been argued that this skill gap contributed to the GFC.

According to the survey results, an ‘aptitude’ for strategic thinking is important, as well as the capacity to:

  • identify and assess multiple external factors,
  • evaluate options and risks, and
  • solve complex financial challenges, both on behalf of clients and for the business.

Thinking strategically is a valuable skill in any position.  For those in charge of setting direction, strategic thinking is essential.

Strategy, strategic and related terms are among the most over-used and abused words in business.  Researchers have spent years dissecting and defining what is and isn’t strategic.  For a fascinating discussion of the differences between strategic thinking and strategic planning,  see this brief Wikipedia entry.

Interestingly, in a business dictionary dating from the 1970’s, none of the terms above were included!

What do we expect from strategic thinkers?

Despite the difficulties of defining the characteristics of strategic thinking, there is general concensus that the outcome is to bring the organisation’s vision to reality.

Whether we believe strategic thinkers are born or made, it is possible for us to identify people who have the potential to think strategically.

However, strategic judgement is a complex set of competencies as this definition and list of relevant traits from Harrison Assessments demonstrates:

Strategic Judgement = the tendency to have a balance of traits necessary to discern pertinent information and formulate an effective strategy.

This competency is made up of essential traits: Analytical, Analyses Pitfalls, Research/Learning, Intuitive, Collaborative, Self-Improvement, Systematic; desirable traits: Experimenting, Persistent, Certain, Pressure Tolerance, Optimistic, Planning, Self-Acceptance, Relaxed, Open/Reflective; and traits to avoid: Blindly Optimistic, Impulsive, Skeptical, Defensive, Dogmatic, Easily Influenced, Fast but Imprecise, Precise but Slow.

Although we think we know what we mean when we talk about strategic thinking or judgement, we should be careful about jumping to conclusions about someone’s ability until we have seen the evidence!

Three things you should know about yourself

…and anyone you employ!

Talking to a client yesterday about the potential to promote a staff member, I was reminded (again) of the power of awareness of our strengths and limitations.  Whether you’re hiring new staff or developing existing staff, positive change has to start from a point of knowledge and acknowledgement.

Even if you have a strong intention to improve, unless you know what’s holding you back it’s very hard to move forward.  But how do you find out?

One way is by objective assessment.  Here are three examples of  important leadership competencies we can measure for you: 

1. Strategic Judgement = the tendency to have a balance of traits necessary to discern pertinent information and formulate an effective strategy. 

This competency is made up of essential traits: Analytical, Analyses Pitfalls, Research/Learning, Intuitive, Collaborative, Self-Improvement, Systematic; desirable traits: Experimenting, Persistent, Certain, Pressure Tolerance, Optimistic, Planning, Self-Acceptance, Relaxed, Open/Reflective; and traits to avoid: Blindly Optimistic, Impulsive, Skeptical, Defensive, Dogmatic, Easily Influenced, Fast but Imprecise, Precise but Slow.

2. Interpersonal Skills = the tendency to have a balance of traits that relate to effective interaction with others. 

This competency consists of essential traits: Diplomatic, Helpful, Optimistic, Outgoing, Assertive, Frank, Influencing, Self-Acceptance, Self-Improvement, Warmth/Empathy, Tolerance of Bluntness; desirable traits: Flexible, Collaborative, Open/Reflective, Manages Stress Well, Relaxed; and traits to avoid: Defensive, Blunt, Dogmatic, Harsh, Dominating, Authoritarian, Permissive.

3. Provides Direction = the tendency to manifest the traits necessary for a leadership role. 

This is a combination of essential traits: Want to Lead, Influencing, Takes Initiative, Wants Challenge, Enthusiastic, Self-Improvement, Planning, Persistent, Pressure Tolerance, Public Speaking, Self-Acceptance; and desirable traits: Experimenting, Flexible, Frank, Handles Conflict, Helpful, Precise, Organised, Relaxed, Risking, Systematic, Tolerance of Bluntness, Warmth/Empathy.

Do you already know all this about yourself and your team? 

Would it be useful for you to have this information before making recruitment, coaching and promotion decisions?  What else would you like to know?

It’s surprising, but we can get all that information – and much more! – out of one short online test.  If you haven’t tried the assessment for yourself yet, it may be time to click here to register for a free trial.

Turn your ‘better than nothing’ into ‘really something’

A comment by a client yesterday started me thinking about our willingness to settle for less than ideal when we could be seeking the best. 

With a little extra effort when recruiting staff, your business results can be ‘really something’ rather than ‘better than nothing’. 

First, some research on recruitment in small to medium enterprises…

The SME Boardroom White Paper released last week showed that the primary method for recruitment, used by 71.9% of SMEs, is to advertise the position themselves. Other sources of new recruits are business and personal referrals (57.8%) and staff referrals (40.6%).  What’s your method of choice?

Also contained in the White Paper is information about what SMEs look for when recruiting.  The main thing is attitude (78% of respondents).  Cultural fit (39.1%) and technical skills (34.4%) are also important. The survey didn’t ask how SMEs assess these requirements.

If you advertise directly and recruit for attitude, you will need a process that is efficient and effective.  Here’s a short summary of the steps you’ll need to take before you can make an offer to the new recruit you’re looking for:

  1. Define the role – job description, including talks and responsibilities
  2. Define the technical requirements – skills, qualifications, experience
  3. Define the ideal personal attributes –  attitudes, values, work preferences, cultural fit
  4. Advertise appropriately to attract good candidates
  5. Receive applications, read all cover letters and resumes
  6. Screen applications to determine technical requirements are met
  7. Create a shortlist
  8. Conduct behavioural interviews – consistent, relevant questions
  9. Assess job fit and cultural fit
  10. Reference checks, other pre-employment checks

All the same steps should apply, except for advertising, when your candidates come from referrals. 

Are you going through all the steps? 

If you would like a copy of our detailed Recruitment Plan, just let us know.  We are here to help you find and keep your dream team.

And remember, as Jim Collins said in Good to Great (2001), “When in doubt, don’t hire – keep looking”.

The one thing you need to know about performance…

…and retention.

Warning:  What you are about to read is so obvious you’ll wonder why you haven’t already used it in selection and performance management!

Enjoyment Performance Theory states that an individual will perform more effectively in a job if that individual:

1. Enjoys the tasks required by that job;

2. Has interests that relate to the position and

3. Has work environment preferences that correspond with the environment of the workplace.

Assuming a person has the skills and experience necessary for the job, enjoyment of the various aspects of the job is a significant predictor of higher performance.

Because we tend to do the things that bring us pleasure and avoid things we don’t enjoy, we tend to do the things we like more often.  As we do those activities more often, we get better at them and our improved performance adds to our enjoyment of the task.  A virtuous cycle, if you like. 

Conversely, because we will be less inclined to do something we don’t enjoy, we fail to improve in that task and the lower performance reinforces our dislike of the activity – a vicious cycle.

Harrison Assessments’ 20 years of research has proven that employees who enjoy at least 75% or more of their job are three times more likely to succeed than employees who enjoy less than 75% of their job. That makes understanding factors related to work satisfaction vitally important for making the right hiring decisions, motivating employees, and retaining top talent. 

Makes sense, doesn’t it?

So how do you apply the theory to your team? 

Surprisingly, very few behavioural assessments or personality assessments measure work satisfaction, even though it is critically important to do so. As a result, assessments are limited in their ability to determine motivation or forecast whether an individual will prosper and stay with the company.

The Harrison Assessment questionnaire is designed to predict performance, work satisfaction and retention. This is critical when selecting new staff and also enables companies to motivate people and increase their performance by assigning the roles and responsibilities that give them the highest degree of work satisfaction.

To find out more about what we can do for you with Harrison Assessments, visit our website or contact us!

Overcoming deception

We are often asked by recruitment consultants and employers if it is easy to ‘cheat’ on the Harrison Assessment. The short answer is “no”!  The following article, from Dr Dan Harrison’s ‘Best Practices in Talent Assessment’, explains why HA is different.

One of the biggest challenges of any behavioural assessment is to determine how truthfully the person has answered the questions. How can an assessment determine if the person has given truthful answers?

There are several important interconnected ways to overcome the problem of untruthful answers.

1. Forced ranking

Many personality assessments attempt to determine this by offering to answer seemingly opposite options along with an additional answer option called “in between.” If there are too many answers of “in between,” the results are considered invalid. While this may provide a slight indication of answer reliability, it is an extremely weak method. In many cases the most truthful answer may in fact be “in between.” Therefore, this method is not reliable.

It is best to provide answer options that need to be ranked rather than rated or scored. Forced ranking requires the person to designate their priorities.

2. Cross-referencing

HA uses computer cross-referencing to reduce the time required to complete the assessment. HA uses the same cross-referencing to determine if the person’s answers are consistent with themselves. If a person answers untruthfully when ranking a large number of statements, it is extremely difficult to maintain a high level of consistency. Even if the person were to remember all the rankings exactly, it would still be difficult to meet or exceed the consistency requirement.

Each statement appears two times and each time it appears it is ranked against other statements that are completely different. To maintain consistency, the person would have to mentally perform thousands of cross-references. If the answers are more than 10% inconsistent, HA considers that either the person has not paid sufficient attention to the answers or has deliberately attempted to deceive the assessment. In either case, the results are not considered valid.

3. Positive options only

Harrison Assessments has further mechanisms that prevent and detect deception. The questionnaire only includes statements relating to positive behaviours. Therefore, all of the statements are generally perceived as desirable. In addition, even if the person attempts to give the desirable answer, their own behaviour patterns dictate which answers they consider desirable. For example, if a person tends to be very frank and direct, they will consider this tendency to be their virtue as well as a desirable answer.

4. Paradox

The HA system includes a further layer of lie detection by analysing the paradoxical relationships between the behavioural tendencies. Through such analysis, negative behaviour patterns can be determined without asking any negative questions and without the person having the slightest awareness that they have revealed their negative behaviour. If the person attempts to deceive the assessment, the negative behavioural patterns will become more exaggerated making them appear as poor candidates.

Would you like to experience the assessment for yourself?  Please click here or call us to request a free trial.

Taken any shortcuts lately?

Preparing for the ‘Recruitment and Selection Essentials’ workshop later this week started me thinking about the shortcuts we sometimes take when recruiting new staff. 

Often this is because we’re in such a desperate hurry to get somebody (anybody?) onboard that we are willing to take a risk or two.  

Here are some suggestions for minimising the risks: 

Do have a systematic way to compare candidates in terms of the essential and desirable criteria for the role.  This will save you having to plough through each resume to find vital information in the early stages and make it easier to pick your top candidate(s).

Don’t brief a recruitment agency or write an advertisement until you know exactly what you’re looking for.  Clarity on this one point will save you time and money – every time.

Do conduct phone interviews in the first instance.  This is becoming more common and can save both you and your candidates a lot of time.  By having a few ‘make or break’ questions, you may find you have reduced the number of people to be interviewed face-to-face.

Don’t employ anyone without first checking their credentials.  You may be aware of a case before the NSW Supreme Court.  The investment manager for Astarra Funds Management, Shawn Richards, claimed to have both a degree and experience when he had neither.  If you don’t check, will your reputation survive a fraudulent employee?

Do always check the references given to you by candidates, even if it takes some time and trouble.

Don’t feel you have to stick to checking just the referees you have been given.  Recent supervisors and peers may be able to provide you with more information.  

Do spread your net to other people in the industry who might know the candidate and ask them for their feedback.  Your industry contacts can also save you time in identifying likely candidates.

Do find out as much as you can about the potential employee through pre-employment assessments and checks.

Taking shortcuts can result in getting lost! 

Implementing these simple guidelines will save you time (and money) in the long run.  More importantly, they will reduce the substantial risks to your business and reputation of employing an unsuitable, unqualified or unreliable staff member.

Could your team use a tune-up?

My car currently has a small niggling problem that’s not serious, but I know I should do something about it.  Perhaps you’ve had a similar experience, with a car, computer or other technology?

Have you ever had the same sort of nagging thoughts about your team at work?  Things are running smoothly, but you know they could probably be even better if you took the time to look under the bonnet and do some team maintenance.

You could be avoiding taking any action for one of the following reasons:

  • Time  “Sure, we’d like to do something, but we are always so busy.”
  • Uncertainty  “I really don’t know where to start.”
  • Fear “We are doing pretty well.  I don’t want to risk opening a can of worms.”
  • Scepticism  “We tried team building activities before.  It was fun but it didn’t really transfer back to the workplace.”

Sound familiar?  So why should you take time out to work on your team?

Teams that have been selected, trained and coached according to the strengths of the individual team members will always out-perform any teams composed and managed simply along functional lines. 

Teams outshine their competition when they –

  • Have shared goals and a focus on outcomes
  • Value cohesion, communication and collaboration
  • Recognise and share work according to their indiviual strengths

Any team building activity that contributes to better teamwork will focus on how these high performance team characteristics are applied in the workplace.  For example, read the case study of one team development process.

TIP:  Know how to get the best performance from your team with practical and meaningful team development.  Register for our webinar on 7 July at 12 noon (AEST).

 

"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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