Building understanding into how one “ticks” is key to leadership development at Versacold-a Canada-based global 3PL specializing in cold storage and distribution.
The Vancouver-based company uses the Myers-Brigg Type Indicator (MBTI)-a psychometric questionnaire that measures psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions-to find out their managers’ strengths and weaknesses.
“We find it really helps people understand how their personality and actions affects other people at work,” says Sam Smith, Learning and Development Specialist at Versacold.
They’ll often test entire teams to examine strengths and weaknesses of all members and get a better idea of how they can work best together.
“The testing reveals a lot of things that people don’t realize about themselves. One thing we found was the communications between managers and their reports improved because managers were stepping back and examining a given situation with a better understanding of how their report would perceive the situation, before acting.”
Lafarge North America uses psychometrics in its job design procedures, basing skilled trade roles on the company’s best and brightest. Whoever Lafarge hires for these positions must have similar attributes to the company’s known performers.
Starting in 2008, the company began benchmarking key plant positions against its very best hourly staffers in eight plants across North America. Through the use of personality, integrity, science and skills testing, the company created ideal profiles against which all new millwrights, electricians and control room operators will be measured.
Considering the safety-sensitive nature of Lafarge’s 24/7 cement operations and the fact that the average Lafarge tradesperson spends their entire careers with the firm-averaging 30 to 35 years-ensuring fit is crucial.
“We want to test if the person works well as a team member, if they accept new knowledge, have interest in acquiring new skills, if they have problem solving/critical thinking skills, is professional, has pride, respect for environment and safety, risk assessment, action oriented, responsibility, accountability, integrity, leadership-all kinds of skills, competencies and core Lafarge values,” says Francois Boucher, area HR manager, Lakes and Seaway Lafarge Canada Inc.
The assessments involve tests from several vendors, including WorkKeys (www.act.org/workkeys) for science knowledge, Valpar testing (www.valparint.com) for essential skills and 16PF personality testing (www.ipat.com).
And for potential hires that are used to working around machines, even the act of testing reveals a lot. “It’s a full day of assessment and it’s exhausting,” says Boucher. “We’re taking tradespeople out of their comfort zones and observing them also provides a lot of information.”
Custom publisher Naylor LLC uses the Harrison Assessment (www.harrisonassessments.com)-a job suitability index that looks at people’s preferences and tendencies-as part of its hiring process.
“It’s an assessment that’s based on performance enjoyment theory-that you excel at the things you like to do best,” says Chip Sharkey, Naylor vice president, human resources.
An individual’s assessment is compared against generic templates for job types-like sales manager, middle manager, specialist-that have been developed by Harrison. “But what we’re really looking at is the individual,” says Sharkey. “There’s no pass/fail. What we get are data to focus on in interviews. For example, if someone has a low organization or planning score, and the job demands those skills, we’ll focus in on that during interviews to explore past experience.”
And while he says there’s no absolutes in the assessments and hiring, when a person’s profile points out glaring differences between personal preferences and job requirements, “there’s not likely going to be a fit.”
It’s an approach shared by Rhys Spencer, a former HR manager at Wells Fargo Financial Canada who used predictive index testing for sales hires.
“With all assessments, if it’s done right, you should be benchmarking against what a top performer looks like within your company, whatever the role, and not necessarily trying to hire a perfect match, but not hiring an inverse match. You don’t want to hire an introvert for a sales job.”
Spencer used a Canadian testing company called Predictive Success (www.predictivesuccess.com)-a predictive index system that asks potential hires to select what they think best describes them from a series of competencies. The software then provides a two-page report that details the needs and drives of the individual.
“Ultimately, assessment testing is about validation,” says Spencer. “It’s a post-script. Here’s the job description, the job ad, and that’s the profile from which the interview questions are built on. The test is the validation against the process-is the person what we think they are from what we’ve discussed with them.
“The risk of not doing it is hiring managers will hire someone just like themselves. And when you do that, there are five failures along the way.”
While it’s all well and good to aid your quest for the perfect hire with some well-interpreted assessments, what’s often ignored by HR professionals is the prep work: especially a solid understanding of the role you’re hiring for, says Rick Lash, national practice leader, leadership talent, at the Hay Group.
To get the most out of assessments, “you really need to understand the role’s key accountabilities-what are the critical few capabilities that differentiate average from superior performance in that role? Or, if organization’s strategy is changing, what implications does this change have on what the role has to deliver on?” Lash points to the example of a hospital that had a reputation for research excellence thanks to the top-notch scientists they hired to work in their labs. When the organization decided it needed to turn its research area into a revenue stream, it changed the scientists’ job requirements from not only research excellence, but also entrepreneurial skill-“all of which has implications on what you’re assessing for,” says Lash.
Duff McCutcheon is a communications specialist t the Human Resources Professional Association (HRPA). www.hrpa.ca