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Best person for the job may not be the best fit

Avoiding hiring disasters absolutely critical these days

On a recent episode of “The Apprentice,” when Heidi was fired, her parting remarks were that she realized she was a better salesperson than a leader. On an earlier episode, Nick learned that he might be a better decision-maker than a salesperson.

With nearly 20 million tuning into the NBC Thursday night runaway hit starring Donald Trump, a reality show that some business schools have deemed required viewing, it is clear to see how important the person-job fit concept works as a hiring and retention strategy for employers.

“Hiring good people ill-suited to the job often results in hiring disasters,” said Hattiesburg psychologist Beverly Smallwood, Ph.D., CEO of Magnetic Workplaces. “One of the greatest causes of dissatisfaction and turnover is usually based on ‘gut instinct’ hiring decisions.”

Bad hiring decisions affect employee morale and drive up overhead costs because the lengthy hiring process must be repeated.

“We often hire people for their job experience or technical knowledge,” said Smallwood. “However, they are most often fired because of poor performance related to emotional intelligence. Even with a good hire where everything works out fine, you go through a learning curve with mistakes.”

TriMetrix, a new technology to the market, benchmarks a job for emotional intelligence components, provides action steps for matching people and jobs and for strengthening essential leadership competencies. (Emotional intelligence refers to personal competencies such as self-awareness, self-management and interpersonal skills.)

“We haven`t been measuring it and matching it to the actual job requirement, because we haven`t had a way to measure it,” she said.

Consultant Terri Kabachnick, CEO of Largo, Fla.-based The Kabachnick Group Inc., said the TriMetrix process helps companies discover “the silent talent.”

“These are the good workers who many people don`t know exist,” she said. “They stay under the radar because they are not political, in-your-face employees, yet they hold a tremendous amount of potential.”

The TriMetrix technology begins with the job benchmarking process – identifying the job`s most critical success factors.

“We identify three to 10 people who have a stake in the success of the job, along with subject matter experts who will be qualified participants in the job benchmarking process,” said Smallwood. “We brief them on the job description and the process of benchmarking. Then we facilitate a session with all stakeholders to arrive at a consensus regarding three to seven exact key accountabilities of the job, and quantify, prioritize and establish measurement for each key accountability.”

Stakeholders then respond to an online questionnaire, and the job benchmarks are verified and validated.

“To benchmark, a lot of companies test their top performers, but they may not be optimal in terms of what the job actually requires,” said Smallwood. “The benchmarking process goes straight to the job, and lets the job talk.”

After the top emotional intelligence factors required for the job are determined, they are quantified, said Smallwood.

“For example, the job may be very isolated,” she said. “The person may be behind the scenes in a support role and work in a cubbyhole with very little interaction. We don`t want a candidate with a high need for sociability.”

The process provides employers absolute information for coaching as well as selection. For example, Smallwood has worked with young attorneys who chose a law career because they could imagine themselves in the courtroom in a “Perry Mason moment.”

“What happens to young lawyers when they first join a law firm? They are relegated to the law library, the Internet and paper,” she said. “We ultimately want them to be outgoing and interpersonal, but until then, the job must have some attributes that provide some meaning and satisfaction or you could lose them in a transition period when their needs are not being met.”

After the job benchmark is established, applicants are interviewed. The top three to five contenders for the job are given the test comprised by the focus group.

“On each key accountability issue, we rank the candidates in order, according to our matrix,” she said. “This process can account for only 30% of the decision, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. However, it is a very EEO-friendly process because we standardize it.”

To supplement testing, a set of behavioral interviewing questions is prepared for each key accountability issue, said Smallwood.

“We ask applicants if they have been in certain situations and how they reacted,” she said. “If they haven`t been in that situation, we ask them how they would handle it.”

Even though the process sounds complicated and time-consuming, it`s not, said Smallwood.

“We can do the benchmark in a half day, and the testing phase can have an hour turnaround,” she said. “The initial benchmark requires additional preparation on the front end that maybe takes a full day.”

The cost of the initial process varies, depending on several factors, but once the job benchmark is established, a certified consultant like Smallwood could train someone designated by the organization to facilitate the process.

“The TriMetrix process for job selection is being used successfully by about 400 consultants for industries across the board, including healthcare, manufacturing and retail,” said Smallwood, the only certified TriMetrix consultant in Mississippi. “Obviously, companies are more likely to invest in this process for key positions, but they will profit from benchmarking jobs like hospital nurses, which is a huge upcoming issue.”

Consultant Elizabeth Jeffries, RN, CEO of Executive Mastery in Louisville, Ky., used the TriMetrix system to facilitate a search for an executive director of nursing for a South Carolina-based long-term nursing care company.

“Nursing is a tough industry, and while many nurses are very competent clinically, there may be some gaps when it comes to managing people and taking a leadership role,” said Jeffries. “The company was looking to promote from within, so we identified the CEO and vice president of human resources, plus three or four high achievers to participate in the job benchmarking process. One candidate really wanted the job, but the company held back until it was on paper that she was the best candidate. She needed coaching in some areas and we were able to help with that, too. Six months later, she`s doing fabulous.”

Kabachnick said the TriMetrix process has benefited retail companies that are focusing on people development in the sales arena.

“Traditionally, managers have looked for sales associates with all the attributes perceived for a good salesperson – bubbly and enthusiastic, charismatic and a great communicator – but when we measured the actual talent, we discovered the exact opposite for the person-job fit,” she said. “We were able to identify traits like very good listening skills and problem solving. Those candidates like the spotlight on others and were uncomfortable in situations where the focus was on them. That`s one reason we found they did poorly in interviews, and why they were usually passed over for the cheerleader type. The quiet, reserved listeners had beliefs and values in place to serve others.”

Bottom line: matching the talent to the job enables companies to replace common biases often involved in the selection process with factual data based on job requirements, said Jeffries.

“And it`s right there in black and white,” she said.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at mbj@thewritingdesk.com.


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