You are Who You Hire Part 3

September 27, 2016

This blog is coauthored with Jan van der Hoop; Partner and co-founder of Fit First Technologies; a specialist supplier of tools to enable predetermined recruitment screening. Jan has multiple industry experience and a background as a senior HR practitioner in several household name companies. 

This is the third installment in a 3-part series examining the importance of objectivity and discipline in screening new employees. The first article dealt with the risks of hiring people with similar profiles and the value of diversity  of experience, perspective, and approach.

The second discussed the importance of performance expectations in attracting the right people. Today, we address the opportunity and potential damage in the thousand daily decisions made by employees in supposedly low-impact jobs and how outcome can be influenced by smarter selection.

It's the little decisions that can hurt

The higher you are the less you know about what's really going on in an organization. Information is sanitized, spun, filtered, and colored to protect and to promote those whose hands it passes through on its way up the chain of command. Getting to the unvarnished truth is near impossible.

Every person in the organization is making decisions about the business, all day long. Those that carry obvious significant implications or are one-time big-ticket decisions are generally subject to the security of a planning framework, senior management oversight and multiple signoffs.

The vast majority of decisions however appear unimportant 'micro-decisions'. Choices that employees make that, in isolation, seem to have relatively little impact and carry relatively little risk. When you consider the sheer volume of these micro-decisions that are made by every employee every day the impact is enormous.

How sales staff position products, a response to a confused customer, driversin their company vehicle venting visible frustration on inconsiderate road users all reflect directly on your brand determining how it is perceived by others. With 24-hour news cycles and social media businesses have never been more vulnerable to the fallout from bad micro-decisions.

How do you avoid bad micro-decisions and more importantly turn them into value adding interventions? Adding more policies to the binder won't help; edicts do not determine behavior, at least not for long. You also can't train your way to restful nights; knowing what's expected has little bearing on how people will act in the moment. The factors that determine how your people will behave when nobody is around to check are subtle and invisible even to them.

Family businesses are renowned for their outstanding customer service and the empathy that cascades down from the family founders through the organization. The traits and behaviors that perpetuated this culture become stretched and dissipate when an organization grows and caused the destruction of many customer driven cultures as family businesses have transitioned into larger enterprises.

The factors that drive instinctive behavior (which is the level at which we function almost all the time) are deeply rooted and rarely screened for in the hiring process. They are found in an individual's character, or hard-wiring and are the combination of personal standards, attitudes and deep personality traits that define who they are, and which do not change appreciably over a lifetime.
No amount of training, coaching, legislating, or organizational osmosis is going to overcome an individual's nature, their character or hardwiring in the heat of the moment which means that the only way to manage micro-decision making is a hiring process that screens for the attitudes that will lead to the right decisions.

A normative assessment tool not a personality test is the place to start. These are now cost-effective even for front-line positions and when combined with an interview approach that enquires about a candidates world view as it relates to people, places, and situations will provide a sense of how a candidate will respond to a micro-decision.

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