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Posts Tagged ‘selection

Metrics

Metrics are good.  They make us do something that psychologists call “operationalize”.  Operationalize isn’t some complicated Freudian notion.  It just means that we take a rather vague slippery idea and say exactly what we mean.  We don’t use “operationalize” to sort out clients who are in an emotional mess. We use it to sort out us ~ to make sure we are clear about what we want to do.

Applying the wrong metrics . . . ouch!

It’s alarming then when we look out into the world and we see people using the wrong metrics.  Often people take a technology and use it in the wrong circumstances, terribly impressed that they are generating a number but apparently unaware that the numbers they are looking  at does not match what they say they are doing, or need to be doing.  It’s doubly scaring because it is clear they haven’t simply made an error.  They have no idea about what they need to do or how to do it.  Nor, it is clear, do they understand the very ‘technology’ they are applying.

New organizations

The world is changing and we are going to need new ‘technologies’ for new situations and new metrics to define exactly what it is we are doing and how well we do it.

Choosing people to join an organization

Big organizations will still have a familiar task: choosing people to join them.

The old idea that we would match people as pegs to holes like the game we give to 1 year old’s just doesn’t wash anymore. What was designed to quickly allocate hundreds of thousands of conscripts to roles in WWI and WWII is not well suited to today’s business.

We have a ‘talent war’ now.  This means that our success depends upon know-how brought into the organization by our people. What we do and how we do it depends more on their ingenuity,creativity and judgment than our preconceived notion of what to do and not do.  After all, if we knew what to do, we  wouldn’t be hiring them as talent.  If we knew what to do, we could probably use a computer or a robot.

There are some roles still where “Mac” jobs rule.  Goody.  Just knowing that the organization runs on “mac” jobs is enough to make look for something better.  Decide the level of your product.  If it is . .  well least said.

Metrics for new selection

What is, then, the essence of selection for new organizations?  And what would be the metric.

I like the idea of assessments that are genuinely two way: in which the candidates find out about us.  Even if they choose not to join us, through that exploration they become clearer and optimistic about their opportunities.  And we become clearer about what we are doing, and the value of what we are doing because of the questions they asked and the conversation they stimulated.

My metric for new selection

Could the measure of an assessment system be the percentage of people who believe that the conversation we invited, initiated, and managed was worthwhile?

Thinking like an academic,

  • Would the opinions of the applicants be uni-dimensional, or would we have to break it up?
  • Would the applicants’ opinions of our conversations tally with our own?
  • Do good quality conversations predict good quality conversations in the future?
  • What are the features of good quality conversations and do they fit known models (such as Losada’s model of team performance)?
  • Would good quality conversations lead to increases in productivity in the units hiring?
  • Do good quality conversations lead to insights about how to negotiate the improvement of the entire supply chain?
  • Are good conversations associated with JIT labour supply?
  • Are good conversations associated with lower total costs of HR administration?

Hmm, I’ve seen this rolled out without the metrics. And I’ve seen plenty of utterly misplaced metrics.

When are we going to step up and serve the knowledge industries of the global information age?

When, o When?

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Job descriptions ~ good and bad

I picked up a reference to a job description for a Social Network Manager in the White House.  I don’t know if it is a spoof.  I repeat it here because my first reaction was, “Hey, this is a good job description.  I’ll file it away.”

Job descriptions vs person specifications

Then I looked at it more closely.  It is not really a job description.  It is a person specification.

Job specifications that are neither excellent nor strong

And it is not a good person specification.  Each line refers to an expectation that observers may have of the job holder and to a standard that is unanchored.  “Excellent”, “Strong”, and so on are intuitive standards that are believed to be commonly held but are obviously not as the writer was unable to articulate them.

Happy working relations begin with good job descriptions

If you want to be happy with you staff, then it is up to you to describe the job.  Let them see what they have to do. They will have a fairly accurate idea of whether they can do it or not.

When to use person specifications

Person specifications are useful under one of two conditions.

Scenario 1.   The mammoth unchanging organization. You have hired and filled the job over the decades and have objective records of the measurable qualities of the applicants and their subsequent job performance.  The measurable qualities are likely to be in the form of psychological tests.  After all, how else would we keep bureaucratic records spanning thousands of people and dozens of HR managers?

Scenario 2.  A rich leading organization.  In this scenario, it  is extremely unlikely that the applicant has any idea how to the job.  You are recruiting ‘noobes’ and you have the time and resources to train and give a grace time of several job cycles to learn and perfect the job.  Under these conditions, we extrapolate (preferably with the help of objective records or otherwise with commonsense) to qualities that allow a person to learn to do the job that we will show them how to do.  This technique is especially useful when we want to diversify the people in our organization and recruit people who would not normally consider working for us.

When to use job descriptions for selection

When you are in neither scenario, just write out an accurate account of what you want done.  Let people see it. They will self-select.

#1 If you are left with no takers, maybe rethink what you want done.

#2 If you are left with a handful of takers, interview each one and confine the discussion to what you want done.  You will soon find out who has the strongest knowhow.  Leave other discussions for your security check and get a third party to do that (with your preferred candidate’s knowledge and cooperation, of course).

#3 If you are overwhelmed by competent people wanting your job, then use social media!  Start a forum and let the applicant discuss the job with each other.  You may learn a lot.  To be sure, when they think more deeply about the position, many will recuse themselves. Add some voting too like they use on Stackoverflow.  The candidates will quickly tell you who is competent.  So will their pattern of voting.   You will spot gaming in an instance.

Here is the job description

Maybe it is spoof.  I didn’t check.  Follow

* Excellent writing and editing skills with strong attention to detail; your writing is strong, sharp, and personable

* Strong organizing and campaigning instincts; you can craft messages that move people to act, and you know what actions will achieve the right impact at the right time

* Strong familiarity with social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc.

* Ready to work hard; this isn’t a 9-5 sort of job

* Ability to work under deadline pressure

* Ability to manage multiple complex projects

* Passionate about engaging millions of Americans in advancing President Obama’s agenda and changing the country

* Candidates must be willing to relocate to Washington, DC

Preference given for experience with:

* Online organizing experience with an electoral campaign, advocacy organization or non-profit

* Complex project management

* Experience using social media for organizing

UPDATE:  Here is the link to the original on mybarackobama.com.  It follows the format we might expect beginning with the wider picture and then a two sentence description of why the job exists.  Again it leaves the exact parameters of the job in the shadows. HRM for organizations with ‘strong internal labour markets’ [when everyone is promoted from within] is quite different from HRM for organizations who have ‘weak internal labour markets’ and appoint from without.

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HR standard letters are **** [fill in the word]

I am sure that some time in your life, you have received one of those “potted” rejection letters from an HR department.  Years ago, they said, “we regret to inform you . . .”  These days they say something like “the applications were of very high quality but on this occasion  .  .  .”  Somehow they always manage to be rude.

Do we have to act as if we hate the applicants?

Years ago, when a recruitment department came under my division at Coopers & Lybrand Associates, I would ask our consultants: what has this person done to offend you?  And as this is a smallish town, shouldn’t we at least take into account that the people we reject today may be our clients tomorrow?

Shouldn’t we take the trouble to say why we have rejected someone?

I insisted that every letter, every letter, include a least one phrase that gave the specific reason that we had rejected them.

Couldn’t we give people access to reports about them?

In my psychology practice, I took a stronger stand.  I insisted that every report was copied to the candidate.  They saw exactly the same report as my client.  And I would sit down and go through it with them ~ several times if necessary.  I have even remarked tests by hand when a candidate disbelieved the results.

Can’t we resolve the worries that students have about our marking?

I have carried out exactly the same policy with first year students in a class of 850 students.  If they queried their results, I took themseriously.  There is always a first time for a computer to mess up.  Students appreciated it and I am sure that reputation for being reasonable reduced requests for manual re-markes.

Managing rejections graciously

Now I am no wordsmith and I am not great at writing charming letters.

If you are, you might like to look at writer, Paulo Coelho‘s method of inviting people to his birthday party.  He is able to offer 30 invitations or so to his 1  000 000 plus readers.  Look at his methods and his charming way of letting people down engagingly.  We can learn a lot!

 

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338187446_682b87504a_mOne of the biggest complaints we hear from businesses is that they cannot hire the skills they want in the UK market.  It’s called the talent war.

I want to show you a simple calculation I did for someone that might explain what is giving you a headache in your recruitment and selection.

Person specification

This little firm was looking for ‘partners’ to work in a role similar to agents or franchisees.  Their partners don’t have to have any particular qualification, so they should be easy to recruit.  After a little thinking and talking, this is what we came up with.

  • The partners don’t have to be super-bright,  just normal bright and have finished high school .
  • The partners should be energetic & persistent and are likely to have demonstrated this energy by excelling in competitive sport, the arts, or some activity that has required them to make a clearly great effort than their peers.
  • The partners should be entrepreneurial.  They should have a history of trying things out and be just as happy when things don’t work out.  They are curious.
  • The partners need to be honest.  I don’t mean financially meticulous – I mean wanting to deliver a good service.  They are likely to have done something well in the past even when people around them wanted to take shortcuts.

Running the numbers

Now we can add some figures to this model and here is where you might get a surprise.

Let me remind you of some figures.

  • The midpoint on any characteristic divides the world 50:50.
  • The next step up divides the world 83:17.
  • And then next level up divides the world 97:3.

These splits correspond to 3 standard deviations on the right hand side of a normal curve.  You might recall that?  We could use finer divides but we will start with these to get a preliminary fix on where we are going.

Intelligence

The people we are looking for do not have to be super intelligent.  University and above is at the 83:17 divide.  We are happy at the 50:50 divide.  Below that, people may have trouble filling in commercial documents.

Energy & persistence

We are looking for someone who stood out in some way – played at the highest levels of school sport, for example, or raised a lot of money for charity, or even did well at academics.  Probably at the 97:3 split.  Someone who took a big prize at school.

Curiosity

These people don’t wait for someone to tell them what to do.  They work things out and find new opportunties.  They aren’t people for the sausage-machine of institutions. They are the people who make us think, “I wish I had done that”, or “How did you think of that?”  And they view setbacks as adventures.  97:3

Honesty

Unusual levels of integrity and sincerity.  At least once in their lives, they’ve done something properly when people around them were spinning, skiving or taking shortcuts.  97:3

How many people in the UK fit this description?

There are 30 million people in UK of working age.  How many of them fit this description and are candidates for our recruitment and selection drive?

Half of them have the intelligence required: 15 million

3% of the top half of intelligent people are very energetic and persistent : 450 000

3% of these have unusual levels of entrepreneurial spirit or curiosity:  13 500

3% of these have the commitment to integrity that we need: 405

(and this is from aged 16 to 65 – 405 people in the UK match our specification).

And how many of the right people are looking for a job?

Well, first of all let’s look at turnover.  It is usually 14% a year in the UK and that includes the high churn sectors like hospitality and catering.  Even if we bump up the turnover rate arbitrarily to 20% for the recession, we have only (.2 x 400) =80 people in our group who are looking for a job.

And of course some of these are doctors and lawyers, and some people are in the wrong sectors or wrong part of UK.  They are not available to be recruited or selected by us.

Not many left are there?

Shocking isn’t it?

I am used to the process of selection and to these numbers, yet they still shock me.  So please find my error and dm me.  I am hoping you will find my mistake because the numbers are shocking.

My point – and it is a serious point –  is that you cannot have one demanding requirement after another.

There simply aren’t enough people in the UK to meet your demanding needs.

There aren’t enough exceptional people in the economy to run it if is based on exceptional talent.

Our businesses need to run with normal people.

  • When we are selecting, it’s best to set the minimum requirements of the job, preferably from the candidate’s point of view, and begin there. Trim your list.  Ask, “Is this feature absolutely required,  and if so why?”
  • Stop adding requirement after requirement!  No more than three requirements!
  • After that, be ruthless in thinking about this recruitment assignment from the candidate’s point of view.

Ruthless in thinking about selection from the candidate’s point-of-view.

No one taught you that at uni, did they?  Yep, we like to keep some secrets to ourselves.

But now, it’s yours.

Review your HR specifications.  And keep it real.  Let your competitors be the ones to live in the world of make-believe.

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There is much talk about whether employers google candidates, whether they should google candidates and whether it is legal to google candidates.

As a work psychologist, whose original speciality was personnel psychology, I know heaps about selection. So I ask the question differently. What are we hoping to gain?

Yes, before I meet someone, I look them up on the internet. Before I go to a job interview, I know more about the interviewers than they realize. But if I were the interviewer, would I look up the candidate? I am afraid not, and this is why.

The art of selection is

  • to identify variables on which we vary reliably
  • and to identify which of those, correlate with difference in job performance.

To find anything that varies with job performance, we must be first find out what variations there are in job performance that are themselves reliable and meaningful.

Collecting information on people ad nauseum just clutters the process. If you want to use Google and Facebook in selection, you need to show me that what you are looking at is reliable and relevant.

Otherwise you are gossiping. Harsh words, I know, but go back to the numbers.

We deal with weak effects. Generally we deal with effect sizes of around 0.2 or 0.3 and we account for 4-9% of variance on the job. The grandest claims are 25%. Muddy that prediction and you are left with nothing but randomness. Moreover, you are likely to create adverse impact (select on a like-me basis and open your company up to valid charges of discrimination).

In selection, we stick to variables that we know are relevant to job performance and that we can measure reliably. If it cannot be done, then it cannot be done. That is the professional and ethical position.

So, what are we really worried about?

People aren’t daft. So, what is going on when we try to select minutely?

Organizations take people and make them live in closer proximity than if they were married. Anxiety goes up. Is this going to be heaven, or is it going to be hell? And if I am the manager, will I be held accountable for the outcome?

My answer is not to make the selection process more complicated. There is nothing to gain. If something is not predictable, then it is not predictable.

Rather put we should put our energy into managing the relationship.

  • Improve the working conditions.
  • Improve the job design to set clear boundaries.
  • Set up communication systems
  • Train
  • And coach ‘on demand’ (I mean it – be on call).

Above all, attend to why the manager is so anxious. Why do they believe they will be blamed? Most likely because there is no common ethos on what performance it is reasonable to expect. It would be better to work on the collective understanding of what is reasonable and to lower tensions all round.

  • We need HR people who understand job performance and what variations are manageable.
  • We need HR people who can be close to the work team and help them with the ‘pressure cooker’ existence of living in far too close physical proximity.
  • We need HR people who can grow the understanding of what is manageable and what needs to be worked through.
  • We need HR people who are credible because they focus our attention successfully on what can be done.

Will candidates look us up on the internet? I do hope so. Will they have Facebook profiles? I do hope so. Will they have a life outside work? I really do hope so.

But that is nothing to do with selection. In selection we deal with what is predictable. If it is not predictable, then exclude it from the selection process!

A place for everything and everything in its place.  There is a lot more to HR, management and leadership than selection.

UPDATE:  There are two other considerations to make when we use ambient data to make decisions about people.  First, remember issues of privacy.  If you look, you will record.  What did you record and do you have the person’s permission?  Second, employment is about a relationship.  Build one!  Use professionals to do the cold work of making probabilistic predictions on reliable factors.  You get going on building a warm, normal and trusting relationship.

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We’ve been trained to think that we know what must be done

One of the hardest concepts to grasp in positive existential psychology, is the idea of open endedness.  It is an anathema to the soul of a psychologist trained in positivist thinking and to a manager trained in “gap techniques”.

In the old school, we are supposed to define a goal or an outcome and achieve what we say we are going to achieve.  We are supposed to be competent and confident that what we say will work, will work.  We are supposed to be able to make more things work than our neighbor.

Yet, the most important skill is to tolerate uncertainty

David Whyte talks of frontier conversations where we do not know the outcome and of places where we are not certain of our competence.

We need to change our methods of selection to allow for not knowing what must be done

If we insist on defining things as competencies, then we need to check whether the people joining our organization can tolerate being in a situation where they do not know if they understand or will ever understand.

Equally, if tolerating uncertainty is a competence important to the organization, the interviewer needs to be in a likewise situation.

A new definition of a good selection interview

Great! Two people don’t know what they are doing.  So my definition of a good interview is when I have learned something from the person I am interviewing!

Here is a quotation of David Whyte reprinted by Inner Edge.


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