Accounting for character

Job applicants can be screened for qualifications, for achievement, for education and for experience. However, the biggest variable in the hiring process remains the assessment of a candidate’s personality.

“With every company I’ve ever worked with, the biggest frustration is their employees,” said Cheryl Farnsworth, president and chief executive officer of Succeedia Inc., a business consulting and coaching firm with offices in Milwaukee and Madison.

Understanding different personality types and how they can work together can solve those problems, but that is not a simple task. In recent years, however, proven scientific predictive tools have evolved to help employers recruit, hire and retain the best people.

Succeedia had two long-term clients in 2006. Those two companies earned a combined $1.7 million in new profits after working with Succeedia, Farnsworth said. One of those companies was Fontarome (see accompanying story).

“We take the core business principles (of consulting) like accountability, setting expectations and creating goals, typical business stuff, and we apply it with motivational psychology,” Farnsworth said.

Succeedia uses a combination of motivational psychology, personality testing and business planning to help clients increase profits, grow their companies and hire the best employees, Farnsworth said.


Most of Succeedia’s services begin with a personality profile using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, based on the research of Carl Jung. The Myers-Briggs indicator helps predict behavior in different situations, preferences and how best to communicate and manage a person, Fansworth said.

Myers-Briggs measures people in four key areas – extraversion or introversion, information processing, decision making and judgment.

The initial test is written and self-administered. Succeedia follows it with in-person interviews to validate the results.

“Out of 10 profiles that we get in from a team, I’ll change about three of them,” Farnsworth said.

Once personality type is determined, Farnsworth and her co-workers teach managers through one-on-one coaching how best to work with their peers. Different personality types have different styles of interacting with the world and other people, Farnsworth said. Teaching them how to interact with people they’ve had difficulty with in the past can quickly move co-workers past previous roadblocks.

“The coaching can be telling the new boss about how to nurture and mold your new employee that is coming from a different corporate culture,” Farnsworth said.

However, the coaching also works the other way – teaching top-level managers how to work best with their boss – the company owner or CEO.

“I’m teaching the team how to modify their behavior to get a different behavior from their boss,” Farnsworth said. “And as an employer, I’m teaching them how to get the (desired) behavior out of an employee. That’s where we see movement, where we see (the skills) becoming a habit.”

Emotional intelligence

Vernal Management Consultants has used the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator for more than 20 years, according to Karen Vernal, owner and president of the Milwaukee-based firm. The company still uses it, but relies more on Emotional Intelligence, a different personality profiling tool.

Emotional Intelligence (EI) is based on about 30 years of research from Harvard University, Vernal said. Researchers there followed graduates from Harvard’s business, law and medicine schools in an attempt to find what the predictors of success are.

“They defined success in two ways – achievement in your profession and stability in your key relationships,” Vernal said. “They followed the graduates for 30 years, interviewing them and a number of people they work with and family members every five years. What they learned is that emotional intelligence is twice as significant as IQ and technical skills as a predictor of success.”

EI examines a person’s ability to sense and manage the emotions of themselves, a group and others. It stresses conflict resolution, how to prevent emotions from interfering with logical thought and improved communication.

Vernal’s team was certified in EI more than three years ago, she said, but they didn’t fully incorporate it until last year.

“We learned that the characteristics of EI are the foundation for everything we’ve been teaching for the last 20 years,” Vernal said. “It’s not rocket science. It’s self-awareness and an emotional connection to others.”

After teaching clients about EI, Vernal Management Consultants often performs what it calls a 360-degree assessment of employees or job candidates. These involve personal interviews, as well as written evaluations from peers, those under their supervision, supervisors and even family members. That information is used in one-on-one coaching, and is often shared between members of Vernal’s team.

“Behind the scenes, we’re also learning from one another what some of the systematic themes there are in the organization,” she said.

Web-based model

Crystal Schroeder, president and CEO of Elite Human Capital Group, a Brookfield-based recruiting and staffing firm, often uses personality profiling tools when she’s looking for employees for clients. Schroeder also uses them in her own company.

Elite Human Capital Group uses a tool called Xyting Insights. The online personality profiling tool generates a 30-page profile based on work behavior, the type of work environment a person prefers and team preference.

“It gives a lot of insight into their personality and the way they behave,” Schroeder said. “And it gives a manager a section on how to manage this person and how to motivate them.”

Schroeder recommends clients use a personality profiling tool when hiring managers.

“I encourage any (small to medium sized business) to really do their homework before using them,” Schroeder said. “If the companies are uneasy with it and I am not familiar with (the test), I would recommend using a third-party firm to administer or assess it.”

Growth business

The personality profiling that Succeedia, Vernal Management Consultants and Elite Human Capital employ in their services isn’t just paying off for clients. All three of the consulting firms are growing with their clients.

Succeedia recently opened a second office in Madison, where Farnsworth spends about half of her time. Erica Gumieny, hired about three months ago, was recently named managing director of the Milwaukee office.

Each of Succeedia’s offices have three full-time employees now, and the company will have a total of 10 employees by the end of the year, Farnsworth said.

Vernal Management plans to add two employees by the end of the year, Vernal said.

Elite Human Capital is on track to double its revenues this year, Schroeder said. The company and its 10 employees will move to a 4,000-square-foot building at 2880 S. Moorland Road next year. The firm also plans to launch a new division named Vendor Managed Service, which will serve as an intermediary between recruitment firms and large employers such as Johnson Controls Inc., Schroeder said. That new division will likely bring Elite Human Capital’s employment to 20, she said.

“We will intercept vendors and do pre-screening (of candidates),” Schroeder said. “We will use our own technology platform to manage it with trackable reporting to show which recruiters are giving us the best results.”

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