Hire the right people: Measured approach identifies the best in class

Question:

“Enjoyed your last column in BizTimes on human capital management (HCM). I wonder if you could expand on the ‘acquiring employees’ aspect of that column. I lead an engineering consulting firm and we’ve had a hard time of late identifying front-line employees who are going to work out. Is there a way to be more scientific about this? Thanks!”


Answer:

As some readers will recall, in my last column in the Sept. 14 issue of BizTimes Milwaukee, I addressed the concept of human capital management (HCM) as a means by which an organization might began to do a better job of harnessing the full potential of the people that it employs. I used an acronym, ARMED (Acquiring, Retaining, Managing, Educating, and Developing), to describe the key aspects of HCM. In this column, in response to the reader’s question, I will talk about emerging trends in assessing talent (i.e., acquiring).

A few weeks ago, it was my privilege to address the meeting of the Wisconsin Chapter of the National Emergency Number Association (WI-NENA). At that meeting, I discussed some of the do’s and don’ts regarding hiring practices for emergency response employees. My basic message was that to do a good job hiring, you need to have a clear handle on the demands of the job and the organization in which the work takes place. After all, while the motto in real estate might be, “location, location, location,” in pursuing organizational effectiveness the motto must be, “context, context, context!”

So, in simple terms, to do a good job selecting the right person to hire, you need to understand: (1) The work requirements; and (2) The worker requirements. A job analysis can be undertaken to document this information. If you do not have the time or resources to do this, you can always access O*Net (www.onetonline.org) to use this powerful tool that was developed under the sponsorship of the U.S. Department of Labor/Employment and Training Administration.

With a good target at which to aim the selection process, you can pursue this best in class employee selection model, originally suggested by employment selection researcher Daniel Russell:

Step one: Sourcing and recruiting

A blended approach is suggested comprised of Internet sources, print advertisements, and community outreach.

Step two: Realistic job preview

In order to funnel down applicants in an efficient process, use of the technology-based efficiencies of our information age is encouraged. For example, a toll free number could be used in which callers receive information about the open position.

Step three: On-line, un-proctored testing

Web-based pre-employments tests (e.g., personality or ability tests) can help in eliminating unqualified candidates. An important caveat is that any test must be job-related. Good tests are supported by sound validity studies that demonstrate the relationship between test performance and job success.

Step four: Telephone interview

Structured interviews that target the key competencies underlying job success can be efficiently conducted via telephone. This minimizes costs associated with arranging face-to-face interviews with prospective employees who are not yet deemed to be finalists. Also, use of scoring criteria enhances predictive properties.

Step five: On-site, proctored testing

As the group of candidates narrows, it is desirable to gather additional data using position-relevant tests and measures. As part of a candidate’s visit to the site, a mix of targeted, focused testing and interviewing (see step six below) is suggested.

Step six: Face-to-face interview

Use of structured, situation-based interviews is desirable. This approach is particularly effective if a panel of trained interviewers is used who make use of specific criteria in evaluating the responses that candidates offer.

Step seven: Background check and drug screen

To minimize risks, a background check simply makes good business sense. Use of drug screening is a common element for most organizations these days.

Step eight: Hiring and on-boarding

With steps one through seven successfully navigated, it is time to on-board the new hire. Hopefully, an equally thorough and rigorous process of assimilation follows the dynamic selection process.

While the eight-step model outlined above is, indeed, a “best practices” model, like anything else, it needs to be modified and calibrated to meet the unique aspects of your organization (context, context, context!). From where I sit, though, the business case for pursuing a more sophisticated approach to employment selection is a sound one. After all, even in these economic times, good people continue to be hard to find.

Looking ahead, Wisconsin faces a potential labor shortfall over the next decade due to a high percentage of baby boomers leaving its workforce. Yet, I firmly believe the need to be more selective is opposed by the need to “find somebody.” Further, in this information age, more employees possess credentials. We must move beyond evaluating just technical qualifications!

In the final analysis, I offer these employment selection principles:

  • Aim high. Don’t lower hiring standards merely to fill a vacancy.
  • Identify the core competencies that relate significantly to job success.
  • Increase the sophistication of the selection methodology.
  • Implement a uniform system across the organization.
  • Evaluate program effectiveness and make fine-tuning adjustments.

Daniel A. Schroeder, Ph.D., is president of Brookfield-based Organization Development Consultants Inc. (www.OD-Consultants.com). He can be reached at (262) 827-1901 or Dan.Schroeder@OD-Consultants.com

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