Could profiling your new hires lead to improved retention?

His resume looked good. The interview went great. You decided to hire him, but now, two months later, you're looking for a replacement. What went wrong? Well, let's take a step back - was it really wise to hire him in the first place?

While most employers still look for applicants with work experience, technique and skill, a well-written resume or impressive interview is not always a good indication the individual will work out. What tools and resources are you using at your company to make sure you're hiring the right people for the right job?

Psychic Or Psychology?

Employees are valuable assets to a company, and learning to reduce turnover and improve retention doesn't have to be hit or miss anymore. A simple (and proven) in-house management tool known as the Predictive Index System helps managers identify workplace strengths and weaknesses using a good old-fashioned behavioral psychology.

Think of it as a written version of Rorschach's "inkblot" tests. PI is an adjective checklist of 172 words called an "Organizational Survey," and provides a clearer picture into the personalities and natural aptitudes of employees and applicants. It takes less than five minutes to complete, and is scored and evaluated on-site in minutes.

But before you get too comfortable on that couch, let's look at the areas of management in which a PI system can help your company:

  • Recruitment: With the proper training, you can learn to create detailed job descriptions, define exactly what is needed within a particular position and develop employment ads designed to attract the people you seek.
  • Hiring:Reduce premature turnover with your new hires by becoming more aware of your applicants' motivations, aptitudes and attitudes towards a job. The best person for the job is not always the best interviewee. Combine the PI survey with your detailed job description to match the right person with the right job.
  • Training & Productivity:You can better understand your current employees' learning styles and meet each person's needs when training. Maximize your company's productivity by becoming informed of the way people work and seek motivation. Use this insight to get the results you demand.
  • Management:From CEOs to janitors, PI fits every type of business and employee. Knowing how your management team functions is invaluable. Learn how to spot a born leader among your staff, and develop communication and people skills among your team's leaders.
  • Promotions:Employers often award promotions based on meritous services, but many people are promoted above their level of competence. What was meant to be a reward becomes instead a frustration. Identify the strengths and weaknesses of promotion candidates. Increase employee morale by knowing how to correctly motivate your team. Curb costly turnover before it gets out of hand.

PI was developed by Arnold S. Daniels in the early 1950s. Daniels was a World War II bombadier navigator, and was part of one of the few crews that didn't report any casualties in combat. Such successful results were unheard of at the time, so scientists decided to take a closer look at these crews to see why they were unique? How did their teamwork help them survive?

The scientists used predictive indexes to take apart the crews' personalities.

Daniels decided this method was applicable to management and made it available for industrial use in July 1955. Since then, thousands of managers have attended PI management workshops around the world. The checklist is available in more than 60 languages and has been administered millions of times.

It has been checked and evaluated often, and has been found to be an accurate and sound instrument for measuring an individual's behavior and potential. It even meets strict standards imposed by the U. S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, which demands valid statistical proof from tools like PI.

"We've received a greater response to employment ads since we've added predictive index to our hiring process," says Terry Self, president of Interstate Mechanical Contractors Inc. in Knoxville, Tenn. The company, with more than 125 employees, has all new hires go through the survey and mini-interview, and then follows up with a formal interview for selected applicants.

The profile also helps structure the interview around a person's sociable styles. "It doesn't tell us how smart a person is or how much skill he has, but it gives us an insight about how to make him comfortable and helps place him in the correct job position."

Interstate Mechanical has been using PI since November 1998 and has seen its hiring process become more structured and organized. Though PI hasn't made its turnover disappear ("There's always turnover in the construction industry," Self says), it has improved inter-office promotions, training and has given the company a heads-up on its competition.

Dollars & Sense

Knowledge and skill can be taught on the job while aptitude and personality are inherent, etched in stone from your teenage years, and sometimes before then. A PI defines what motivates the person being profiled. It tells you how he will deal with stress, workload, details, organization and human interaction.

Its scores are based on stimuli associated with four primary (A through D) and two resultant (high and low) personality motivators. The areas measured include the self (a measure a basic patterns of behavior), self-concept (a measure of how an individual tries to change to meet job demands) and synthesis (a measure of the way an individual actually behaves in the work environment).

The PI process begins when an employer fills out a Performance Requirement Options (PRO) worksheet. This is a profile or job description of the personality traits he is looking for in an applicant: Does he need a detail-orientated bookkeeper? An organized and respectful tech? A polite and communicative receptionist?

A PRO is not meant to be the absolute standard in which to fit an applicant like a glove. It is instead a guideline and a basis for discussion about what is expected, behaviorally, of a particular job.

An applicant is then asked to first check all of the words in the PI survey that describe the way he is expected to act by others. This gauges his expectations of the job and his attitudes and morale about work in general.

Next the applicant is asked to check the words he believes really describe himself. They are the same adjectives, but this time the answers reflect natural aptitude for the job and basic personality traits. Some of the words listed include: helpful, persistent, self-assured, easy-going, responsive, eager, dominant and consistent.

According to basic behavioral psychology principles, a person positively stimulated by the adjectives in the survey will check them. If negatively stimulated by the words on the checklist, they're left blank. There is no right or wrong, good or bad. Whether or not the words checked truly describe the person is of no significance, and will not affect the analysis of the results.

The survey is then scored, graphed and evaluated by a trained manager, and matched to the PRO to see if the applicant fits the profile. In short, employers have the ability to find square pegs for square holes.

"What PI really does is teach managers to think," says David Krecek of PI Midwest, affiliate of PI Management Resources, which administers training seminars worldwide. "They're not blindly matching graphs and relying solely on the results, there are many subtle aspects of the personality to measure."

Companies such as PI Management Resources offer group and individual seminars, where managers learn how to administer, score and evaluate the information with the aid of computer software.

Interviewing skills are also taught to give managers clues to the subtle personality and behavior traits sometimes missed when deciding if the applicant should be hired. Workshops are scheduled every five weeks and have a basic price of $1,650 per person. Annual rates are based on the number of employees at a company. On average, a company of less than 100 people has a rate of $3,300. This includes the computer software needed to administer and evaluate PI, consultation fees and customer service.

The price may appear outrageous, but what is the cost of a bad hire? How much is that worth to your company? Add up the time, money and energy it takes to place an ad, interview candidates, check resumes and references and train a new hire with salary and benefits, and you end up with a significant amount of money down the drain if the person doesn't work out. And the recruitment/hiring process starts again and again.

You can say good-bye to monthly probationary employment periods and long hours of training. PI cuts to the chase and passes by the awkward phase where managers begin to doubt they've hired the right person.

"From mom 'n pop shops to fortune 500 companies, every type of business has the same problem with their team - retention and turnover," Krecek explains. "PI takes the mystery out of hiring and promoting employees."

Other pre-employment testing methods are out there, but not all are suited for the construction industry. The Wonderlic test is a timed test of about 50 questions and is aimed at a person's analytical nature. It's a general intelligence test of patterns, sequence and number crunching, but not everyone is a great test-taker.

Companies also could use hands-on tests to gauge mechanical dexterity, but many employers use this to further validate their choice in new hires.

"Whatever you use," says Krecek, "the point is to use something. Make sure you're informed about who you're hiring."

Legal Issues

It sounds easy, but is it legal? Employers today know the pressures of equal employment opportunity standards, and many feel the chance of a lawsuit for administering the survey outweighs the rewards of such a tool. According to Krecek, there's nothing to fear.

"Where is your greatest chance of getting sued? By administering a fair, accurate, proven, consistent test? Or three months later when you fire the individual because things aren't working out like you'd hoped?"

Though each state differs in its rules and regulations of pre-employment testing, there are ways to cover your legal behind.

  • Always combine the survey with a proper interview and make sure the questions are relevant to the job. It's not a good idea to ask inappropriate or personal questions.
  • Administer the tool on a consistent basis. If 10 applicants are interviewed, all 10 should be surveyed. There will be no legal standpoint if everything was done fairly and equally.
  • Use a validated instrument through a certified company. PI has been used worldwide since the 1950s. It has been tested for its accuracy and was pronounced free from sexual bias in 1983. But get your management properly trained in the administration and evaluation of PI information.
  • Don't use PI as a tool to fire people. It's meant to be a guide in management, not a standard or rule to live up to.

Krecek also promotes well-thought out employment ads. By using the PRO, an employer can create a winning ad that will attract the people he needs. Ads should de-emphasize year's experience, education and skills - you could be disqualifying applicants before you even get to interview them. Those things are nice to have on a resume, but they can be taught. Focus instead on the needed personality and natural aptitudes for the job - you want to drive at who that person really is.

"It's a neat tool to have. By looking at a person's profile, it helps us attack problems and coach our team in the most effective way, " Self admits. And he is always surprised at the survey's accuracy. "We ran profiles on about 50 employees, and only one or two had a problem with a single sentence in the narrative print-out. It's pretty amazing how close the profile matches the person."

"The results really jump out at you," Krecek affirms. "PI has allowed many companies to operate at the best of their abilities with the help of good employees."