Time to Develop a Remote Workforce Strategy

By Patty Crabtree & Dana Borowka

Our work environment is evolving. Despite concerns about employee productivity, data on the American workforce indicates that the remote worker trend is picking up steam. Is it time for your business to embrace a remote workforce?

U.S. businesses are doing the math, and the math says the remote-worker option is a great opportunity for workers and employers.

Allowing employees to work from remote locations means a company can expand its talent pool from beyond its local geography. According to university/industry research viewed by Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC, if the right person is selected his or her work production has the potential to increase by 30% to 300%. Obviously, hiring better workers that work remotely can result in increased productivity and client satisfaction.

For example, a Chinese travel agency saw productivity increase by 13%, and the US Patent & Trade Office (USPTO) reported that output increased by 4.4% when it transitioned to a remote worker program.

Sure, there are some who still are skeptical. In an August 2019 article in the Harvard Business Review (“Is it time to let employees work from anywhere?”), three professors raised the following concerns despite the remote worker movement growing in popularity:
In our experience…managers often worry about remote employees working less, or multitasking, mixing personal responsibilities with work. There are also concerns that allowing employees to work from anywhere could decrease communication and collaboration among coworkers and might constrain the informal learning that typically happens in the office.

However, the professors’ research demonstrated the advantages of a work from anywhere (WFA) program. “A key takeaway from our research is that if a work setting is ripe for remote work – that is, if the employee knows how to collaborate remotely and still do their job well – implementing WFA can benefit both the company and the employee.”

With effective productivity measurements in place, it does not matter if the employee is in front of you or not. Success comes down to ensuring effective communication, training and focusing on evolving your tools to support the remote workforce.

“Data indicates that the remote-work trend in the U.S. labor force is inexorable, aided by ever-better tools for getting work done anywhere,” according to Christopher Mims in The Wall Street Journal.

“Surveys done by Gallup indicate that in 2016, the proportion of Americans who did some or all of their work from home was 43%, up from 39% in 2012,” cites Mims in his June 2017 article titled “Why Remote Work Can’t Be Stopped.”

Points to Consider

Remote worker programs must be done right if you are to garner productivity gains and increase employee retention. As someone who has implemented these programs and now helps clients at Lighthouse Consulting transition to these programs, here are several points to consider:

Recruiting: Many companies struggle finding the right candidates for their organization. Having a small radius to find the right talent can add to these challenges. Opening up the geographic area for recruiting, creates a whole new talent pool. Recruit across the entire nation or target specific areas in the country where more candidates with certain talents may be found. Keep in mind, some states have tougher labor laws so research on the laws for each state is needed as you find candidates.

Interviewing: Interviewing can be done via video conferencing. If face to face is preferred, bring the final candidate to your office. It is important to have a strong hiring process that helps you identify candidates that fit the needs of the position and culture of your organization. This screening process is critical even if you are not hiring remote staff. Knowing your culture and how an employee will blend into the work environment is an important element of successful hiring.

Onboarding: A successful onboarding process ensures your new employee understands both the culture of the organization and their specific role. It is an opportunity to team build and to begin the process in developing strong working relationships with their new colleagues. Many companies will bring the remote candidate in for a period of time for the initial training and orientation. This gives the individual a chance to “get a feel” for the company’s dynamics in person along with making some face to face connections. Other companies will utilize video conferencing to manage the onboarding process along with activities to connect the new employee and other staff members. While learning their role and being productive are important out the gate, it is also essential to invest time in sharing your culture and building working relationships with colleagues. This helps the employee feel valued by the organization as they start in their new role.

Managing: Managers need training on how to successfully engage a remote workforce along with understanding the nuances of managing both office-based and remote staff in an equal way. It takes practice and discipline to ensure a manager is giving the same attention to remote staff as they would an individual that is 20 feet away from them. Policies such as “How often should the manager reach out to touch base?” “How do managers chair group meetings and engage remote workers in the conversation? “ and “What expectations should a manager set for participation of remote staff?” should be worked out before implementing a remote worker program.

One company required that all meetings be done via video conferencing including 1-to-1 meetings. Some staff members may be resistant to being on the camera though making this mandatory to participating in the remote worker program can help emphasize the importance of this connection. Reminding the employee that you see more of them in person than when they are on camera may help ease any anxiety.

Culture: A strong company culture is needed to ensure everyone is approaching servicing your clients and working together in the same manner. As you roll out a WFA program, one will need to review the organization’s values and consider how working remotely would impact them. Is collaboration important to you? Then, what tools would be needed to ensure successful collaboration continues? Is passion one of your values? If so, how would communication need to evolve to engage that passion when staff are in different locations?

Technology: Data security is the number one concern when it comes to technology. How should our servers be set up? What protocols should we use so remote workers can securely connect to our network? What equipment should a remote worker use? What about encryption? If we allow use of personal home computers, what are the risks? What about printing? How will phone access be handled? There are multiple solutions on the market today to support the technology needs of a remote workforce which makes it easier to implement this type of program.

Team Meetings: Team meetings continue as usual. Using video conferencing helps keep the group connected. The chair will need to keep in mind any delays from the video conferencing system (usually 1-2 seconds) to ensure people have a chance to share. There are a few approaches to support this type of environment. If an interactive process is warranted, the chair can ask each person directly for their feedback giving a “protected” space to speak. If this approach doesn’t work, the chair can pause and ask the remote staff if they have any feedback. The important element is to give the group chance to participate and a safe environment to speak up.

The Benefits of a Remote Workforce

Productivity will increase, staff will have a better work-life balance and they may be less stressed (not upset about being cut off on the way to work, or anxious over traffic making them late). You can reduce the footprint of your office space saving money, reduce the environmental impact of having all those cars on the road, expand your candidate pool of qualified candidates, build a stronger employee focused reputation, and open up employee referrals for potential candidates. Happier employees equal happier clients, retention of key staff members, and the potential for increased profitability.

Here is the Bottom Line

Employees need to be trained on how to transition into a remote worker environment and the expectations of their participation in the program. Managers need to understand the dynamics of supporting remote workers and the organization needs to ensure the proper tools and policies are in place for a successful work from anywhere program. In today’s world, a work from anywhere program is a viable solution for companies.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC, has a consulting arm available to help with remote workforce programs. We can assist with recruiting and interviewing ideas, onboarding, managing, culture, technology, and supervision strategies such as team meetings and virtual collaboration. These can be parlayed with the other offerings from Lighthouse Consulting Services such as talent development, in-depth work style & personality assessments, skills testing and team building.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2020

Patty Crabtree is a Senior Consultant at Lighthouse Consulting Services with over 25 years of operations and finance leadership experience as well as successfully leading and growing teams.  She was instrumental in the development of an operations infrastructure that resulted in consistent increased profits and employee engagement. Patty has also effectively navigated the challenges of change management in the ever-changing business world.

Dana Borowka, MA, CEO of Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC and his organization constantly remain focused on their mission statement – “To bring effective insight to your business”. They do this through the use of in-depth work style assessments to raise the hiring bar, so companies select the right people to reduce hiring and management errors. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management. Dana has over 25 years of business consulting experience and is a nationally renowned speaker, radio and TV personality on many topics. He is the co-author of the books, “Cracking the Personality Code”, “Cracking the Business Code” and “Cracking the High-Performance Team Code”.  To order the books, please visit www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, Santa Monica, CA, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management.

Our Sino-Am Leadership Program helps executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching. For more information visit, http://lighthouseconsulting.com/performance-management/talent-development/sino-american-management-style/.

We also have an affiliate in the UK who covers all of Europe so we are now a true multi-national company that can support our clients globally.

Is it Safe to Hire 1099 Contractors Anymore?

By Lauraine Bifulco of Vantaggio HR

Independent contractors or employees? It’s not a new question. We’ve all been grappling with it for years, but why does the issue keep circling back around, and dare I say, keep getting more complicated? How do we avoid a legal minefield?

People are divided on the subject. “Yes, I’m positive my design consultant is an independent contractor.” “No, that office manager of yours really needs to be on payroll as an employee.” We can’t seem to agree. Why is that?

Well, it’s not that as intelligent business people, we can’t apply a set of rules to a situation and determine the right answer. If there were a standard, we’d all probably be able to figure it out and agree. But that’s the problem, there simply isn’t one, easy set of rules – until maybe now, with the increasing use across the country of ABC tests to make the determination. Hawaii, for example, has long used the ABC test for determining employee status ‐ as do 16 other states. And now California has jumped on the bandwagon after their state supreme court decided earlier this year that they could not be outdone by Massachusetts who had been known for having the most stringent test in the country! And while these ABC tests aren’t necessarily good news for employers, they are at least typically more clear than the tests used in other jurisdictions and by other agencies.

Let’s go back and see how we got here. As a reminder, it’s unfortunately not up to the worker and the hiring company to determine the best model for working together. There is a common misconception that you can just “1099” the worker and be safe treating him/her as an independent contractor. While filing a 1099 to report income paid to the person can help reduce your penalties with the IRS should it be determined that the person was misclassified, the act of submitting a 1099 does not in and of itself establish independent contractor status. Almost everyone has heard of the IRS’s 20 factor test, which was boiled down in 2007 to an 11‐factor test focusing on 3 main areas. The IRS examines the behavioral and financial arrangement between the worker and the hiring company as well as the nature of their relationship. This type of test, called a “common law test” walks you through a series of questions helping to identify if the worker in practice is functioning independently or not. Unfortunately, oftentimes even after applying the multiple questions, the answer is a little murky and could honestly swing either way.

Other agencies, like the federal DOL, use a different methodology called the “economic realities test.” Like the common law test, there are a series of questions that one poses about the worker and the hiring entity aimed at determining if the worker is truly independent from an economic perspective from the hiring entity. Is this person truly, from a financial perspective operating an independent business?

The challenge with both the common law test and the economic realities test, is that there is no true “pass/fail.” For example, with the IRS’s 11 factor test, you are not guaranteed independent status if you answer 6 out of the 11 questions correctly. The different factors are given varying weights depending upon the exact terms and conditions of a particular worker’s relationship with the hiring company. And unfortunately, clarity is sometimes not reached until years after the relationship is established when there is a complaint or lawsuit and then a final ruling. Employers have been left guessing and hoping that their independent contractors are classified correctly.

Until now. ABC tests utilize a streamlined, 3‐prong approach whereby the hiring entity has to establish that all 3 of the factors of the test are met. If either A, B, or C cannot be established, the analysis is over – your worker is an employee and not an independent contractor.

Here’s how ABC tests typically work:

A worker is legally presumed to be an employee, unless:

A. The worker is free from the control and direction of the hiring company in connection with the performance of the work;

AND

B. The worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business (AND/OR outside of the hiring entity’s regular place of business);

AND

C. The worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business.

While factors A (the worker needs to be free from control of the hiring company) and C (the worker needs to truly be engaged in running his/her own business) have been part and parcel of just about all the other types of tests used, factor B is frequently the most difficult hurdle to overcome for an employer wanting to treat someone as an independent contractor. Note the “AND/OR” in the description above. Some jurisdictions allow for the “OR” (such as Hawaii), meaning that if you manufacture and sell surfboards, you can still hire someone as an independent contractor if he/she meets prongs A and C, as long as the worker manufactures those surfboards for you at his/her own business location. Some jurisdictions don’t give you that option. Now in CA for example, there is no “AND/OR” – if the person makes surfboards for you, no matter where the work is done, you fail prong B of the test. Period. Game over. Unless the worker is being utilized to provide some type of service that is not the hiring company’s core business, the person will be considered an employee.

Keep in mind that while these ABC tests are becoming more and more common, many agencies may still continue to use their existing criteria. And to make matters even more complicated for us employers, within a specific state, different agencies use different tests. How a worker is classified by state labor commissioner for purposes of overtime, minimum wage, and other employment law protections may well differ from how a determination would be made regarding eligibility for unemployment benefits or coverage by workers’ compensation. Does this make your head hurt yet? It does mine.

This is an area to keep your eye on. It is entirely possible that other agencies will also adopt the ABC standard. Recently, Senator Bernie Sanders introduced a bill that would incorporate California’s new version of the ABC test into the federal rules for determining independent contractor status under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). We are clearly experiencing a trend.

But for now, we are left with different tests being used by different agencies and the challenge it’s not possible to treat someone as an independent contractor for some purposes while an employee for others. When deciding if someone is going to be on payroll or not, we have no choice but to apply the most stringent test that could come into play. And for many of us, it’s the ABC test.

Understanding the thought process behind these rules is helpful. The basic premise it to not have workers deprived of benefits to which they would be entitled if classified as employees. Further, if we allow some companies to save money by avoiding payroll taxes, workers’ compensation, and other mandated benefits and protections, we set the scene for unfair competition in the marketplace.

What is at odds with this trend towards restricting the legal classification of independent contractors, is the evolving “gig” economy. More and more individuals are getting involved with companies such as Uber, Lyft, Grub Hub, and a host of other online, on‐demand service entities that allow people to pretty much decide how much they want to work and when. If these ABC tests are increasingly going to be applied, gig companies are going to have a very hard time continuing to employ workers as independent contractors. And the lawsuits are rolling in. The CA Supreme court ruling made an interesting point. They acknowledged that there is often greater freedom for workers to be treated as independent contractors but stated that “if a business concludes that it improves the morale and/or productivity of a category of workers to afford them the freedom to set their own hours or to accept or decline a particular assignment, the business may do so while still treating the workers as employees for purposes of the wage order.” Point well taken by all of us inside or outside of California.

So where does this leave us? As the landscape continues to evolve, we urge employers to proceed conservatively. Know the exact nuances of the tests in your jurisdictions, get professional help if needed to make a sound determination, audit yourself before someone else does, and keep your eyes open for changes. The gig economy isn’t going away anytime soon, but neither are the ABC tests.

The information presented in this article is intended to be accurate and authoritative information on the subject matter at the time submitted for publication. It is distributed with the understanding that Vantaggio HR is not rendering legal advice and assumes no liability whatsoever in connection with its use. Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article.
Copyright © 2020

Lauraine Bifulco is President and Principal Consultant of Vantaggio HR, a human resource outsourcing and consulting firm that works with companies of all sizes across all industries, offering services on a fully outsourced or project basis: On-Site HR * Payroll Admin * Workplace Complaints & Terminations * Multi-State Audits & Handbooks. 1-877-VHR-relx (1-877-847-7359) info@VantaggioHR.com

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, Santa Monica, CA, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management.

To order the books, “Cracking the Personality Code”, “Cracking the Business Code” and “Cracking the High-Performance Team Code”, please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Our Sino-Am Leadership Program helps executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching. For more information visit, http://lighthouseconsulting.com/performance-management/talent-development/sino-american-management-style/.

We also have an affiliate in the UK who covers all of Europe so we are now a true multi-national company that can support our clients globally.

Stop Trying to Shortcut the Hiring Process

By Dana Borowka

If they hadn’t gone on a “shortcut,” the world probably wouldn’t know who the Donner party is today. There is a lesson in this infamous tragedy for all hiring managers.

For the wagons of the Donner party, a group of 81 westward-bound pioneers who were stopped by a blizzard at the gateway to California in the fall of 1846, getting over the Sierra covered wagonsummit proved to be an insurmountable obstacle. In a 2008 book, Desperate Passage: The Donner Party’s Perilous Journey West, journalist Ethan Rarick chronicled the misadventures of the infamous group.

Rarick argues because of an ill-advised decision to take an untested shortcut earlier that summer—the wagon train, named after its leader, George Donner, was trapped by a severe fall storm. When their food ran out, they roasted shoestrings and ate animal hides to stay alive. Finally, snowbound, with little hope of rescue, they started to eat those who died by starvation. The 45 survivors were rescued in February of 1847.

But why did it happen? The members of the Donner Party listened to some hucksters on the trail who had an idea of a straighter route to try. The problem was that the shortcut went over the Wasatch Mountains and through the Great Salt Lake desert; however, these two barriers meant that straighter was not really shorter. The three-week delay led to disaster.

The Donner party was not a military expedition, band of gold seekers, or a group of explorers. These were ordinary people trying to find a better life. The tragic mistake was being duped into believing there was an easy shortcut.

Beware of Shortcut Hiring Hucksters Today

Not to alarm you, but don’t take choosing a personality test lightly. There are many services that boast a quick and easy way to profile a job candidate with personality testing. Taking these shortcuts can result in bad hires that have a negative impact on your bottom line and that won’t benefit you or your workforce.maze cutting

According to the research in my book, Cracking the Personality Code, today there are around 2,500 cognitive and personality tests on the market. So how do you decide which one to use? An organization risks lawsuits if it fails to do proper due diligence in test selection. That’s because there are a multitude of assessments available out there and the industry is totally unregulated.

To understand how to choose from the plethora of personality tests, it is helpful to understand the origins of these instruments.

The quest began in a mental hospital in Minnesota during World War II. A test called the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory was created to diagnose mental illness with yes-or-no responses to a series of questions. In an attempt to put some science into the hiring process, many companies start employing psychologists who in turn used this existing MMPI psychopathological test to screen job applicants. The test includes true-false questions like “I never indulge in unusual sex practices” and “I feel sure there is only one true religion.” Of course, this seemed strange and intrusive to most job applicants who took the test over the next six decades.

Meanwhile, a Harvard University instructor and psychologist named Raymond Cattell working in the Adjutant General’s office devised psychological tests for the military. After the war he accepts a research professorship at the University of Illinois where they were developing the first electronic computer, the Illiac I, which would make it possible for the first time to do large-scale factor analyses of his personality testing theories.

runs with computerCattell used an IBM sorter and the brand-new Illiac computer to perform factor analysis on 4,500 personality-related words. The result was a test to measure intelligence and to assess personality traits known as the Sixteen Personality Factor questionnaire (16PF). First published in 1949, the 16PF profiles individuals using 16 different personality traits. Cattell’s research proved that while most people have surface personality traits that can be easily observed, we also have source traits that can be discovered only by the statistical processes of factor analysis.

In 1963 W.T. Norman verified Cattell’s work but felt that only five factors really shape personality: extraversion, independence, self-control, anxiety and tough-mindedness. Dubbed the “Big Five” approach, this has become the basis of many of the modern personality tests on the market today. There have been hundreds and hundreds of studies validating the approach.

The five decades of research findings has served as the framework for constructing a number of derivative personality inventories. This is a topic that’s been researched extensively by the field of industrial and organizational psychology. Some clear dictates of what to do and what not to do have emerged.

Five Dos and Don’ts

Some personality testing services simply deliver a test score and guidelines. Others provide a superficial level of analysis that is not much to go on. What hiring managers really need is an in-depth analysis of the test in the context of the job description and the candidate’s resume.

Here are my top five shortcut don’ts:

• Don’t use a basic personality screening that takes 20 minutes or less as a final screening tool.
• Don’t skip a phone interview.
• Don’t try to shorten multiple face-to-face interviews.
• Don’t skip background and reference checks, and never skip financial background checks when appropriate for the position.
• Don’t skip giving someone homework during the interviewing process.

Here are five dos:

• Do use an in-depth work style and personality assessment.
• Do look for red flags in the results concerning behavioral issues.
• Do use testing to identify how team members are likely to interact.
• Do use testing to ensure you have the right people in the right positions.
• Do use a trained professional to review the testing results with you – they should have a copy of the candidate’s resume and job description for the debrief discussion.

The testing procedure that a company follows can send a message to candidates that the company leaders are serious about who they hire. Successful people want to work with other successful people. In many cases, the candidate may accept a position from the organization they perceive to be more thoughtful during the hiring process.

Conclusion

The astounding thing is how many companies undertake such huge investments in hiring and do not pay attention to what is known about using personality assessments to pick out the people who are going to be the best. An in-depth assessment is only one component needed for a successful recruitment and hiring program. Armed with accurate and quantifiable data from an in-depth personality assessment, the interview process becomes much more reliable. When it comes to limiting the potential for wrong hiring decisions, there really is no shortcut.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2020 

Dana Borowka, MA, CEO of Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC and his organization constantly remain focused on their mission statement – “To bring effective insight to your organization”. They do this through the use of in-depth work style assessments to raise the hiring bar so companies select the right people to reduce hiring and management errors. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management. Dana has over 25 years of business consulting experience and is a nationally renowned speaker, radio and TV personality on many topics. He is the co-author of the books, “Cracking the Personality Code” “Cracking the Business Code” and “Cracking the High-Performance Team Code”.  To order the books, please visit www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, Santa Monica, CA, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management.

Our Sino-Am Leadership Program helps executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching. For more information visit, http://lighthouseconsulting.com/performance-management/talent-development/sino-american-management-style/.  We also have an affiliate in the UK who covers all of Europe so we are now a true multi-national company that can support our clients globally.

Why You Need to Take Choosing Assessments Seriously

By Dana Borowka

Today there are approximately 2,500 personality tests on the market. So how do you decide which one to use?

On the upside, the testing procedure that a company follows can send a message to candidates that the company leaders are serious about who they hire. Successful people want to work with other successful people. In many cases, the candidate may accept a position from the organization they perceive to be more thoughtful during the hiring process.

On the downside, an organization risks lawsuits if it fails to do proper due diligence in assessment selection. That’s because there are a multitude of assessments available out there and the industry is totally unregulated.

Any company providing a personality assessment needs to address the number of scales they are using. A primary scale represents a personality trait. The more scales, the clearer the picture of the individual’s personality. We recommend having a minimum of a dozen scales.

“This is a topic that’s been researched to death by the field of industrial and organizational psychology,” said Peter Cappelli, a management professor from Wharton University who Ellen Borowka and I quoted in our third book, Cracking the High-Performance Team Code. “It’s kind of mind boggling that they would undertake such huge investments and not pay attention to what we know about how to pick out the people who are going to be the best.”

The Origin of Assessments

To understand how to choose from the plethora of personality tests, it is helpful to understand the origins of these instruments.

As early as 2,200 BCE the Chinese used oral examinations to hire and retain civil servants. In 460 BCE the Greek physician Hippocrates developed the first know personality model. At the turn of the 20th century advancements in understanding personality were made by Sigmund Freud, Karl Jung and Wilhelm Wundt.

But for me the real founding father was Raymond Cattell, an Englishman turned Harvard professor.

Cattell was born in a small town in England in 1905 and raised in Devon, where he spent his time sailing and experimenting with science. He received a scholarship to the University of London, where he studied chemistry and physics as an undergraduate.

Fascinated by the cultural effects of World War I, Cattell and grew increasingly interested in psychology. He changed his major and graduated from the University of London with a PhD in psychology in 1929.

Cattell was offered a teaching position at Columbia University in 1937 and moved to the United States. Cattell later joined the faculty at Harvard University at the invitation of Gordon Allport.

During World War II Cattell devised psychological tests for the military. After the war he accepted a research professorship at the University of Illinois where they were developing the first electronic computer, the Illiac I, which would make it possible for the first time to do large-scale factor analyses of his personality testing theories.

Cattell used an IBM sorter and the brand-new Illiac computer to perform factor analysis on 4,500 personality-related words. The result was a test to measure intelligence and to assess personality traits known as the Sixteen Personality Factor questionnaire (16PF).

First published in 1949, the 16PF profiles individuals using 16 different personality traits.

Cattell’s research proved that while most people have surface personality traits that can be easily observed, we also have source traits that can be discovered only by the statistical processes of factor analysis.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Testing

In 1963 W.T. Norman verified Cattell’s work but felt that only five factors really shape personality: extraversion, independence, self-control, anxiety and tough-mindedness. Dubbed the “Big Five” approach, this has become the basis of many of the modern personality tests on the market today. There have been hundreds and hundreds of studies validating the approach.

The five decades of research findings has served as the framework for constructing a number of derivative personality inventories. This is a topic that’s been researched extensively by the field of industrial and organizational psychology. Some clear dictates of what to do and what not to do have emerged.

Here are some testing do’s and don’ts when it comes to shortcuts:

The Do’s:

• Do use in-depth work style and personality assessments
• Do look for red flags in the results concerning behavioral issues
• Do use testing to identify how team members are likely to interact
• Do use testing to ensure you have the right people in the right positions
• Do use a trained professional to review the testing results with you
• Do make sure the testing company has a copy of the candidate’s resume and job description
• Do make sure that the testing company provides a feedback session with each profile

The Don’ts:

• Don’t use a basic personality screening that takes 20 minutes or less
• Don’t skip a phone interview
• Don’t try to shorten multiple face-to-face interviews
• Don’t skip background and reference checks, and never skip financial background checks when appropriate for the position
• Don’t skip giving someone homework during the interviewing process
• Don’t use a testing company that states in there narrative “hire or don’t” hire” — there are many factors that go into the hiring process and that is a misuse of data.

Managing a Better Way

Better assessments mean better management results too. Personality tests not only help when hiring, they just might be a manager’s best tool to connect with employees.

You can manage the hard way or the easy way, the choice is up to you. The hard way is to be the “my way or the highway” type of boss. You know the kind, always forcing workers to do things in a way that isn’t natural for them. Wouldn’t it be better to use your understanding of personality traits to tap into the natural flow, so you can get the best out of your people? Of course, knowing your employees, understanding their concerns, and developing connected relationships with them should be the normal procedure for all managers.

What is the payoff to a manager for developing connected relationships with employees using personality assessments? Here are three good benefits. First, it enables the manager to better anticipate what roadblocks might occur with a worker, and what to try to reduce this resistance. Second, understanding where employees are coming from will help you plan out how much participation you need from them, and will give some clues as to how change should be communicated to them. Third, building connected relationships builds commitment and loyalty.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2020

Dana Borowka, MA, CEO of Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC and his organization constantly remain focused on their mission statement – “To bring effective insight to your organization”. They do this through the use of in-depth work style assessments to raise the hiring bar, so companies select the right people to reduce hiring and management errors. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management. Dana has over 25 years of business consulting experience and is a nationally renowned speaker, radio and TV personality on many topics. He is the co-author of the books, “Cracking the Personality Code”, “Cracking the Business Code” and “Cracking the High-Performance Team Code”. To order the books, please visit www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, Santa Monica, CA, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management.

Our Sino-Am Leadership Program helps executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching. For more information visit, http://lighthouseconsulting.com/performance-management/talent-development/sino-american-management-style/.

We also have an affiliate in the UK who covers all of Europe so we are now a true multi-national company that can support our clients globally.

Hire Right The First Time, Part 2

By Dana Borowka

Is your company still hiring employees using the same process it did five years ago? Think carefully about the question for a moment. Is the company recruiting, screening, interviewing, and verifying using the same techniques and procedures as in the past?

Next question. Do you wonder why so many of your new hires don’t remain in their jobs over six months, or why other companies seem to attract and keep solid employees, but not your company?

It is time for every company to re-examine their hiring practices, or risk falling behind in the race to win great talent.

In Part One (see Hire Right the First Time (http://www.lighthouseconsulting.com/hire-right-first-time/) . . . February 27, 2019) I explored the new rules of recruitment and the necessity of in-depth workstyle and personality assessments.

In this, Part Two, I look at interviewing, background checks, and skills testing. Combined, these practices must form the pillars of a modern-day hiring procedure for companies and organizations of all sizes.

1. Recruitment
2. Interviewing
3. Background Checks
4. In-depth Assessments of Skills and Work Style

Why Change the Hiring Procedure?

In Part One I opened by stating that a wrong hiring decision costs a company 2-3 times the employee’s annual salary. That hurts no matter if it’s an entry-level position or a top executive. Cost is reason enough to change how talent is recruited and hired. But, there’s even more justification for change.

The success of the entire organization is at stake. A company is only as good as the combined ability of its employees to meet customer expectations and outperform the competition. Good employees matter, but therein lies the problem.

Good employees are rare today no matter the industry. (For simplicity sake let’s define “good” as those people with the right skills and right work style personality to perform their given duties with excellence over time). The demand for good employees is higher than ever. The supply is lower than ever. A company has to work differently today to find prospective employees and then identify the “good” ones – those that have the right work style personality and skills to do the job well within the company’s culture.

A Recruiter’s Advice

One area for improvement is how we find and recruit prospective employees. I mentioned in Part One some considerations for a modern-day recruitment effort. To this I’ll add a note about using an executive search firm. Companies frequently make two mistakes in this area. According to Barry Deutsch, Founder of Impact Hiring Solutions (http://www.impacthiringsolutions.com/) and co-author of “You’re Not the Person I Hired”, companies too often use search firms before they must, and they tend to hire a recruiter based only on industry focus.

“Working your network to seek referrals is the absolute first place a company should look when attempting to find candidates for a key role in the company,” Deutsch advises. “Only after shaking the trees should you consider investing in an executive search firm.”

Once a decision is made to use a recruiter, avoid the temptation to think that only those with prior experience in your field can be successful. As Deutsch explains, “Just because a recruiter spent years as an electrical engineering manager, doesn’t mean they’ll be able to bring you the best engineering candidates.” Having a network within a specialty or industry is helpful, but just knowing who to call isn’t the biggest value a recruiter brings to the table. “Effective recruiters earn their fees by being adept at convincing people who already have a good job to consider leaving it for another better opportunity,” Deutsch said. “Ninety percent of managerial and executive positions are filled by people who were already employed and not actively thinking about making a switch.”

Learn the Right Way to Interview

The interview process in most companies is woefully ineffective, according to Deutsch, and is largely to blame for poor hiring decisions. “Companies aren’t investing enough time in preparing for the interview,” he said. He advises his clients to first set the right expectations for the job and make everyone involved in the interview aware of the job’s expectations. “This goes hand in hand with a detailed job description. What is the position expected to know and to accomplish, and by when?”

Once the expectations are documented, map a list of questions to those expectations. “Stop asking the standard, stupid 20 questions. Get strategic with your questions so you receive pointed, meaningful answers,” Deutsch advises. “If you do this important step, you will move closer to hiring the best candidate not the candidate who interviews best.”

Validate Resume and Interview Answers

The next steps in the hiring process will be new to many companies, but a mandatory addition if the organization hopes to achieve a higher level of hiring success. The steps involve Background Checks, Skill Testing, and In-Depth Work Style and Personality Testing.

An article in Inc. Magazine quoted a HireRight 2017 employment screening benchmark report that claimed 85% of employers caught applicants fibbing on their resumes. According to Gordon Basichis, Co-Founder of Corra Group (http://www.corragroup.com/), criminal record and education deception are the most common “surprises” uncovered by Background Checks. The potential hidden liability for the employer is obvious.

Basichis explains that the most common mistake by employers is not going far enough with a background check simply because they are not aware of the types of background checks and in which cases they should be conducted.

1. Employment verification. A leading point of inconsistency.
2. Education verification. Another area of high discrepancy.
3. Social Security Trace. Traces where someone has lived the past seven years.
4. County Civil and Criminal Records. These tend to be the most accurate, but it’s important to know where the candidate has lived so all the counties can be searched.
5. Federal Criminal and Federal Civil Records. Typically, these checks are for employees involved with government contracts, financial positions, or high-level executives.
6. Terror Watch List.

Basichis urges companies to follow the advice of an HR specialist and employment attorney when setting policies for background checks. There are numerous regulations and guidelines at the Federal, State and City levels which must be followed regarding how Background Checks can be conducted and used in the hiring process.

Okay, the candidate aced the well-prepared interview questions, passed the background check with flying colors. Do you extend an offer? Not so fast.

Verifying Skills

The candidate may have said all the right things, but do they really have the skills required for the job? Testing is the only way to verify if the person can do the job as expected. Fortunately, online skills tests exist for hundreds of common jobs from Accounting to Manufacturing to Software Programming.

There simply isn’t an excuse today for hiring someone ill-suited for a job. Candidates can be given a 15-30 minute online skills test in your office and the results are known immediately.

Last year Lighthouse Consulting began offering its clients a catalog of some 200 Skills Tests (http://www.lighthouseconsulting.com/talent-development/skills-testing/) in 16 job categories. These pay-on-demand tests cost $22.50 to $100 – a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of training or re-hiring.

Identifying the Work Style Personality

Great, the skills test was successful, the background checked out, and the interview questions were answered to your satisfaction. NOW can you make the offer? Better not. You may know a lot about this candidate, but you don’t know how they work, or how they work with others. That’s where in-depth workstyle and personality assessments (http://www.lighthouseconsulting.com/assessment-tests/) play an invaluable role in hiring, promoting and team formation.

I went into detail about in-depth work style and personality assessments in Part One (http://www.lighthouseconsulting.com/hire-right-first-time/) of this article, so I’ll recap the key point here. If you aren’t conducting this type of assessment, start doing so immediately. If you are using a tool with only four primary scales (5-10 minute assessment) it might work as a very basic screener but is too superficial to reveal insightful behavioral information about the candidate. In fact, some companies have learned to not even bother with these simplistic profiles. They prefer to give final candidates an in-depth assessment (minimum 164 questions).

As a manager you know all too well the importance of knowing an employee’s work style and how they will interact (or not) with others. Only in-depth assessments based on 16 levels (we call them “scales”) gives you a true picture of the individual on which a hiring decision can be based.

The Pillars of Hiring Success

In conclusion, the structure for achieving hiring success at 80% or better consists of four pillars.

1. Recruitment
2. Interviewing
3. Background Checks
4. Work Style Personality and Skill Assessments

LCS and our partners stand ready to quickly help you put into place the training, tools, and procedures necessary to build a highly effective and competitive organization through better hiring. Reach out to me any time to get started. danab@lighthouseconsulting.com.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2020

Dana Borowka, MA, CEO of Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC and his organization constantly remain focused on their mission statement – “To bring effective insight to your organization”. They do this through the use of in-depth work style assessments to raise the hiring bar so companies select the right people to reduce hiring and management errors. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management. Dana has over 25 years of business consulting experience and is a nationally renowned speaker, radio and TV personality on many topics. He is the co-author of the books, “Cracking the Personality Code”, “Cracking the Business Code” and “Cracking the High-Performance Team Code”. To order the books, please visit www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, Santa Monica, CA, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management.

Our Sino-Am Leadership Program helps executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching. For more information visit, http://lighthouseconsulting.com/performance-management/talent-development/sino-american-management-style/.

We also have an affiliate in the UK who covers all of Europe so we are now a true multi-national company that can support our clients globally.

Hire Right The First Time: Are You Tired of Not Knowing Who You are Hiring?

By Dana Borowka, MA

In this day and age, making the wrong hiring decision can cost a minimum of 2-3 times the annual salary! That’s a high price to pay, and it’s a conservative figure when you factor in the emotional pressures of training, evaluation, termination and then starting the hiring process all over again.  By refining your hiring process, you can turn hiring into a profitable and successful venture.

Creating An Effective Recruitment Program

There are several steps to creating an effective recruitment program. The first starts with the basics – the job description. Many companies don’t even have job descriptions for their bizmen on moneypositions and that’s one of many hiring pitfalls. It’s very difficult to describe a position to a candidate, without having it completely defined. The next problem with job descriptions is that they are usually not definitive enough. It’s important to detail the expected job performance outcome, and be very specific in what is needed and expected. The job description should have 30-, 60-, 90- and 180-day objectives, so the candidate has a clear understanding what is expected for the job. Be sure to review and update job descriptions regularly, as company needs and expectations for a position are bound to change.

The next step is to define where to recruit candidates or target your recruiting process. Now that you have an idea of what you need and expect for the position, where do you find this treasured person? There are many resources: Referrals, recruiters, ads, college placement centers, .com listings, etc. Of course, referrals are usually one of the best sources for candidates and giving out the job description to business associates and friends may reveal the perfect candidate. When working with recruiters, it is very important to be as specific as possible to avoid your time being wasted with unqualified candidates.

According to Arnie Winkler of the Northwest Public Power Association, “Organizations must be specific in understanding what they want in technical competency, cultural fit and behavioral characteristics.” The same is true for ads so that the ad is as definitive as possible. College placement centers are not only good for recruiting college grads, but usually have facilities to list positions that require extensive experience too. They can be especially helpful if they are in close contact with the alumni association.

In today’s environment, we all need to do more than just post an ad. An example of this would be if you post something with a university. The next step would be to reach out to the dean of the department and any clubs or fraternities or sororities on campus. The schools want to help their students get placed so you just need to reach out and ask and then follow-up… follow-up and follow-up again. This is the nature of our environment today. Everyone needs to think outside of the box as to where to find the candidates then be very proactive to find the just right person that you are looking for. Also, never wait until the need arises – you need to have a pro-active recruiting program year round. If you haven’t read the book,“You’re Not The Person I Hired”, please get a copy. It’s the bible of hiring and is filled with ideas that will help for the full recruiting cycle.

Resumes & Interviews

Soon in your hiring process, you will be faced with a big pile of resumes. Look for resumes that are specific to your needs and notice the presentation style, which will tell you athe interview great deal about the candidate. It is helpful to decide what the priorities are for the position and look for those first in the resumes. Once you have settled on a few resumes, we suggest the two step approach to interviewing. The first is the telephone interview, which can save you valuable time and effort. Ask the candidate a set of specific questions, such as: Why are you interested in this position? Please describe three key attributes that you have to offer to our company? Give me one significant program that you had an impact on in the last six months? Listen carefully to the candidate to see if the response fits the job description. This process allows the candidate to earn a face-to-face interview.

When interviewing in person, it is important to listen and not let emotions take over. The candidate should talk about 80 percent of the interview and the interviewer only 20 percent. The goal for interviewing effectively is to note their thinking patterns, and not get caught up in appearances, impressive schools or companies. During the interview, questions that are more specific are helpful in making successful hiring decisions. Some examples are: What significant impact have they had at three or more companies on their resumes – ask for specifics, percentage of change; Please describe in detail what brought about the change; What was their process, from A to Z? and ask how the candidate would handle a specific problem that you have seen in the position.

Reference Checking & Work Style Assessment

Once a candidate has been selected to be hired, then the most difficult part of the hiring process begins – reference checking. Most firms find professional organizations helpful when making background checks. We highly recommend doing a very thorough check including verifying education, job history, criminal (local, state and federal) and credit if it applies. Background and reference checks should be a part of your hiring process.

Yet, as the old saying goes, “You never know someone until you work with them, travel with them or live with them”. Through in-depth work style and personality assessments, you can reduce the possibility of making a hiring error if the appropriate assessment is selected.

When researching profiles, here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. Training or degrees of those who are providing the debrief/interpretation of the data.
  2. A copy of the resume and job description should be supplied to the testing company.
  3. Number of actual scales (minimum of 12)
  4. Scale for “Impression Management” (minimum of 164 questions in the questionnaire)
  5. What is the history of the profile?
  6. Does the profile meet U.S. government employment standards? Has it been reviewed for ADA compliance & gender, culture & racial bias?
  7. Does the data provide an understanding on how an individual is wired?

These are some general questions and if a profile falls short in any one area, we strongly suggest additional research into the accuracy of the data being generated.

Legal Guidelines

A common inquiry from companies and organizations is about the legal guidelines in providing assessments to candidates. Since industries vary, it is always best to check with a trade association or a legal representative. The general rule is that a test or any set of hiring questions needs to be administered to all final candidates in order to assure that discrimination is not taking place. More information may be found at the EEOC website, in the Disability-Related Inquiries and Medical Examinations of Employees section:
http://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/guidance-inquiries.html#2

Another question is how do new hires usually feel about taking an in-depth, work style assessments. It shows that a company is serious about who they hire. If the company presents the testing program as a method of assuring both parties that they are making the right decision, the individual usually responds very well. The bottom line is that hopefully turnover is greatly reduced.

Benefits of Assessments

In-depth assessments can be very helpful for personnel development and succession planning. As a hiring tool, they can be used to develop additional questions for interviewing and confirming the interviewer’s intuition that might be overlooked. This process gains more reliable and accurate data in order to effectively manage individuals to make hiring and personnel decisions a win-win for everyone.

If you are a hiring manager and would like to see a sample of an in-depth assessment, please give us a call or email us. For more information, please contact Dana Borowka at Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC, (310) 453-6556, extension 403 or email dana@lighthouseconsulting.com.

As you have seen, a successful hiring program requires many components that work together to provide the needed information for difficult personnel decisions. Combining a well-defined job description, targeted recruiting and focused interviewing with an effective personality evaluation program, turns hiring into a profitable and rewarding process.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2020

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, Santa Monica, CA, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management.

To order the books, “Cracking the Personality Code”, “Cracking the Business Code” and “Cracking the High-Performance Team Code”, please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Our Sino-Am Leadership Program helps executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching. For more information visit, http://lighthouseconsulting.com/performance-management/talent-development/sino-american-management-style/.

We also have an affiliate in the UK who covers all of Europe so we are now a true multi-national company that can support our clients globally.

Screening Job Candidates: The Top Ten Hiring Mistakes & How To Avoid Them

By Barry Deutsch, MA & Brad Remillard – Excerpt from the book, Cracking the Business Code

When hiring, make sure the person you bring into a critical job is, in fact, the person he or she appears to be. Too often the hiring process is a case of mutually crossed fingers— both parties hope the match is a good one, and hope the gamble they’re taking will pay off. And then, regrettably, when Monday morning rolls around and the work begins, it all unravels.

Whose fault is it when the person who seemed like a fired-up go-getter turns out to be indifferent to goals she didn’t set herself? Whose fault is it when the person hired to overhaul the organizational IT system turns out to be short-tempered, impractical, and a lousy communicator who alienates every functional department head? Whose fault is it when the new sales manager seems to have no impact whatsoever on penetrating two new markets — a mission-critical goal that he seemed fully capable of doing in interviews? Whose fault is it when the person who shows up for the job isn’t the person you thought you hired?

We believe the blame lies squarely with the hiring process itself, and we have compiled evidence to prove it. Our research focusing on more than 20,000 hiring executives during the past 15 years has identified the most common mistakes made in hiring. Through the course of our analysis, we’ve determined the actual failure rate for newly hired managers and executives reaches a staggering 56 percent in many mid-sized and large organizations. We wanted to understand why. Prior to writing our book, You’re Not the Person I Hired!, we analyzed the hiring practices of 225 executive hires in 134 target companies.

What we discovered was that almost every organization makes the same mistakes, over and over again. Most often, several mistakes occurred in each case. In nearly every situation, when new executives and managers failed to meet expectations, a major causal factor was that expectations had not been clearly defined in the first place.

Everything else fell out from there. Here are their ten most frequent mistakes, in reverse rank order:

10. Desperation Hiring: In 55 percent of searches, the hiring organization failed to budget enough time for the search, resulting in shallow sourcing and superficial interviews that failed to identify potential pitfalls.
9. Ignoring Top Candidate’s Needs: 55 percent of searches were handled with a primary focus on the organization’s needs and failed to build a compelling case for why top candidates should make the move.
8. Failure To Probe For Core Success Factors: The five best predictors of long-term success are self-motivation, leadership, comparable past performance, job-specific problem solving, and adaptability. A majority of searches failed to probe for these (56 percent).
7. Fishing in Shallow Waters: The search attracted only “Aggressive” candidates without seeking “Selective” and “Sleeper” candidates (62 percent).
6. Performance Bias: Interviews and offers were rewarded to the “best actor,” not the best candidate (63 percent).
5. Historical Bias: The hiring company used only past performance to predict future results (68 percent).
4. Snap Judgment: Hiring teams relied too heavily on first impressions to make final hiring decisions (72 percent).
3. Inappropriate “Prerequisites” Used Too Early In Selection Process: Hiring teams placed too much emphasis on specific education, technical skills, and industry experience to screen out qualified candidates (76 percent).
2. Superficial interviewing: Candidates’ backgrounds and claims were not deeply probed or verified (92 percent).
1. Inadequate job descriptions: These focused solely on experience and skills, not company expectations. A staggering 93 percent of searches that resulted in new executive failure made this mistake at the outset.

The Causes Of Hiring Mistakes

In their experience, the authors found that hiring mistakes are not caused by willful ignorance or negligence. Most often, new executive failure has several interrelated causes:

1. Inadequate preparation. Rarely had the hiring companies outlined a detailed, measurable definition of “success” that could be used to source, evaluate, and select candidates. Instead, they relied on outdated or insufficient job specs, focused around desired attributes, educational attainment, and so on.

2. Lack of information. After their work with the surveyed companies, nearly all dramatically improved hiring practices and (most important) the performance of new hires. They conclude, therefore, that at least one cause of their earlier hiring failures was not endemic organizational dysfunction, but a lack of information and training about how to hire more effectively at the executive level.

3. “Human nature.” Interpersonal situations like interviews, conducted in a vacuum, are often guided primarily by gut feelings. Hiring team members who have not been trained to minimize these distractions are easily influenced by preconscious perceptions and nonverbal cues. When provided with a tool set designed to counterbalance these biases, interview team performance is far more likely to overcome distractions and focus on more critical success-based matters.

With the most common hiring mistakes and their causes in mind, we have developed and refined the Success Factor Methodology™ (for a free copy go to the website,
www.impacthiringsolutions.com). This structured approach to executive hiring helps our client companies prevent repeating predictable, avoidable hiring pitfalls that plague many new employee hires. We believe every organization — large or small, for-profit or nonprofit, public or private — is capable of using this methodology to significantly improve its hiring success at all levels of the organization.

There is only one way we’ve discovered to make sure the next employee you hire is successful: tightly define what success will look like before the search begins, and focus like a laser beam on verifying that each candidate you see has the demonstrated potential to create that success. The Success Factor Methodology requires a rethinking of almost every part of your hiring process. The progress you make will correlate directly with the amount of dedication, focus, leadership, and effort you expend. It works when you work — and there are no shortcuts.

Stay Focused When The Finish Line Is In Sight

The interview is over. The candidate has left the building. Now comes the hard part; making sense of what you’ve just heard. Assessment, verification, evaluation, and in-depth analysis of the candidate’s stories and claims are on the docket for the interview team. Do you have a systematic process to ensure the candidates have been truthful? How do you ensure you are continuing with the right candidate as you move through various interviews?

If you’re like most hiring executives, when you interview a candidate, you scribbled a few notes in the resume margin. You formed a general impression based on a mélange of nonverbal cues and behaviors. You’ve already decided that you “like” or “don’t like” the candidate. But you don’t have a tool to help you compare apples to apples, and candidates to your Success Factor Snapshot.

The Water Cooler Is No Place To Debrief

We have frequently seen interviewers emerge from a round of interviews and then commiserate near the proverbial water cooler.watercooler talk

• “So, what did you think of Candidate A?”
• “Well, he seemed enthusiastic.”
• “She had a lot of energy.”
• “He was polite.”
• “Seemed okay. I think he could probably do the job.”

These abstract impressions are not grounded in what’s needed to succeed on the job. A case in point: One of the best people a client of ours ever hired nearly wasn’t invited back for a second interview. She was a powerhouse — highly accomplished, with more than enough demonstrable success behind her. In terms of her ability to do the job, she stood head and shoulders above all other candidates.

There was, however, a “problem.” The candidate was not a fashion plate. The company’s employees tended to be fashionable, with name-brand labels oozing out of every office suite. The candidate arrived at the first interview in a tasteful but conservative suit, her hair pulled back in a plain style, wearing minimal makeup. Some members of the interview panel (they never asked who, exactly) apparently fixated on her “lack of grooming.”

When we spoke to the hiring team after the first interview and they expressed reluctance to continue interviewing the candidate, we were puzzled. It took considerable probing to uncover the fact that the interviewers who had expressed reservations were subconsciously prejudiced based on the candidate’s “stodgy, plain” clothing and makeup.

However, the position was not one that required interfacing with clients who would expect flash and style. She would be managing sophisticated financial analysis, planning, budgeting, and forecasting.

Here was a candidate with phenomenal qualifications who had nailed the answer to every question they gave her…but she wasn’t “glam” enough?

We let the hiring committee know what a mistake they were making. The important question, we reminded them, was not whether this candidate subscribed to Vogue and Elle, shopped at Saks, or invested a fifth of her income in facials, French manicures, MAC makeup, or triple foil highlights. The important question — the only question — was whether she could do what the company needed done.

The hiring team rethought their position. The candidate was invited back, eventually offered the job, promoted twice, and last we knew, was still successfully making things happen nearly a decade later, Armani suit or no.

This episode crystallizes a universal truth about candidate evaluation: Superficial, irrelevant issues often get more of an interviewer’s attention than real substance.

“Criteria” To Toss Out

When you interview, what’s on your mental checklist? Some of the most time honored “criteria” have absolutely nothing to do with whether a candidate can do the job.

• Strong presentation
• Assertive or Aggressive
• Manicured
• Polished shoes in the right color (brown with navy, not black)
• “Enthusiasm”
• High Energy
• Good eye contact
• Strong handshake
• Well-spoken
• Instant, unhesitant recall of events from many years ago (honestly, if somebody asked you about something that happened in 1993, wouldn’t you pause and look up to the right as you tried to remember all the details?)
• Smooth speech without “ums” or stutters or backtracking
• Personable

Many hiring mistakes occur because the hiring team draws first impressions from factors like these, or because the candidate either wowed them or bored them during interviews.

The team can lose sight of the real goal: Measuring the candidate’s ability to deliver the results defined in the success factor worksheet.

Remember, you’re not hiring an actor; you’re hiring an Operations Director, or a VP of Finance, or a Plant Manager. In what way, exactly, does a candidate’s handshake correlate with their ability to succeed in those jobs? In some jobs, of course, presentation skills and a solid professional appearance are important. But focusing on “hot-button” factors like those in the list above does not help to select the right candidate.

The Eight-Dimension Success Matrix™

To eliminate interviewers’ ingrained tendency to focus on superficial criteria and miss substantive evidence, we developed a structured tool to help each interviewer evaluate each candidate—objectively, fairly, and comprehensively.

The Eight-Dimension Success Matrix is the tool we have our clients use to rate “fit” based on the examples, illustrations, specifics, results, accomplishments, and patterns of behavior that emerge in candidate interviews.

It is quick to use, easy to understand, and focused on the job itself. Perhaps most importantly, it calibrates interviewer ratings, keeping everyone on the same page. Built around the five key predictors of success, the Eight-Dimension Success Matrix forces interviewers to assess answers to questions in a uniform way.

Accountability to the group is vital. When interviewers know they will have to justify the ratings assigned to each candidate to the entire group of interviewers—especially if they’ve designated Candidate A’s Team Leadership ability 1 while everybody else assigned her a 2—the whole process is taken more seriously.

Because each member of the interviewing team fills out an Eight-Dimension Success Matrix form after each interview, by the end of a long interview cycle, a candidate’s file may contain twenty or more forms. The full file allows the person with final hiring power to evaluate full-spectrum of evaluation on all Success Factors. Skimming the right column helps the hiring executive to rapidly compare the same candidate interview-to-interview, and also to evaluate candidates’ qualifications against each other, on equal footing. For more information on the Eight-Dimension Success Matrix form, go to the website, www.impacthiringsolutions.com.

When References Go Bad

If a candidate makes it to the second round of interviews, it’s getting serious. You’ve settled on one, or possibly two, candidates. You believe with all your heart, soul, and mind that one is the right person for the job. He or she seems to be the cherry on the sundae, and you’re looking forward to making the job offer to the number one candidate.

You phone HR and tell them to make two quick reference calls based on names and numbers the candidate has given you. Once that’s done, you figure, it’s a wrap. Stop right there.
Even though most reference calls tend to be five-minute, rubber stamp, “Is-he-a-nice-guy/would-you-rehire-her/did-she-do-well” conversations, yours will not be. Your calls won’t even technically be “reference calls.” They will be 20 to 30 minutes long. They will go into great detail. They will be deep third-party verifications of what the candidate has told you in the interviews. You will push and probe for nearly as much detail with each reference as you did with the candidate.busy-880800_1280

You must do so, not because you do not trust this person (it’s obvious that you do, or you wouldn’t be on the cusp of offering him a job), but because verification is a mandatory step in a proven hiring process. Ordinary reference calls (and even background checks—more on that in a moment) don’t get to the heart of potential problems.

Most people who receive reference calls expect to be on the line for fewer than ten minutes.  They expect to be able to say simple things like, “Cathy is a great worker! You can’t go wrong hiring her. I’d rehire her in an instant.”

But you, as the hiring company, are about to invest literally hundreds of thousands of dollars in a new hire. To do so without fully verifying what the candidate has told you would be irresponsible. Up until now, you’ve had only the candidate’s word to go on. References, though, are a treasure chest waiting to be opened and explored.

Finding The Right Reference

First off: No family, friends, or personal references. While many applicants still include these in their list, personally invested people are unlikely to yield much useful information. When a reference’s primary relationship with a candidate is personal, there is an automatic conflict of interest. Their loyalty is to the candidate, not you, and most importantly, they are unlikely to be able to speak intelligently about the candidate’s work accomplishments.

Once you’ve decided you want to hire a particular candidate, ask them for three to five professional references. Ideally, these should be former bosses, peers, or individuals they have supervised. They suggest to their search clients that reference checks should be conducted on a 360-degree basis, including all the individuals who might touch this person, both inside and outside the company. Ask for the numbers of key customers, vendors, and suppliers. If the candidate is still employed at a company where they have been for a long time (five years or more), and they would prefer you do not contact their boss until an offer is made, work around it as best you can. Perhaps a former mentor from another department has left the company and would be able to speak about them. Maybe the person who hired them originally and saw them through their meteoric first few years is now retired and living in Key West—call her.

A Top 5% candidate, if he or she is interested in the job, will work with you on this, and may even agree to let you contact a current employer under certain circumstances. As a last resort, sometimes candidates will grant you permission to talk with their boss once an offer is formally presented. You can always make the offer contingent upon the successful outcome of reference checks. Because coworkers and colleagues have usually spent more time with the candidate than the boss, they are outstanding sources of verification. Usually “lateral” references can offer deeper insights into work style, team leadership ability, personality, and cultural issues. Pay particular attention to these areas when speaking to former coworkers, probing for any indications that the person may pose interpersonal problems or “rub people the wrong way.”

Going Deeper: Secondary References

Don’t stop at the first layer of verification. When you speak to first-tier references (those whose names the candidate gave you), ask whom else the candidate worked with, reported to, supervised, or led as part of a team. These are secondary references, and they are additional potential sources of objective verification. Then, go back to the candidate and ask them whether they would mind if you contacted these secondary references. A highly qualified candidate will usually agree immediately.

If you sense hesitation, it may be a red flag. If the candidate objects to contacting a secondary reference, ask why. Sometimes they will offer a good reason (“I was charged with supervising the team’s efforts. His department was always late with their deliverables and I had to ride him hard for a year to make sure he followed up on his commitments. I don’t think Judy, my primary reference, was aware of the ongoing friction between their departments, but Bob in accounting was on the same team. Would you like me to put you in touch with him?”).

Other times, they will be vague and evasive (“Um, well, they didn’t work together much and she didn’t have anything to do with my projects. I don’t think she’d really be able to tell you much.”) Listen carefully to the answers you receive from the candidate and make an informed judgment call before proceeding with a secondary reference verification interview.

As a rule of thumb, if you get strong verification not only from a candidate’s “first tier” of references, but also from secondary references, you can almost bet the farm you’ve found the candidate you’re looking for. (Almost. See “Background Checks” before you leap, though.) Finally, it is important not to “wear out” references. Third-party verification calls should be one of the last items on the hiring agenda, not the first. Not even the middle.

The Eight-Point Success Validation form is lengthy and intense and will take at least thirty minutes to complete; this is a significant investment of time, and you should let people know up front that the call will take this long.

A good third of the information you need about candidates is obtained in verification phone calls. It’s best to set expectations early in a reference phone call. Make it clear that you are not asking for a recommendation. Rather, you are verifying information that you’ve been given, and you would appreciate as much detail as the reference feels comfortable giving.

The Vital Role of Testing And Assessment

We strongly believe testing is a valuable adjunct to the Success Factor Methodology, because when administered correctly, tests can uncover useful information about personality traits, potential for high achievement, and other factors that may not be immediately evident in an interview situation. However, there are several cautions about assessment instruments. We highly recommend that our clients use an outside, third-party assessment professional who is specifically trained to select appropriate tests, as well as administer and interpret the results. Beyond using appropriate personnel, they advise the following:

1. The instrument must be appropriate to the job. Each selected test should measure traits, characteristics, and skills that are directly and obviously relevant to the job. Appropriate scales may be honesty and integrity — important qualities for the person who will be in charge of the company coffers. On the other hand, there is no apparent reason to administer an instrument like the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, which is designed to test for mental and emotional disorders.

2. The instrument must be valid and reliable. The Buros Institute, an organization founded in 1935 to catalog and evaluate psychological tests, publishes two comprehensive directories that can help you to select instruments that are known to be reliable and valid. The Mental Measurements Yearbook and Tests In Print are available at most libraries and contain descriptions and reviews of psychological instruments.  Be sure to ask consulting industrial psychologists whether the assessments they use are listed in these directories. If you are interested in how they were developed and validated, you can consult these reference works. At last count, the volumes had collected development, price, administration, and interpretation data on more than 11,000 instruments.

3. Be wary of free online tests. Unless they come from a highly regarded institute and/or are listed in one of the books mentioned above, they may not be valid and reliable instruments.

4. The instrument must be administered and interpreted professionally. We cannot emphasize enough that tests, inventories, personality profiles, and the like are difficult to interpret for a nonprofessional. Human Resources professionals are generally not qualified to administer psychological or behavioral tests. If you do choose to use some form of assessment to help you make a hiring decision, it is safer and more effective to delegate responsibility to a third party, who will likely ask candidates to sign waivers before taking the tests. These professionals will also ensure that untrained people on the hiring team do not focus on one or two potentially “negative” findings in a 20-page report—something they have seen frequently.

Getting the Right Information

As with any business decision, having the right information is critical. Work style and personality assessment testing can provide insight into potential hires, as well as your current workforce, in several ways:

1. Identify potential red flags: An in-depth work style and personality assessment can discover issues that are sometimes overlooked during the interviewing process and can quantify an intuition or feeling the interviewer may have about a particular candidate. It can be used to identify potential red flags concerning behavioral issues, help understand how to manage individuals for greater work performance and compare interpersonal dynamics of teams, departments and candidates.

2. Learn how to optimize employees’ work performance: An in-depth assessment can provide extensive information on an individual’s ability to work with their job responsibilities, team dynamics and company culture. Additionally, the assessment can show effective strategies to gain optimal performance from that individual within their particular work environment. It can also be employed to quickly identify the most effective management style for a new employee or predict how team members are likely to interact.

3. Ensure you have the right people in the right positions: Additionally, personality assessments can be utilized in rehires, or situations which call for employees to re-apply for their current jobs, as in the case of a corporate merger or restructuring. A personality assessment test can also ensure that your company continues to have the right people in the right positions and distribute assets & talents effectively.

Which Assessment Tool Should My Organization Use?

The following are some things to think about when reviewing various work style & personality profiles:

1. Training or degrees of those who are providing the debrief/interpretation of the data.
2. A copy of the resume and job description should be supplied to the testing company.
3. Scale for “Impression Management”
4. What is the history of the profile?
5. Cultural bias
6. Does the profile meet U.S. government employment standards? Has it been reviewed for ADA compliance & gender, culture & racial bias?
7. Reading level required (5th grade English, etc.)
8. Number of actual scales (minimum of 12+ primary scales – 16 is optimal)
9. Does the data provide an understanding on how an individual is wired?

These are some general questions and if a profile falls short in any one area, we strongly suggest additional research into the accuracy of the data being generated.

Frequently Asked Questions

A frequent question from companies and organizations concerns the legal guidelines in administering assessments to potential employees. Industry regulations can vary and the best option is to consult with your company’s trade association or legal department. As a general rule, if your company uses an assessment, any test or set of hiring questions must be administered to all of the final candidates in order to assure that discrimination is not present. Additional information can be found online at the EEOC website, in the Disability-Related Inquiries and Medical Examinations of Employees section: http://www.eeoc.gov/docs/guidance-inquiries.html.

An additional question concerns how a new hire may feel about taking an in-depth personality and work style assessment. There is a certain amount of “test anxiety” that can be common. However, the test demonstrates that your company is serious about who they hire. If your company explains that the goal of the assessment is to reduce turnover and is only one of several factors involved in the hiring decision, the individual usually responds very well. In many cases, the candidate may accept a position from the organization they perceive to be more thoughtful during the hiring process.

An in-depth assessment is only one component needed for a successful recruitment and hiring program. It can provide valuable information for critical personnel decisions. Combined with an effective recruitment program and skilled interview techniques, it can benefit your company as a whole, in addition to your individual employees. Armed with accurate and quantifiable data from an in-depth personality assessment, the interview process becomes much more reliable. Ultimately, this only adds to your organization’s bottom line, allowing more effective management of your existing workforce and limiting the potential for wrong hiring decisions. For more information, please call (310) 453-6556, ext. 403 or email us at dana@lighthouseconsulting.com.

A Comprehensive Background Check

Finally, we reach the granddaddy of all pre-hiring due diligence: The Background Check. As with psychological and personality testing, we believe this is an activity best left to trained professionals who understand the legal and ethical constraints of such activities.

Background checks are often the last shield between a hiring company and a particularly slick candidate who interviews well. You might be surprised at how many people woman with mag glassmisrepresent their educational credentials, for example. In recent years, the media has exposed numerous scandals resulting from puffery in nearly every sector.

• In 2004, Quincy Troupe, poet laureate of the State of California and a tenured college professor, resigned his post. The reason? He had lied for years about his background, listing himself as a graduate of Grambling University. In fact, the professor (who was in charge of training graduate students, among other duties) he had never even finished a bachelor’s degree.
• Jeffrey Papows, former president of Lotus Software, was revealed by a 1999 Wall Street Journal investigation to have habitually exaggerated his past and accomplishments. While he claimed to be an orphan who rose through military ranks to eventually earn a Ph.D. from Pepperdine, he in fact had parents living in Massachusetts and a Ph.D. from a correspondence school. (He did, however, have a Master’s from Pepperdine.)
• Sandra Baldwin, former president of the United States Olympic Committee, resigned after admitting that she had lied on her resume about earning a Ph.D from Arizona State University. She had not.
• Joseph Ellis, a Pulitzer Prize–winning biographer and professor of history at Mt. Holyoke College, was immensely popular for courses that included his personal insights into the violence and mayhem he had witnessed in Vietnam. In 2001, however, the Boston Globe exposed him: Dr. Ellis had never left the States during the Vietnam War.
• In 2002, Veritas Software lost its Chief Financial Officer, Kenneth Lonchar, who resigned after his employer found out he had lied about his education, including an MBA from Stanford. He never earned such a degree. The company’s stock plummeted in the weeks following these revelations.

There are many more cases like these. We could fill ten pages with just recent examples of resume-padding gone horribly wrong. Obviously all these people were highly accomplished, but their basic dishonesty about degrees and other background information introduced high levels of doubt about their overall ethics and trustworthiness.

If such visible and respected organizations can be successfully bluffed in their highest-level hires, it can happen to your organization, too. The only way to be sure everything you’ve heard is true is to invest the time and money to verify the candidate’s claims on his resume or other documents he completes and signs after beginning the interviewing process.

Many third-party providers can run a comprehensive background check to make sure there are no skeletons in any closet. These companies are fully up-to-date on laws that regulate the extent to which such checks can be used prior to employment.

If you decide to wait to run these checks until after you extend an offer, be sure you make the offer contingent upon satisfactory results from the background check.

1. Criminal Background. In rare cases, charming, and charismatic characters, who just happen to be crooks, have made it all the way into positions of power. In their own experience, they know of a candidate who was offered a position as CFO without a criminal check. It was revealed later — too late — that he was under active investigation by the FBI and had allegedly embezzled huge sums of money in the past. A criminal background check would have revealed these issues before the company hired him; no matter how charming and convincing he had been in interviews.
2. Credit. For any candidate who will be placed in a role where they will have access to the company coffers (or even something as innocent as a company credit card), we strongly recommend a credit check. Does the person have a huge amount of debt in the form of mortgages and consumer debt? Does the person make their required payments in a timely manner? Has the person filed for bankruptcy? What is their credit score? They realize that nobody is perfect, and while a high level of debt does not automatically disqualify a candidate, nor does the occasional late payment, there is merit in being cautious and checking these items. Financial pressure and stress can cause even the most well-intentioned people to snap. Knowing a high-level executive’s financial straits up front can help to head off potential problems.
3. Educational Background. It may not actually be important to the job whether somebody earned an MBA or simply attended a year of a program without finishing. However, dishonesty about educational achievement is a huge red flag that should cause you to dig much deeper in every other area. If a candidate lies about this accomplishment, what else might he or she be lying about? Because educational background is frequently misrepresented, this check is the most likely place where you will uncover discrepancies. Integrity matters. We never recommend going forward with a candidate who has lied about their education.
4. State Drivers’ License Bureau. If a candidate has a record of arrests for driving under the influence, reckless accidents, or other egregious traffic violations, it may be a hint of deeper problems — and potential liability or risk to the company.
5. Social Security Verification. Social Security will identify the names associated with the candidate’s social security number. While most discrepancies can be cleared up quickly (marriage or adoption changed the last name, or a religious conversion changed the entire name), multiple aliases may be a red flag and should be explained by the candidate.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2020

Barry Deutsch is a well-known thought leader in hiring and peak performance management. He is a frequent and sought-after speaker for management meetings, trade associations, and CEO forums, such as Vistage International, a worldwide CEO membership organization of more than 15,000 CEOs and senior executives. Many of his clients view him as their virtual Chief Talent Officer. Barry is also frequently asked to present IMPACT Hiring Solutions award-winning programs on hiring, retention, and motivating top talent and leverages a vast knowledge base of 25 years in the executive search field, with a track of successful placements in multi-billion dollar Fortune 100 companies, entrepreneurial firms, and middle-market high-growth businesses. He has worked closely with thousands of CEOs and key executives to help improve hiring success, leverage human capital, and raise the bar on talent acquisition. Barry earned his BA and MA from the American University in Washington, D.C. Prior to his executive search career, Barry held positions of responsibility in Finance and General Management with Mattel, Beatrice Foods, and Westinghouse Cable.  Barry can be contacted at barry@impacthiringsolutions.com or 310-378-4571.

Brad Remillard, an executive recruiter with more than 30 years of experience, has conducted more than 10,000 interviews and been involved in more than 2,000 executive searches.  In 2005 along with his partner of 25 years, Barry Deutsch, he co-founded the company IMPACT Hiring Solutions. This firm is dedicated to providing best practices hiring techniques to companies seeking to reduce turnover, recruit qualified candidates, improve interviewing that reduces hiring errors and eliminates candidate embellishment and exaggeration. IMPACT Hiring Solutions accomplishes this via its on-site manage hiring workshops utilizing our trademarked, Success Factor Methodology. These comprehensive in-house workshops and training programs are highly customized solutions to the specific company’s needs. Previously he served as President of CJA Executive Search, which was recognized as one of the top search firms in Southern California. Brad has trained thousands of managers how to recruit, interview and retain top talent for both Fortune 500 and entrepreneurial companies.  Brad can be reached at brad@impacthiringsolutions.com or 949-310-5659.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, Santa Monica, CA, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management.  To order the books, “Cracking the Personality Code”, “Cracking the Business Code” and soon to be released “Cracking the High-Performance Team Code”, please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

We recently launched a new service called Sino-Am Leadership to help executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching. For more information visit, http://www.lighthouseconsulting.com/performance-management/talent-development/sino-american-management-style/.  We also have an affiliate in the UK who covers all of Europe so we are now a true multi-national company that can support our clients globally.

Optimize Your Staffing Decisions By Using In-Depth Work Style & Personality Assessment Tools

Dana Borowka, MA – Excerpt from Cracking the Business Code

The wrong hiring decision can cost your company well over two to three times the individual’s salary according to Vistage International speaker, Barry Deutsch. This figure may be a conservative estimate because of factors like training, evaluation, termination, re-initiating the hiring process, and lost opportunity costs. There is also an emotional factor involved brain on crane to headin a bad hire situation. Not only can it cause stress and anxiety for both management and employees, but it also takes away focus from your company’s primary goals. Essentially, a bad hire can have a negative impact on your company’s bottom line and that won’t benefit you or your workforce.

These circumstances can be minimized during the initial hiring process by using several techniques including effective recruitment programs, skilled interviewing, and in depth work-style and personality assessment tests. A personality assessment is a highly effective tool and an efficient use of company resources at this crucial point of the decision making process.

This section focuses on in-depth work style and personality assessment tests and how your company can benefit from them during the interview process, before a potential new hire turns into the wrong decision. An in-depth assessment, in conjunction with a thorough interview process and good background check, can reduce the possibility of a hiring error. It also can provide your company with quantifiable information on a candidate’s specific strengths and weaknesses. Moreover, an assessment will offer objective, expert guidance on how best to manage and place that individual within your organization.

In-Depth Work Style and Personality Assessment Testing — A Standard in Recruiting

Assessment tests are a standard recruiting practice for many branches of the government and military, as well as many Fortune 500 companies when assessing potential hires for key or critical positions. They are used to reduce employee turnover and improve department effectiveness. Correctly interpreted, professionals can help guide your organization on how to best manage, communicate, and train new hires and staff members.

As with any business decision, having the right information is critical. Work style and personality assessment testing can provide insight into potential hires, as well as your current workforce, in several ways:

1. Identify potential red flags: An in-depth work style and personality assessment can discover issues that are sometimes overlooked during the interviewing process and can quantify an intuition or feeling the interviewer may have about a particular candidate. It can be used to identify potential red flags concerning behavioral issues, help understand how to manage individuals for greater work performance, and compare interpersonal dynamics of teams, departments, and candidates.
2. Learn how to optimize employees’ work performance: An assessment can provide extensive information on an individual’s ability to work with their job responsibilities, team dynamics, and company culture. Additionally, the assessment can show effective strategies to gain optimal performance from that individual within their particular work environment. It can also be employed to quickly identify the most effective management style for a new employee or predict how team members are likely to interact.
3. Ensure you have the right people in the right positions: Additionally, assessments can be utilized in rehires, or situations which call for employees to re-apply for their current jobs, as in the case of a corporate merger or restructuring. An assessment test can also ensure that your company continues to have the right people in the right positions and distribute assets and talents effectively.

Which Assessment Tool Should My Organization Use?

The following are some things to think about when reviewing various work style and personality profiles:

1. Training or degrees required for interpretation of the data. Weekend training programs can be problematic since testing and human behavior is a very complex subject. When making hiring or internal decisions, organizations need as much information and understanding as possible as the consequences can be very costly.
2. A copy of the resume should be supplied to the testing company to review when discussing the assessment results. We suggest you make sure that they require this as part of the process so it is used when reviewing the assessment.
3. Scale for “Impression Management” to understanding accuracy of results and if someone is trying to “fake good.”
4. Common warning signs: When a representative uses absolute statements when describing human behavior, like “People are all the same” or “People don’t change.” This will convey what their level of understanding of the human personality is. Or when someone claims that their profile is 98 or 99% accurate, which rarely can be clinically supported. If you hear this, ask how the data was collected.
5. Career matching: Some organizations claim to know what the perfect “sales person” or “secretary” is from a personality perspective. Ask how many careers and man with arrowsoccupations have been studied; is the database validated by outside organizations or only by “applied in-house studies.” “Ideal” is very difficult to define due to the variance of geography, job history, and education. What is most important is if the individual has a similar thought pattern that meets the criteria within the job description.
6. Number of clinical studies conducted by major universities and there should be multiple studies for validation purposes.
7. How long has the profile been used — what is the history?
8. How often is the normative database updated and where is the data coming from? (For example, U.S. Census 1990, 2000)
9. Cultural bias — is it built into the profile and for which countries?
10. Does the profile meet U.S. government employment standards? Has it been reviewed for ADA compliance and gender, culture, and racial bias?
11. Reading level required (5th grade English, etc).
12. Number of profiles administered.
13. Number of actual primary scales as defined by the “Big 5” testing standards. Many tests will claim to have more scales than they actually have — this can lead to misrepresentation of data.
14. Does the data provide the depth necessary to understand how an individual is wired inside?
15. Validity, reliability, and basis.

These are some general questions and if a profile falls short in any one area, we strongly suggest additional research into the accuracy of the data being generated.

Frequently Asked Questions

A frequent question from companies and organizations concerns the legal guidelines in administering assessments to potential employees. Industry regulations can vary and the best option is to consult with your company’s trade association or legal department. As a general rule, if your company uses an assessment, any test or set of hiring questions must be administered to all of the final candidates in order to assure that discrimination is not present. Additional information can be found online at the EEOC website, in the Disability-Related Inquiries and Medical Examinations of Employees section: http://www.eeoc.gov/docs/guidance-inquiries.html.

An additional question concerns how a new hire may feel about taking an in-depth personality and work style assessment. There is a certain amount of “test anxiety” that can be common. However, the test demonstrates that your company is serious about who they hire. If your company explains that the goal of the assessment is to reduce turnover and is only one of several factors involved in the hiring decision, the individual usually responds very well. In many cases, the candidate may accept a position from the organization they perceive to be more thoughtful during the hiring process.

Conclusion

An assessment is only one component needed for a successful recruitment and hiring program. It can provide valuable information for critical personnel decisions. Combined with an effective recruitment program and skilled interview techniques, it can benefit your company as a whole, in addition to your individual employees. Armed with accurate and man with magnify glassquantifiable data from an in-depth assessment, the interview process becomes much more reliable. Ultimately, this only adds to your organization’s bottom line, allowing more effective management of your existing workforce and limiting the potential for wrong hiring decisions.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2016 

Dana Borowka, MA, CEO of Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC and his organization constantly remain focused on their mission statement – “To bring effective insight to your organization”. They do this through the use of in-depth work style assessments to raise the hiring bar so companies select the right people to reduce hiring and management errors. They also have a full service consulting division that provides domestic and international interpersonal coaching, executive onboarding, leadership training, global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training, operational productivity improvement, 360s and employee surveys as well as a variety of workshops. Dana has over 25 years of business consulting experience and is a nationally renowned speaker, radio and TV personality on many topics. He provides workshops on hiring, managing for the future, and techniques to improve interpersonal communications that have a proven ROI. He is the co-author of the books, “Cracking the Personality Code” and “Cracking the Business Code”. To order the books, please visit www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development, team building, interpersonal & communication training, career guidance & transition, conflict management, 360s, workshops, and executive & employee coaching. Other areas of expertise: Executive on boarding for success, leadership training for the 21st century, exploring global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training and operational productivity improvement.

We recently launched a new service called Sino-Am Leadership to help executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching. For more information visit, http://www.lighthouseconsulting.com/performance-management/talent-development/sino-american-management-style/.

How to Hire Loop Closers: Train, Talk and Test to Create a Terrific Team of Loop Closers

By Dana Borowka

Don’t you hate it when this happens? Most business execs face situations where they thought someone in their employ would do something and it turns out they either forgot, ignored you or did the wrong thing. All of these issues are a result of not closing the loop.

BizfootballBusiness leaders struggle to get important tasks done because they have to rely on others. Unfortunately, this reliance is just part of doing business. To better achieve your objectives, it’s vital that you create a team committed to follow through — closing the loop — so that vital actions can get done.

In business jargon, “closing the loop”, means to follow up on and/or close out an area of discussion. The phrase is closely related to “circle back around” and “loop in”.

Closing the loop is akin to following up, checking in or closing the deal. The term comes from control systems where they close the control loop in order for the system to remain stable. The opposite of a stable system is one that is unstable. In control system parlance, this is referred to as an open loop system since it has no feedback and thus will likely spin out of control — kind of like projects without any follow-up.

The secrets of creating a team of loop closers are the three Ts: training, talking, and testing.

Training About It

A champion of closing the loop is Wanda Allen, a person with some pointed advice about the importance of follow up.

As a business banker for more than two decades, Allen has over 20 years experience in management and business development. Her area of expertise was SBA Lending where she managed SBA Departments that generated $100 million in annual loan volume. Her banking career built a thorough understanding for creating and retaining excellent client relationships while implementing a system that supports consistent closing the loop practices.

When the bank she worked for was acquired, she reinvented herself as a national speaker, coach and the author of the book, Follow Up Savvy, as well as being a contributing author to Amazon’s #1 Best Seller, Selling With Synchronicity.

Allen has five key teachings that should be used in employee training to create a loop closing culture. Teach your employees to do the following. Everyone you work with is a ”customer”. That includes all internal departments, vendors and clients.

1. Reach out right away. When you meet someone and feel a connection, reach out within 48 hours to take that relationship to the next level. “Networking is a popular way to meet new contacts and prospects,” says Allen. “However, all too often the new contacts are never followed up with. Studies show that 48 percent of sales people never follow up. This is a first impression opportunity that will make you memorable.”

2. Say thank you to your clients. They have agreed to do business with you and it’s important to show your appreciation. “When we were kids, we were taught to say thank you,” says Allen. “That simple act has all but disappeared. The fast paced culture we live in has pushed common courtesy to the side. Be different and say thank you.”

3. Keep your clients close. Stay in touch (another form of follow up) with your clients a minimum of three times per year, more if necessary. “As much as we think we wouldn’t be Bizpassingbatonforgotten about…we will if we’re not staying in touch,” says Allen. “This is especially important for transactional businesses. Even if a client was satisfied with your products and/or services, that’s not enough reason to be remembered. The only way to be remembered is to stay in touch.”

4. Call those clients. Call your clients for no other reason than to just say hi and see how they’re doing. This is always a nice surprise. “It’s a nice gesture to check in with your clients when it has nothing to do with business,” says Allen. “This is how the relationship and loyalty are strengthened. It shows that your client is more than the business being conducted. “

5. Closing the loop also requires technology. Decide on one database program that best fits your needs and use it consistently. A database program is the heart of an effective follow up system. “It’s very difficult to stay on top of your follow up responsibilities if the information is not centralized,” says Allen. “Without a database program, follow up becomes overwhelming and unmanageable. The program will keep the information organized and no one will ever be forgotten. “

Talking About It

Make closing the loop a part of your conversations at the workplace. A leader needs to be a storyteller, and one of the stories you want to tell is about the importance of closing the loop.

digginginTalk about what goes right and what goes wrong. A vital step in closing the loop—perhaps the most important—requires digging in to find the root causes of an individual customer’s problem, and, whenever possible, “fixing” the situation for that customer. This means you have to talk with those customers whose feedback deserves follow-up so you can probe deeper.

Tell your people time and again that the primary goal should be to fix the customer’s individual problems, but this follow-up can also help you identify and address more systemic issues. Talking about loop closing can guide you in improving products, policies, services and processes so that every customer gets a better experience and problems don’t recur.

Testing About It

Before you hire, test your top candidates to help determine if they are loop closers or if they have loop closing aptitude. To build a culture of loop closing, attitude and aptitude are everything.

While we are staunch advocates of in-depth work style & personality assessments, we admit there are limits to its power. If you meet a profiling organization that says you can decide to hire or not hire based on test data alone, please walk away. No, run away. Personality testing is not a silver bullet or magic potion.

The secret is to cultivate top performers through a three-step process: assess candidates with personality profiling, screen candidates for behavioral tendencies like an aptitude for loopquestionmkhead closing, and manage more effectively based on behavioral styles to reinforce the importance of follow up and follow through. The goal is to base your hiring and managing decisions on the best data that can be collected, not just your gut instincts (which can fool you).

Of course, no matter how good an interviewer you are, you are not getting the full picture during an interview. The next step has to do with background and reference checks and personality assessments. Trust, but verify.

What criteria should you use to screen an in-depth work style & personality assessment? Here are some questions you need to ask:

  • What training or degrees are required for interpretation of the data? Tests that only require a weekend training program to interpret data can be problematic since testing is a very complex subject. When making hiring or internal decisions, managers need as much information and understanding as possible because the consequences can be costly.
  • If you hire a testing company, do they also review the person’s resume and job description? We suggest you make sure that the testing company requires that they are provided with the resume and job description as part of the process so it is used when reviewing the assessment. Probe on issues of follow up, follow through and loop closing.
  • Does the test you use have a scale for “Impression Management” to understand the accuracy of results and determine if the test taker is trying to “fake good”? Yes, job candidates try to game the test. The questionnaire needs a minimum of 164 questions to gather enough data for this scale. 
  • What is the number of actual primary scales used? Many tests will claim to have more scales than they actually have.
  • Does the data provide the depth necessary to understand how an individual is wired inside? If they only use four primary scales, that is not sufficient. You need a minimum of 12 primary scales and 16 are optimal.

grouplightbulbThese are some general questions and if a profile falls short in any area, we strongly suggest additional research into the accuracy of the data being generated. In our book, Cracking the Personality Code you will find additional information on this topic. While personality testing can be a valuable resource before you hire, perhaps the true value of any assessment comes in using the insights it provides along the entire spectrum of employment. Personality assessments lend objectivity to decisions that may otherwise be largely subjective. Again, use the interview to find out if they have a good attitude and a good aptitude when it comes to the subject of being a loop closer.

Ready to learn more about closing the loop? Then click here for our bonus article, “Three Tips from Three Loop Closing Experts”.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2015

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development, team building, interpersonal & communication training, career guidance & transition, conflict management, 360s, workshops, and executive & employee coaching. Other areas of expertise: Executive on boarding for success, leadership training for the 21st century, exploring global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training and operational productivity improvement. To order the books, Cracking the Personality Code and Cracking the Business Code, please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

We recently launched a new service called Sino-Am Leadership to help executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching. For more information visit, http://www.lighthouseconsulting.com/performance-management/talent-development/sino-american-management-style/.

Win the War for Talent with a Cash Balance Retirement Plan

By Dan Kravitz

From the boardroom bunkers to the cubicle trenches, competition to hire the best and brightest is increasingly intense. McKinsey & Company’s recent CEO briefing report, “Talent Tensions Ahead” projected a hiring gap as high as 11 percent of demand for staff with advanced degrees by 2020. Moreover, in our competitive global economy, attrition rates are climbing in many organizations.business people race

What can employers do to improve their competitive edge when it comes to recruiting and retaining talented professionals? Company-sponsored retirement plans play a crucial role. For many high income professionals, qualified retirement plans are one of the most important sources of lifetime wealth accumulation. Consequently, any organization that wants to win the war for talent must offer a highly competitive retirement package.

What makes a retirement package compelling to talented, in-demand professionals? A generous 401(k) profit sharing plan is a good starting point but no longer goes far enough. Adding a Cash Balance (hybrid) plan makes an enormous difference, allowing high earners to double or even triple their pre-tax retirement savings and compress 20 years of retirement savings into 10. Depending on age and income, these high earners may be able to move into a lower tax bracket after their firm adds a Cash Balance plan. This shift will significantly reduce the impact of the 2013 tax hikes.

What is a Cash Balance plan?

A Cash Balance Plan is a unique type of IRS-qualified retirement plan also known as a hybrid, since it combines features of both defined benefit and defined contribution plans. Financial advisors and CPAs often describe Cash Balance as the best of both worlds, offering the portability and flexibility of a defined piggy bank savingscontribution plan along with the high contribution limits of a traditional defined benefit plan. Cash Balance plans are almost always offered as an add-on to an existing 401(k) profit sharing plan in order to create an optimized tax-efficient plan design.

For example, a 55-year-old in 2015 is limited to $24,000 in 401(k) contributions and $35,000 in profit sharing. But if her firm added a Cash Balance plan, she could enjoy a tax-deferred Cash Balance contribution of up to $175,000, toward a lifetime limit of $2.6M. Combined with her $59,000 in 401(k) profit sharing, she would have total tax-deferred retirement contributions of $234,000.

Cash Balance plans differ from traditional defined benefit in several key ways which make them appealing to employees at all levels of an organization. Assets are pooled and invested collectively, but participants have individual accounts and can see their balances. Accounts are portable and can be rolled over to an IRA or another qualified account when retiring or leaving the organization. Participants can choose either an annuity or a lump sum option.

The Retention Power of a Cash Balance Plan

Let’s illustrate the concept by looking at the world of law firms. While it’s expensive to lose talented attorneys early in their careers, it’s even more devastating to lose them mid-career. Mid-career lawyers are often in their prime in terms of productivity, skill and client retention. Their loss can greatly affect the firm’s quality of work in addition to its bottom line.

A law firm’s retirement plan can be a crucial factor in an attorney’s decision to leave. Attorneys in their 40s have typically paid down student loans and have home equity, yet many feel far behind on retirement savings. Attorneys, like physicians, start later than many professionals in saving for retirement due to student loans and years of lower paid work as associates. If the firm doesn’t help them meet their financial objectives, they will probably find another firm that can.

The single most important step a law firm, medical group, or any competitive organization can take to improve its retirement plan is to increase pre-tax contributions so partners can grow their qualified retirement accounts while significantly reducing the tax burden. This can be accomplished by adding a Cash Balance plan to the retirement plan already in place.

Law firms making these Cash Balance contributions report greatly improved partner satisfaction with retirement plans. In fact, the majority of AmLaw 200 firms now offer Cash Balance plans or are in the process of adopting them.

“Having worked with many law firms, I’ve found them eager to find ways to reduce their tax burdens,” said David Roberts, a CPA with the Los Angeles firm RBZ. “One of the most significant methods I’ve seen them use is implementing a Cash Balance pension plan in addition to their 401(k) profit sharing plan. This allows them to dramatically increase pre-tax contributions to qualified plans, sometimes as high as $250,000 per year. Cash Balance is a complex plan that may not be right for everyone, but for those who can, I would strongly recommend that they look closely at the option.”

What About Non-Qualified Alternatives?

Facing the limits of a 401(k) profit sharing plan, some business owners and high income professionals turn to savings and investment vehicles outside of a qualified plan, such insurance products, deferred compensation arrangements, and after-tax retirement accounts. However, that means missing out on the enormous financial benefits of a tax-favored qualified plan, outlined here:

Top 5 Advantages of Cash Balance Plans

1. Reducing the tax burden
Funds contributed to Cash Balance Plans are tax-deductible, and the earnings grow tax-deferred until the money is withdrawn. This benefit is enormous and can have a dramatic impact on savings accumulation. At retirement, or when leaving employment, a Cash Balance account can be rolled over into an IRA. No taxes are due until age 70 ½, at which point only a portion of the money is taxed.

2. Accelerating retirement savings
For business owners and partners who have heavily invested in their businesses and feel behind in retirement goals, Cash Balance plans are a unique opportunity to “catch up” faster than any other option can provide. In as little as 10 years, they can receive contributions up to a lifetime limit of $2.6M, going a very long way toward a sense of retirement security.happy people with money

3. Attracting and retaining top talent
Like all qualified plans, Cash Balance plans require contributions to non-owner employees, a requirement that becomes a key benefit for many firms. Money that would otherwise have gone to the IRS is now enriching both the employer’s and employees’ retirement savings, helping attract, reward and retain talented employees. Professional services firms find Cash Balance Plans a great incentive on both the partner level and employee level.

4. Shelter from creditors
Assets in a Cash Balance Plan are protected from creditors in the event of a bankruptcy or lawsuit. In volatile economic times, preserving profits from both taxes and creditors is increasingly important.

5. Protecting retirement savings from market volatility
Because plan assets are usually invested conservatively for actuarial reasons, Cash Balance accounts have avoided the dramatic fluctuations seen in 401(k) accounts over the past decade. While 401(k) account holders often rely on higher risk strategies to maximize growth, Cash Balance plans grow primarily through high contribution amounts earning interest rates that stay ahead of inflation without taking on major risk.

Learn more about Cash Balance plans and explore options with a complimentary plan design

Cash Balance 101- a simple guide to understanding Cash Balance Plans:
http://cashbalancedesign.com/cbc/documents/CashBalance101.pdf

Complete Contribution Limits Table:
http://cashbalancedesign.com/cbc/documents/ContributionLimitsTable.pdf

Visit www.CashBalanceDesign.com or call 877 CB-Plans to learn more about whether a Cash Balance plan would be a fit for your organization.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2015

Dan Kravitz is the president of Kravitz, Inc., one of the nation’s largest independent retirement plan consulting firms. Dan is recognized as a leading national expert on Cash Balance retirement plans and is the author of a popular book on the topic, Beyond the 401(k). He is a frequent speaker at retirement industry conferences and has been interviewed on the topic of Cash Balance plans by many national publications, including the Wall Street Journal. At Kravitz, Dan leads a team of 75 skilled retirement professionals, including 10 actuaries, focusing on innovative plan design and the highest levels of client service. Kravitz manages retirement plans for 1,400 companies across the nation, including more than 500 Cash Balance plans. You can reach him at dkravitz@kravitzinc.com.

Inspiration and Techniques for Building Championship-Level Performance – Lighthouse clients have one thing in common – all are committed to boosting the performance of their organizations. So, we are pleased to introduce our clients and friends to Boaz Rauchwerger — speaker, trainer, author and consultant. We highly recommend Boaz to you. Ask him to deliver one of his inspirational programs at your next executive retreat or strategic planning session.  One of our favorite Boaz programs is “Playing Like a Championship Team Every Day”. It helps you build on the strengths of everyone’s individual differences. This program helps you discover five steps to get everyone to join the building crew and resign from the wrecking crew. This is a very powerful and inspirational program that receives rave reviews every time.

• Master five techniques to inspire others to perform like champions
• Six recognition techniques including the powerful “good finder” program
• Learn four ways that your team can gain a competitive advantage
• Identify the three prerequisites for maximizing the team’s results
• Learn the two forms of keeping a daily score so everyone wins

Who is Boaz? Over a 30-year span, Boaz, author of The Tiberias Transformation – How To Change Your Life In Less Than 8 Minutes A Day, has conducted thousands of seminars internationally on goal setting and high achievement. He has taught over half a million people how to supercharge their lives, their careers and how to add Power to their goals. His innovative program, for individuals and corporations, is a simple and highly effective process for high achievement. He was voted Speaker of the Year by Vistage, an international organization of CEOs and business owners. How to Contact Boaz – Want more information on Boaz’s Power Program, including “Playing Like a Championship Team Every Day”? Just click here and we’ll be in touch.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development, team building, interpersonal & communication training, career guidance & transition, conflict management, 360s, workshops, and executive & employee coaching. Other areas of expertise: Executive on boarding for success, leadership training for the 21st century, exploring global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training and operational productivity improvement.

To order the books, “Cracking the Personality Code” and “Cracking the Business Code” please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.