A couple years ago when Bill and I wrote and published our book, “No More Rotten Eggs—A Dozen Steps to Grade AA Talent Management”, we featured a quote from Peter Drucker who said, “One third or more of all hiring decisions are outright failures and in no other area of our business would we tolerate such dismal performance.” I was reminded of this quote because I have recently been going back to review Drucker’s life work as compiled in “The Essential Drucker”.
He repeats the message, but in a slightly different form: “Executives spend more time on managing people and making people decisions than on anything else, and they should. No other decisions are so long-lasting in their consequences or so difficult to unmake. And yet, by and large, executives make poor promotion and staffing decisions. By all accounts, their batting average is no better than .333; at most one-third of such decisions turn out right, one-third are minimally effective, and one-third are outright failures.”
Improve Your Odds
Bill and I see this problem every day. We use the latest assessment tools: the Wonderlic to help evaluate IQ and the Thomas Profile System to evaluate personality and emotional intelligence. We do that because we recognize that those are the characteristics that are critical to performance, even more so than education and skills. Yet when we advise clients to pass on a candidate whose Wonderlic score is too low or whose personality is not a fit for the job, all too often they are enamored by their resume and make the hire anyway. Some time later, many are back and looking for someone new.
But the converse is true also. When we find a candidate with a good Wonderlic score and a profile that matches the classic profile for the position, we will recommend that the candidate be considered. But we always emphasize the cautions that are often contained in the Personality Profile Assessment.
Here is a case in point. We tested Maria for a client. She had a good Wonderlic score of 27, which is college level IQ. Her profile matched the classic profile for a successful CSR. In her case the profile contained the following guidance for managing Maria, which we emphasized to the hiring manager: “Maria is motivated by popularity, democratic relationships, and favorable working conditions. At the same time, she needs standard operating procedures with reassurance and personal attention. Her manager needs to recognize that she may need support and reassurance if a decision is needed outside her area of expertise. Ideally, there should be plenty of supportive data to enable Maria to familiarize herself with the requirements of the job.”
Five months later, we received this message from her manager, “Maria didn’t work out. Had difficulty retaining information and wasn’t good at taking directions.”
Drucker maintained that if a manager puts a person into a job and they don’t perform, the manager has made the mistake and should not blame that person.
Years ago when we created the “How To Series”, we focused heavily on the importance of employee development in the people management process. Maria had a good Wonderlic and she had the classic profile for customer service, but she did not survive five months on the job. It is a tragedy when a qualified employee does not succeed. I believe owners and managers must realize that they alone are responsible for the successful development and integration of their top performers into a cohesive team.
I generally find two problems are at the bottom of poor development results. First, there is a failure by management to clearly define the duties and responsibilities of the job. That entails the creation of a current and accurate job description and the establishment of correct and complete processes and procedures. Second, there is a failure to evaluate the job candidate against the job requirements and to conduct a training program to fill in any gaps of knowledge.
People management is the most critical management task that an owner and manager must undertake. Key to that is making the right people decisions, for those decisions reveal whether management is competent, has appropriate values, and takes its job seriously. And those decisions are visible to the staff and send a really clear message.
Debra Thompson is president of TG & Associates, a consulting firm specializing in human resources for the graphics industry. Contact her at 877-842-7762 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Thomas International has published a study which defines what it takes to be a successful outside salesperson. Contact Bill Greif at email@example.com if you would like a copy of the study.