Creating Employee Engagement

Much has been said about the “new” employment contract. Companies theoretically agree that employees are not going to stay very long but somehow figure that if they are treated well (e.g., provided with training and interesting work) the people may agree to return when the company needs them. My sense is that most companies would prefer people to stay and be committed to the organization. But how do you create commitment?

You want to make people feel like they earned their way on to the team. One method of doing this is using rigorous selection procedures. While recruiters often do not like these because they require larger applicant pools, people who have to struggle some to join your organization are likely to feel more committed. The difficulty in joining translates to an “If they hired me after all of that I must be good and they must really want me” attitude. This leads to new employees feeling positively about themselves and toward the organization.

Once people have gotten over the bar you will benefit from making them feel wanted and taking affirmative steps towards integrating them into the organization. It sounds simple, but most people want to feel as if they are liked and cared for, even in huge corporations. Part of our psychology is to return those feelings because we tend to like those who act positively toward us.

When my son enrolled at a new school we immediately got calls from other parents wanting to get him together with their kids, inviting us to ask questions, sending us tickets to school events, etc. Regardless of whether one thinks that this is going overboard (we didn’t), it does show the organization’s commitment to us and encourages us to feel the same way toward the school.

While you can select people who are more conscientious and tend to have stable work histories, there is no commitment gene. Your organization has to take the first steps to encourage employee commitment.

For more information on employee engagement, please contact Warren at 310 670-4175 or

What Does Assessment Do For You?

A recent journal article called into question whether performance really does look like a bell curve.  You know, the distribution of anything that is flat towards the ends and fat in the middle.  I have some quibbles with the article, particularly whether we would expect the samples of performance they looked at (professional athletes, Grammy winning singers, etc.) should be distributed like this.  But, they bring up a good point:  Should we expect performance to follow a bell curve?  From an HR perspective, I think the more important issue is how we make the curve look like the distributions in the article.

To the first question, I believe that the bell curve is more likely for entry level jobs than others.  In other words, if you are hiring people for call center or retail positions, randomly hired applicants (something I would never recommend doing), didn’t fire anyone, and then looked at their performance at some later time, you would probably see a bell curve on speed of call handling, customer satisfaction, etc.  This is because there hasn’t been much selection in choosing to apply for the job or in choosing who got it.

As jobs become more specialized and difficult, more self-selection occurs.  The number of people who want to be managers or technicians is smaller than for the entry level jobs.  Also, by this time people start getting feedback about their skills which also helps them self select.  This doesn’t eliminate all poor performers, but it does push the curve to the right and leads to a much smaller poor performance tail.

In the articles examples, we shouldn’t expect there to be a normal distribution of baseball statistics.  Why?  Because there is a rigorous selection process that takes place which starts in grade school.  Only the best of the best make into professional baseball, let alone the major leagues.  While there are differences in performance, there is also less variance in performance, which skews the distributions cited in the article.

But it isn’t just selection that does this.  Baseball players get a lot of training.  There are coaches that work with them on how they hit, catch, throw, and run.  This, along with physical training, a monitored diet, etc. allow them to reach their highest physical potential.  Effective training raises the talent level which against pushes our bell curve.

Lastly, baseball is a game of numbers.  Your manager (and the world) constantly knows what your performance level is (and that of the guy who wants to take your job).  This constant, and objective, performance feedback also motivates and pushes the players to do their best.  Again, it forces them to be high performers because low performers (left side of the curve) are not tolerated and are removed from the major leagues.

What are you doing to ensure that performance in your organization isn’t following a bell curve?

For more information on pre-employment testing, skills assessment, and talent management, please contact Warren at 310 670-4175 or

Criminal Records

Another reminder that ALL of your hiring practices should be job related, even when looking into criminal records

For more information on pre-employment testing, skills assessment, and talent management, please contact Warren at 310 670-4175 or

Are Good Leaders Born or Developed?

If the former, then we shouldn’t even bother with leadership development. We usually think of leaders as those who can inspire and motivate others to put out discretionary effort and effective managers as those who ensure that things get done consistently well. Of course, they are not mutually exclusive and when we talk about leadership development we are usually talking about both concepts.

There is plenty of research on what techniques work in this arena. But, because there are so many over-hyped programs out there, let’s start with what doesn’t work:

1. Job shadowing for senior managers
2. Outdoor activity-based programs (rope climbing, white-water rafting, etc.)
3. Paper-based self-study leadership modules
4. Executive MBA”s and web-based self-study modules when implemented late in the persons career

The second one is most interesting as those team-building weekends sound so attractive. But, they are a waste of time and money. Note that the companies that put these on don’t back up their claims with data.

So, what does work?
1. Mentoring
2. In-house universities
3. Job rotations, executive MBA and web-based programs when started early
Note that these listed above don’t rely on quick fixes. Leadership and good management skills are difficult and complex, so you should expect that they take some time to develop. The successful techniques are interactive. Leadership is a skill practiced in the presence of others. It should be learned that way.

As with other employees, it’s less expensive to make a good hire than to train. In the meantime, be a careful consumer of leadership development products and services.

For more information on leadership, skills assessment, and talent management, please contact Warren at 310 670-4175 or

Realistic ROI


At some point all of us are asked to determine or evaluate the return-on-investment (ROI) of an initiative or project. In its simplest form, ROI answers the question Benefit – Cost = ? Here are some things that you should consider when doing this type of analysis:


• Direct Costs. If you are buying something there is a direct cost. Include travel here as well.

• Indirect Costs. This is the time that you and your staff are putting into the initiative or project.   Don’t be too worried about putting a dollar value on this (for reasons discussed below).

• Costs Over Time. Are there any ongoing costs of the program, such instance licensing fees? Is  it reasonable to expect they will stay the same?


• Measurable Revenue Realized. When computing this (such as how much more sales are being generated as a result of hiring better salespeople) be conservative. Also consider what other factors may have led to the change.

• Measurable Non-Revenue Outcomes. These are outcomes which are clearly desired, but may not be directly tied to revenue. A good example is improved customer satisfaction. When using this type of measure it’s important NOT to put an arbitrary dollar figure on it. If it’s valuable let it speak for itself.

• Time Savings. This is an indirect benefit that is tricky to include in an ROI calculation because if these savings are coming from salaried people they are still paid the same, so there’s no real cost savings (although you may be spending time on more valuable activities).

• True Cost Savings. This would include lower headcounts or the elimination of a direct cost, such as reduction in cost per hire or reduction in training days.

If you are estimating the ROI of a future initiative you would go through a similar process. However, you also need to estimate the anticipated benefits. Research this well so that you can present a realistic (and conservative) number that you can defend. For training programs this means estimating how much people are likely to improve. For selection systems this means estimating the statistical correlation between the test(s) and performance and the anticipated performance of those who are hired.

For more information on ROI of HR, pre-employment testing, skills assessment, and talent management, please contact Warren at 310 670-4175 or

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