Happy Holidays!

No “real” post this week as many of you are (hopefully) taking some vacation time.

I hope that you enjoy the holidays with family and friends!

Will Big Data Make Labor Markets More Efficient?

Each time I read an article in the business press on Big Data and hiring I chuckle.  The authors always make it sound like businesses have just recently discovered how to measure attributes about lots of people and apply them to hiring.  The only difference now is that there is a lot more data about people available on-line (“the digital exhaust”) for the applicant pool to whom it might apply (programmers, software engineers, etc.).

This article is no exception.  The first half is somewhat unfocused on the use of data to hire, but then it gets to the first main point:  The data is there and it can be useful.  Obviously the described algorithms are proprietary, but I would really be interested in seeing at least a range of the correlation coefficients.  With the amount of data being gathered there is bound to be statistical significance, but is there really any practical impact in terms of moving the performance needs?  Do these passive sources of data on people predict above and beyond the general areas that are well researched (cognitive ability, conscientiousness, etc.)?  My hunch is yes.

By the way, how much more is a good programmer worth than an average one?  The big data articles speak a lot about the value of the predictors, but there is very little discussion about the economic impact of performance in digital jobs.  For instance, if we are predicting performance for call center agents, we can put a dollar value on each contact in terms of labor time and how much it costs a company when a customer has to contact the company a second or third time.

The last point the author makes is probably the most important one:  How does big data help identify talent in under valued pools.  The example they give is looking at the quality of code written rather than paying attention to work experience, education, etc.  This is bound to find talent in places where up until now it was not explored.  I have done this before using biodata with clients who were insistent that only people with experience in previous work would succeed in their company (this was rarely the case).  The technique does uncover high performers from non-traditional backgrounds.

When we find new pools of talent we make for a more efficient and rational was to get through the labor pool.  More importantly, we get a step closer to making the hiring process more of a meritocracy.  This benefits applicants (I get ahead based on what I can do) and employers (we are hiring the best people available).  And isn’t that the goal of any selection process?

For more information on pre-employment testing, test validation, skills assessment and talent management, please contact Warren at 310 670-4175 or  warren@allaboutperformance.biz.

Keeping Recruiting and Selection Strong

After the 1992 riots, the City of LA decided it needed 10,000 police on the streets (I have no idea how they came up with that number, except that it’s sexier than 9,423).  The LA Times reports that officials blame budget cuts which have reduced recruiting campaigns.  Really, as if people interested in police work do not realize that the LAPD is around?  The brass also cites that other jurisdictions offer higher salaries, hence reducing the talent available to work for the LAPD.

I’m sure that that for space reasons the article does not go into all of the LAPD’s recruiting activities.  However, it would have been nice to hear someone in charge say, “Yes, it is a problem, but we’re spending more of our resources on reaching out to returning veterans” or some other ACTIVE method of recruiting.  That they blame the number (and quality) of applicants on a reduction in passive recruiting methods is silly.

Then there is the quality of candidates.  In an era of high unemployment, the department reports lower passing rates during their pre-employment process (which you can read about here).  So, they have turned the trick of getting fewer and lower qualified applicants.  From the article, the personnel department is holding firm in giving up some information that the LAPD wants to “analyze” (read as find ways to water it down so they can fill more cars).  Good for the personnel people for sticking to their, um, guns.

It is important to determine the root cause(s) of problems in hiring.  In this case, everyone seems pretty upfront that it’s a recruitment issue.  Of course, the LAPD’s management and culture don’t always get high marks and in a high cost of living area pay does matter.  But lowering the test standards should not be part of the equation in this instance.  Given all of the challenges and scrutiny it faces, I am going to give the validity of their selection system the benefit of the doubt.  Lowering standards is likely to increase turnover (voluntary and involuntary) and worse.

However, I understand the knee-jerk reaction of, “Hey, we’re not getting enough people in here.  Can’t we lower the test score by just a little to get 10% more people through?”  It seems like an easy and logical fix to those who do not understand the complexities and reasons for setting passing scores.

As a Los Angeles resident and industrial psychologist, I encourage my brethren at the city to keep the recruiters’ feet to fire and maintain the integrity of the validated selection process.  Money is going to be short in the city for the foreseeable future.  Recruitment would be spending their time more wisely looking for better candidates than lower the standards that hire them.

For more information on pre-employment testing, test validation, skills assessment and talent management, please contact Warren at 310 670-4175 or  warren@allaboutperformance.biz.

Opening the Communication Floodgates

Regardless of whatever leadership theory (or theories) you subscribe to, no one questions that effective leaders have good two-way communications skills.  They have to have the ability to both get their ideas across and be able to create an environment where others can share theirs.

There are probably as many approaches to communication as there are leaders.  However, I found the stories in this interview interesting.  The combination of communicating with both transparency and candor can be powerful.  However, being this open takes away what some managers think is their key leverage: Information.  Some think, “If everyone has the same information that I have, what value do I bring to the table?”  These leaders do not understand that their role is to coordinate their group so that they achieve results.

Of course, the culture that allows for open communications is set at the top.  We cannot expect middle-level managers to establish transparency and candor in their areas of responsibility if the situation does not exist above them.

While leaders can develop some communication skills (e.g., becoming a better public speaker), those skills referred to in the interview (trusting others and openness to being constructively questioned) may be more of a selection issue.  This is why it is important to assess potential leaders on their communication skills with direct reports (are they open to upward messages?), peers (do they control or share information?), and managers (are the willing to speak with candor?).  Assessment centers are particularly effective in identifying these skills.  Evaluation communication should also be part of any development measures (360, engagement surveys, etc.) so that you can know how well the leader is communicating with others.

Communication skills have always, and will always, be critical to leadership effectiveness.  While the mode of doing so will continue to evolve (from writing to talking to e-mailing to texting to tweeting to whatever is next), the ability to do it transparently and with candor will reap great rewards.

For more information on leadership, employee engagement, and talent management, please contact Warren at 310 670-4175 or  warren@allaboutperformance.biz.

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