Go Beyond Your Gut
Friday, November 13, 2015

It’s a saying you’ve probably heard before: if you want to thrive in business, go with your gut. But if intuition was the only tool you had to use, you wouldn’t be in business for long. 

Most professionals recognize that successfully growing a business is as much about reliable information as instinct. Even so, I am frequently surprised at how often leaders fail to follow this line of thinking when considering an organization’s greatest asset – its people.
 
It’s not as if there is a lack of tools to size up talent. Psychometric assessment tools have been around for decades, offering insight into individual aptitudes, abilities, personalities and leadership styles. Initially, when they began gaining traction in the business world in the 90s, many were skeptical of their relevance, including me. Yet the field of Human Resource management has evolved dramatically since then, as has our approach to selecting new employees and developing promising talent for future leadership roles. We’ve seen how assessments can support evidence-based talent decisions, minimizing risk and maximizing individual contribution to an organization’s success.
 
As a human capital solutions company, we evaluate nearly 10,000 senior leaders each year.  That experience has given us a deep understanding of leadership, and how different skills and styles can impact a team and an organization. It informs what I call the art of talent decisions, but professionals today seek more ways to add science to the process. They want objective, proven tools that provide an unbiased perspective. In particular, our clients are expressing interest in assessment tools, especially for selection, coaching and development, and improving team effectiveness. Here’s why:
 
Choosing the right talent is not a coin toss – If there was a crystal ball capable of selecting the right person for a role, every HR professional would have one. Instead, recruitment professionals look to multiple sources to validate a decision. Resume reviews, years of experience and references are a given. Yet extensive research has shown these are relatively poor predictors of success in a role. In fact, the information gathered through an unstructured interview, used by an overwhelming number of employers, doesn’t bode much better than the proverbial coin toss.

A structured behaviour-based interview is far more likely to deliver insights that point to a potential leader’s performance. You further improve the likelihood of selection success when questions are based on an assessment of the role, and a candidate is evaluated on how well he or she fits that profile. Pair that with resumes and reference checks and you can identify the right candidate with greater confidence than ever before. 
 
Like any tool, assessments – if applied incorrectly – can have unintended consequences. On occasion, we’ve identified a candidate we believe to be a strong fit for a role, only to find the assessment profile doesn’t align with the client’s ideal. But we’ve found that this creates an excellent opportunity to discuss the results with the candidate and client, and to explore areas where there is an apparent misalignment. By seizing this opportunity, you can discover if a leader has developed strategies to overcome any apparent shortcomings. If he or she hasn’t, it’s better to know that before making your hiring decision.

Assessments can also help to guide an onboarding plan that quickly gets a new hire up and running in the position. Given Corporate Leadership Council data suggesting that 50 percent of newly hired leaders quit or are fired within the first three years of employment, an assessment may help you beat those odds.
 
Investing in leaders under your nose – Succession planning is a hot topic these days in the world of human resources. If you recruit and select well, you should have a strong pool of potential leaders currently in your organization. But it can be difficult to determine how well they are suited for such a pivotal move. Assessments can assist with the process, delivering objective insights and unbiased information that make this decision far less personal. 

The information you gather through the process can also inform coaching conversations and the development of stronger team members, leading to improved self-awareness and tailored development plans.
 
Improving team effectiveness can improve bottom line – Conflict has been around since the dawn of time. Managed well, it can encourage diverse ideas that fuel innovation and ingenuity. Too often, conflict leads to unhealthy team dynamics that compromise productivity, employee engagement, and retention. 

We are all different, and the more we understand our differences, the greater the likelihood we can transform a dysfunctional team into a productive one. Many organizations try to achieve this through team-building activities (e.g., high ropes course, staff party) that have a feel-good effect. Typically, the lift in morale is short-lived, and the underlying issues remain. Assessments provide a foundation for team effectiveness programs with a lasting impact, particularly when combined with a debrief and actionable insight. Team members become more self-aware and gain vital skills that lead to improved communication.
 
Given the information they deliver, there is a solid reason why 89 percent of Fortune 100 companies use assessment tools to support selection, coaching, development and team building. When applied and interpreted by a certified professional, assessment insights can be translated into action plans that drive results. And that’s a safer bet for the future of your business than going with your gut. 

Jeff Forbes
Jeff Forbes , CMC
President & Managing Partner
902.424.1126
Jeff Forbes, CMC, is President and Managing Partner of Knightsbridge Robertson Surrette, with more than 19 years of experience in providing strategic counsel on talent strategies for a wide spectrum of public and private organizations, from start-ups to multi-billion dollar organizations. He has successfully completed hundreds of search assignments in his career, recruiting outstanding executives and senior leaders.