| A recent study by Gallup
research has uncovered a disturbing fact about American workers: 70%
are not engaged in their work. In addition, The Conference Board,
a corporate think-tank, indicates that 53% of Americans are unhappy
in their jobs. Of course, these statistics cover a broad range of
sentiment - from only slightly to very unengaged and/or unhappy. Nevertheless,
the situation clearly must be addressed if the U.S. expects to enjoy
continued productivity in an increasingly competitive world economy.
The obvious question raised by these studies is, "Why?"
Surely, most employers would be quite surprised at hearing such news.
Are our hiring standards, as well as our matching of people to jobs,
so inadequate and unsophisticated that we've allowed this unproductive
situation to occur? The obvious answer is, "Yes!"
Having been in the selection and hiring business for over twenty years,
I can safely say that most American employers go about the hiring
process in precisely the wrong way. When a hiring decision must be
made, it's usual for the supervisor to decide what experience, skills
and perhaps management or operating style are necessary in an incumbent.
He or she may ask the opinion of a subordinate or two, but generally
these decisions are made only by the supervisor. That's the wrong
way to do it!
When asked to help in the selection process, I've used one of two
options to determine the necessary core competencies of an
incumbent. I've either extensively interviewed the supervisor, as
well as several peers, subordinates and perhaps customers, vendors
and anyone else that might interact with a prospective incumbent;
or I've given the same individuals a professionally prepared, validated
questionnaire to determine competencies. These processes are called
However, in nearly every one of these 360° profiling assignments,
the supervisor's views have been substantially skewed from those of
the others interviewed or given profiling questionnaires. Thus, if
hiring decisions had been left only to supervisors, the wrong candidates
would have been hired.
Any wonder, then, that we have these troubling workforce statistics?
When using 360° profiling, we're able to gain a wide perspective
of thinking and feeling, from those involved in nearly every aspect
of an incumbent's work environment. Clearly, the views of a peer might
be quite different from those of a customer, or those of a subordinate
might differ greatly from those of a vendor. Each will have his/her
own opinions about the competencies needed to get the work done.
Each question in the profiling interview or questionnaire relates
to a core competency. To determine an ideal incumbent profile, the
various participants' answers relating to each competency are compared,
and either an average is calculated, or a meeting of participants
produces a consensus of opinion.
This input represents the total competency profile of the ideal candidate,
against which proper recruiting and interviewing can begin.
When using the interview process for profiling, the choice of descriptive
words for various competencies can be a tricky issue. Words can be
confusing, which can cause unreliable results. For example, if the
word persuasive is used, it can have different meanings for
different people. For one it can mean the persuasiveness of a Mother
Theresa to move the world to compassion. For another, it may mean
the persuasiveness of a used car salesperson. Thus, words used should
be fully defined, or they must be used in several different contexts
in order to establish an exact definition for everyone.
A profiling questionnaire often can be the more reliable of the two
methods, since frequently it's the result of considerable study and
experimentation by psychologists and other professionals in the 360°
profiling field. One of the most reliable questionnaire/instruments
I've found is The Birkman Method, which contains some 106 questions
that relate to 17 core competencies. The results of all participants'
questionnaire answers are plotted on a graph, based on group (peer,
subordinate, customer, etc.). Thus, the perspectives of each group
for each competency can be compared with those of all the other groups.
The importance of a competency can be decided either by averaging
all group perspectives for it, or through a consensus meeting of all
Of course, depending on budgets, time and other complexities, it's
often best to use BOTH the interview and questionnaire profiling methods.
After all, it's always best to have as much information/input on hand
as possible when making hiring decisions.
The issue of cost often is raised when considering 360° profiling.
To put this to rest, compare the modest cost of a trained facilitator
(either internal or external) with the cost of choosing the wrong
person for the job. Calculate the cost of severance, job-search assistance
(outplacement), continued benefits, additional recruiting, as well
as lost ramp-up time, productivity and interface time with management.
Cost should be no issue.
360° profiling can help increase employee engagement and reduce
worker unhappiness in American business, thus ensuring our long-term
productivity. It's the best method for making sure we have the "right"
people in the "right" jobs. Instead of believing the supervisor
is the best judge of what it takes to get a subordinate's job done,
let's bring everyone involved in that subordinate's job into the decision
making process. 360° profiling spells S-U-C-C-E-S-S!