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2013 Selection Trends: Managing Uncertainty for Success

By Scott Erker, Ph.D.

Scott Erker, Ph.D. Black and white is out. Uncertainty remains with us this season, but will inspire, rather than depress, creativity in selection design. This uncertain environment has been described as VUCA – a business environment characterized by volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity.  In this sneak-peek preview, we’ll reveal HR must-haves and look at how top-performers are dressing for success.

Without question, smart will remain on trend. The companies to watch will sew up the knowledge gaps as workforce analytics will no longer be a high-tech accessory, but rather a complement to future growth. Inadequate or out of date success profiles and competency models will be counterproductive. More, not less, will be the rallying cry around selection tools, as U.S. organizations draw inspiration from their peers overseas. And, candidates that demonstrate innovative and adaptive capabilities will be in short supply and great demand.

Are you suited-up for success? Read on as we reveal this season’s selection forecast.

Eliminate the guesswork.

In recent years, organizations have done a bang-up job of mining talent analytics—"Big Data"— for insights on employee engagement and retention. There has been, however, a missed opportunity to apply a treasure trove of information to hiring and promotion processes. Many who dig into the data limit their inquiry to time-to-hire and cost-to-fill analyses. Others look to improve the source and/or quality of their hires. Surprisingly, only a few put it all together and maximize the data’s true potential: leverage talent acquisition data as a critical component for strategic workforce planning and overall business strategy.

Why are workforce analytics so important in times of uncertainty? Planning-by-the-numbers affords organizations added flexibility to respond to economic and staffing demand shifts. In a world of unknowns, the hiring stakes are higher. HR needs to ensure that it is identifying the best candidates: future high performers who will contribute directly to growth.

For big data to fulfill its promise, information must flow freely between talent acquisition and leadership. Currently, there is little sharing between the two groups. Hiring managers aren't doing their organizations any favors when they don't capture and exchange experiential data on high performers. These leaders fail to recognize the value of the information that allows HR to match the characteristics of successful hires to those of prospective candidates.

A fully functioning feedback system will generate the data necessary to illuminate hidden patterns, throw out irrelevant, non-predictive factors, and update job profiles to meet current and future needs. Trendsetting HR operations will have the ongoing ability to measure and refine their hiring tools, and anticipate future skill needs.

Hire the whole person.

A smile may be worth a thousand words, but it is unlikely to predict or ensure on-the-job performance. After decades of research, the solution remains the same: complete a comprehensive success profile analysis to avoid hiring mistakes. First and foremost, determine the ideal mix of knowledge, experience, competencies and personal attributes required for the position. Next, decide how you will measure each of the components. With this type of checklist, you can exercise due diligence and ensure you get what you need—without personal prejudices polluting the process. 

Best-in-class selection systems that evaluate the whole person utilize a multi-method approach. They not only measure the same behaviors in many different ways, they also allow the capture of behaviors essential in times of uncertainty: adaptability, creativity, initiative and judgment.

Another enormous benefit of expanding the traditionally narrow selection focus is that the hiring manager can evaluate the gaps, if any, between the ideal candidate and the prospective one(s). They can then assess whether the missing skills are trainable or not. Rather than disqualify a good candidate that hasn’t used a software suite, for example, the manager can consider post-hire training and development to complete an otherwise perfect profile. On the other hand, a seemingly attractive applicant with low cognitive ability scores can be an unlikely candidate for development (and employment).

Import confidence.

Staffing directors outside the U.S. are enjoying greater certainty than their counterparts in our 50 states. In a recent study, they gave their selection systems noticeably higher marks for efficiency, flexibility, and ability to identify the best candidate.

Additionally, these talent acquisition professionals tend to use a greater number of selection tools including knowledge tests, personality inventories and job simulations—and they plan to add more in the future. Comparative study results indicate a difference of 10 percentage points (or greater) in the frequency of current and intended use of tools by non-U.S. vs. U.S. organizations.

Clearly, our partners abroad know more and guess less. Given that most selection errors are attributable to an overreliance on hiring manager judgments, U.S. companies would do well to follow the lead from overseas. Let’s utilize more information-gathering tools and build in certainty to our selection systems.

Celebrate the candidate.

Make a good first impression—great advice for the candidate as well as the organization. Despite the sluggish economy, perfect candidates are hard to find … yet easy to turn off. It's true: there are more good jobs than qualified candidates, so the competition is fierce. There are only so many Harvard MBAs to go around, and like the rest-of-the-best, they are harder to retain.

The stakes have never been higher; employees and job seekers share copious quantities of information. From social media, prospective candidates can learn much of what they need to know about corporate cultures, interviewing processes, benefits, etc. In reality, the first impression is gathered well in advance of the first face-to-face with the hiring manager.

Still, the interview and other pre-employment processes are perfect places to lose qualified candidates—so take heed. First and foremost, portray the job accurately. Our selection survey reveals that only half of new hires are very confident in their decision to accept offers of employment. The data also shows that a realistic day-in-the-life preview greatly ups the confidence quotient, and goes a long way toward eliminating the revolving door.

A positive interview experience gets the “yes” when an offer is extended. But don’t stop there: work to continue engagement throughout the onboarding process and beyond. Remember, your pleased-with-the-process candidates, even the non-joiners, are potential best customers and/or real-life endorsements for your products or organization.

While many insights in this article stem from our industry knowledge, economic trends, and our expertise in selection systems, we also analyzed survey responses from over 250 staffing directors and over 2,000 new hires globally in 2012 to provide a deeper understanding of current and future trends in hiring. Click here for the full report, including specific stats, graphs, and charts on hiring trends cited in this article.

Scott Erker, Ph.D., is the senior vice president of DDI's Selection Solutions.

Posted: 04 Feb, 2013,
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