Thursday, August 14, 2014

Work style and employee selection

Work style, ability and job performance
Use work style assessment to hire the best - and avoid the rest

Work style is a combination of personality traits that are relevant and specific to the workplace. Work style is highly predictive of job performance and employee behaviour. Differences in working style explain how people with similar knowledge, ability, goals, and desire to perform differ in the actual performance of their jobs. In today's complex business environment talent selection is critical and is at the top of a manager's list of priorities. Selecting employees for job-relevant personality traits improves job performance in the organisation.

Work style and job performance

Individuals differ in job performance despite having similar task abilities. The personality traits the individual brings to the organization along with abilities, interests, education, and experience, are responsible for this difference. Personality traits are a major contributor to variations in job performance. The unique personality an individual brings to the workplace is visible as working style - a combination of work habits and self-regulatory ability. Work style has two aspects - work habits and self-regulation.

Work habits are patterns of behavior that people learn over time that can facilitate or interfere with job performance. They include characteristic motivational responses such as choices for the amount, intensity, and duration of effort to expend. They explain why you would give the job to Neha in certain situations and to Riya in some others.  Work habits include characteristic responses that are not necessarily motivational in nature. This is seen when Rahul, your sales representative who has been trained in the best way to deal with an angry customer and has shown the ability to do so,occasionally reverts to pre-training habits of reacting with hostility.

Self-regulation is the thinking process that allocates attention, time, and effort toward attaining a goal. Self-regulation protects an intention from distraction. Priya’s characteristic tendency may be to exert as little effort as possible, but she may choose to go against that tendency in response to the new bonus structure that rewards productivity. Habits influence behavior despite intentions to behave otherwise because they require very little attention. To implement an intention that goes against habitual tendencies and distractions, one must engage self-regulatory or volitional mechanisms. This self-regulatory construct of working style is very important because it is strongly related to personality.

Modern psychometric tools that accurately measure human potential have been proven to
  1. enhance overall productivity
  2. reduce employee attrition
  3. reduce overall hiring costs significantly.

Work style assessment measures traits such as initiative, integrity, persistence, leadership, stress tolerance, analytical thinking, and interpersonal skills. Higher performance can be obtained across all jobs if one hires employees who are highly conscientious and emotionally stable. Other personality traits (Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Openness to Experience) result in higher performance depending on whether these traits are relevant to the actual job activities.  Hiring right mitigates short- and long term damage to the business from a very bad hire. Work style assessment generates a profile of personality traits that can be matched with requirements for successful performance in a particular job.

  1. Bouton M, Moore M. J Med Pract Manage. The cult of personality testing: why assessments are essential for employee selection. 2011 Nov-Dec;27(3):144-9.
  2. Jeff W. Johnson. Toward a Better Understanding of the Relationship Between Personality and Individual Job Performance. In: Personality and work : reconsidering the role of personality in organizations. Murray R. Barrick, Ann Marie Ryan, editors; foreword by Neil Schmitt. John Wiley & Sons, USA. 2003. Pg 83-120

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Job Satisfaction & Work Stress in the IT Industry

job satisfaction and work stress in IT
Work stress and low job satisfaction are the primary drivers for help-seeking in IT professionals. PR a 34-yr old software engineer employed in an IT company came to us for guidance while considering a career change. He felt stressed, and experienced his work as meaningless. He felt alienated from his colleagues and his job dissatisfaction was high.

PR’s is not a one-off case. A PPC Worldwide study reported that 62% of all employees experience work stress. Responses to a poll specifically studying IT related work stress are as depicted in the chart above.

Work stress contributes to job dissatisfaction and increased attrition in the workforce. Most burnout prevention methods focus on personal responsibility for wellness. They require sacrifice of personal time with the perverse goal of being more effective at work. We have already seen what the individual needs to do to manage stress with a health promoting lifestyle,  Even 15 minutes of exercise is effective. We now need to look at the organisational factors resulting in committed employees.

Job satisfaction involves certain obligations that exist in an employment relationship. Pay is largely considered to be the single-most contributor to job satisfaction, and perceptions of fairness in compensation have a direct influence on commitment to the organisation. However, intrinsic motivators contribute greatly to resistance to work stress. These include
Nature of work
Nature of work is an intrinsic motivator measured by an individual’s feeling that their job is meaningful. They feel engagement, and a sense of pride in the job. Humiliation at work does not foster this sense of engagement. For many of our clients humiliation is a prime driver to distress and burnout.
RK came to us when he was thinking of quitting his job. He had been 'de-promoted' into his own team when they were unable to meet a target. His self-esteem was low and he was depressed. He recovered with treatment and counselling. He could then decide his next career move from a position of strength.
Relationship with co-workers
Work plays an important part in fulfilling an individual’s social needs. Co-worker acceptance and a sense of belonging to a group and culture affect job satisfaction. Unfortunately the culture in many IT organisations continues to reflect the ‘in’ and ‘out’ groupings of the college hostels through which their managers have emerged. This only adds to the job dissatisfaction of IT professionals who may be contributing at their jobs but do not feel a part of the organisation.
The motivated and stress tolerant employee shows commitment to the organisation in two ways
  1. Emotional
  2.  Job dissatisfaction is inversely associated with emotional commitment. IT professionals who are satisfied feel more emotionally attached to and involved with their organisations.
  3. Obligational
  4. Job satisfaction is associated with feeling more obliged to remain with the organisation.
  5. Continuance
  6. Continuance commitment (cost associated with leaving the company) is not related to job satisfaction; pay does not matter disproportionately to the IT professional.
Work stress and work pressure are correlated with job dissatisfaction and poor employee engagement. The IT professional’s decision to stay with the company due to feelings of attachment and obligation results from job satisfaction rather than the costs associated with leaving the company. A working atmosphere that validates the individual and their differences will enhance that attachment and commitment to the organisation.

  1. E.J. Lumley, M. Coetzee, R. Tladinyane, N. Ferreira. Exploring the job satisfaction and organisational commitment of employees in the information technology environment. Southern African Business Review Volume 15 Number 1 2011.
  2. Kaluzniacky, Eugene. Stress Management. In: Managing psychological factors in information systems work : an orientation to emotional intelligence. Idea Group. London, 2004. Pg238-245.
  3. Psychol Rep. 2009 Dec;105(3 Pt 1):759-70. Employee engagement and job satisfaction in the information technology industry. Kamalanabhan TJ, Sai LP, Mayuri D.
  4. Saradha.H. Employee engagement in relation to organizational citizenship behaviour in information technology organizations. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy. Institute of Management, Christ University, Bangalore. 2010.