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

Sunday, December 12, 2010

How do I know if my partner is cheating on me - evolution, sexuality and relationships

Last week I gave a talk on Personality and Sexuality. One question that cropped up was - "How do I know if my partner is cheating on me?" By chance the next morning there was a newspaper article attributing uncommitted sex, one-night stands, and acts of infidelity to genetics.

Individuals who have frequent sex with multiple partners are psychologically different from those who have frequent sex with single partner (Simpson & Gangestad, 1991). This sociosexual difference places individuals in two groups
  1. Unrestricted sociosexual types, have a higher number of sexual partners, and one night stands. They have a permissive attitude to casual and uncommitted sex.
  2. Restricted sociosexual types, require greater closeness and commitment before sex with their romantic partner.
 Genetics plays an important role in sociosexuality
Genes evolve to enhance survival of the species. From an evolutionary viewpoint females reproduce with a mate who will invest in their offspring and produce offspring with an advantaged genetic makeup. Female socio-sexual orientation exists because males vary in the quality of their genes.
  • Unrestricted type females benefit from passing the genes of men with greater reproductive success to their own offspring. To induce males to invest in their offspring they frequently engage in pretense and deceit, traits that are strongly associated with unrestricted sociosexuality.
  • Restricted type females benefit from caring males who limit reproductive efforts to the females own offspring.
  • Male sociosexuality evolved through competition. Males who do not succeed with an unrestricted socio-sexual orientation become Restricted.

How do you know your partner's sociosexuality?
Lynda Boothroyd showed that observers were able to identify restricted vs. unrestricted individuals from cues in thier faces. My audience successfully differentiated the Restricted and Unrestricted pairs from the same picture. Test yourself.

What does this mean for a relationship?
  • Restricted socio-sexual personalities are more willing to remain in an unsatisfactory marriage. They are less likely to be drawn out of such a relationship by attractive alternate partners.
  • For Unrestricted individuals long term stability in the relationship depends on the extent to which the partner is highly attractive and possesses high social visibility. Decisions to continue or terminate a relationship depend more on changes in the partners physical attractiveness and social status.

However, personality is not all in the genes. Genes contribute to the biological aspect of personality - temperament. Personality also has an acquired aspect - character. When fully developed, character defines the mature personality.

How do I know if my partner is cheating on me?
To return to the question. Asking the question indicates there are already boundaries being overstepped. It indicates an erosion of trust - a core component in any long-term relationship. That is what needs to be addressed.

Jeffry A Simpson, Steven W Gangestad. Personality and sexuality: empirical relations and an integrative theoretical model. In: Sexuality in close relationships. Kathleen McKinney, Susan Sprecher Editors. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. New Jersey. 1991:71-92.