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Hi, I'm working on a ex pat position in Germany, trying to help our subsidiary in construction/production business to recover from the "red numbers". In my previous career I have been using DISC model also as a tool in hiring (to describe the needed job and match the applicants) and in my opinion it has worked well.
Now I'm in the situation where the company in my opinion is in the process of hiring (sales engineers) with totally wrong personality profile for the job. The famous "German engineers" just can not see further from the technical knowledge, skills and long experience in the field they require the applicants to be. Overlooking all the personality traits for successful selling and not acknowledging the conflict in between all those "wishes". I'm in the position that I need to re-convince our TOP management in doing that. Even though the DISC model makes fully sense for me, I do anticipate a contra question - "What does DISC to do with our industry?" "There might be thousands of psychologists, studying/proving whatever - this is in no way applicable for us".
So the the question really is not about DISC, but about it's authority in the eyes of a "real engineer". Can anyone in tech industry share their experience/advice in such situation. Thanks

bflynn's picture

I think your engineers' instinct are right. DiSC has very little to do with the skills you need from a technician. Additionally, as Wendii has pointed out in another thread, correctly interperting the results from any personality testing can be a tricky business. Remember that DiSC represents very broad categories. Its main value to you as a manager is in recognizing the styles of others and altering your own style to facilitate communciations.

If you are insistent on using it, realize that some (many?) people will react negatively to pre employment personality testing. Also, I'm not a HR specialist, but I would also have EEOC concerns in the US and I suspect proving Bona Fide Occupational Qualification for a personality test would be nearly impossible.

Is personality irrelevant to hiring? Not entirely. But it is a minor issue relative to the bigger picture things you should be looking at. Its far more important to get the big picture correct.

Getting the idea that I don't like personality testing in hiring? :)

Brian

leismal's picture

Thanks Brian. I do fully see your point. This is what I have been hearing also from professional headhunters that DISC is not all (the "big picture" like you put it). It is a simplification of a more complicated real life and there are plenty of evidence that persons not being a perfect profile match according to DISC are still doing a great job in real life. And again I'm fully fine with that.

The problem though I'm struggling with is that our technically oriented management is not even acknowledging that the success factor in this turnaround project is not the technical knowledge of the employees, but rather changing the approach of the total organization. And for this purpose an high C dominated organization is just not capable of.
So my idea was not to relay simply on DISC when we get to the hiring process, but to use it's same black-and-white simplicity in explaining to the engineers that there are existent people with different personality/behavioral styles and certain behaviors depending on the situation/environment can be more successful than others.

Still my only hesitation is that an "typical engineer" would say that "I do not belong into that circle. Whatever the the psychologists may say." "(technical)knowledge is the only success factor in life and anyway, they did not teach us anything about psychology in the engineering school"
:)
So, I'm looking for ways to overcome that resistance and I was hoping that DISC could help, but I'm afraid in this audience it's not being taken too seriously.

wendii's picture

Leismal,

I had another look at the DISC profile and wonder if you can appeal to the high C's need for meticulousness and rightness by explaining the science around interview accuracy, how structured interviews and ability or psychometric tests have been shown to improve improve accuracy. I have some stats at home if you think that would be useful.

Also, I think you need to be clear about the difference between ability testing, which tests maths, english & work related skills, and personality testing which DISC is and is more about the way people interact with each other and accomplish things.

You may find that ability testing is a way of getting your colleagues used to the idea and you can introduce personality testing later. There's a good article on the differences here: http://www.psychometrics.co.uk/test.htm

Hope that helps.

Wendii

sklosky's picture

leismal,

I think the term Sales Engineer is an oxymoron sometimes. The term is misleading. Is this person primarily a sales person with great technical knowledge and experience? Or is this person primarily an engineer with great sales knowledge and experience?

It sounds like you're interpretation is one of these and the organization's traditional interpretation is the other.

So, I would start with the Position Description and see how the organization has created / developed this role. The hiring tools follow this description as the guide.

If the current description is correct and supports your angle, use the description to support your use of DISC in hiring. If the current description does not support your angle, work on changing the description to match the mission the way you interpret it.

Just my 2 cents.

Good luck,

Steve

Steve Howell's picture

Sounds like you need some data to back up your opinion.

I have the pleasure of working in engineering all the time, and I deal with the "technical elite" of Germany daily. I find that when I back up a statement with measurable data, or show how quality standards would be improved - or how they could get better control of a situation - then the lights go on and they are all ears.

Talk about psychology and they will assiciate that with talking about feelings and probably make a dash for the exit.

If I was trying to sell them DISC, I would look for some success stories on the web, and pull some numbers together. I would highlight how getting the right personality type would improve technical performance by allowing us to get better data on how our customer's behave... and move on from there.

Best of luck,

aspiringceo's picture

Wendii
Thanks for sharing the link about psychometrics which I found interesting and will be sharing with my SMT on monday.

Edmund

wendii's picture

Ok, here's the science bit... (all taken from the SHL textbooks on occupational testing)

[b]Test Validity[/b]

There are several types of validity which should be reviewed during the test choosing phase:

Faith Validity: Do I believe in it?
Face Validity: Does it look right?
Content Validity: Is the content relevant for the job?
Construct Validity: Does it measure what it is supposed to measure?
Empirical Validity: Does it link to job performance?

Given the need for empirical validity, there should be an iterative evaluation of testing methods including concurent validation (testing current employees to see if the high test scores reflect high performance) before testing applicants.

[b]Personality Questionnaires[/b]

Where 1 equals perfect prediciton the validity of methods of assessing candidates are:

Between 0 and .1 Graphology and Random Prediciton
Between 0.2 and 0.3 References
Between 0.3 and 0.4 Biodata, Assessment Centres and Personality Tests
0.5 Stuctured Interviews
Between 0.6 and 0.7 Cognitive ability and Structured interviews combined.

[b]Cost/ benefits of testing[/b]

Taylor-Russell showed that the three conditions under which we get maximum gain from a test are where

Validity is high
there is a low current success rate
a high degree of selectivity is possible (ie there is a high number of candidates for a low number of roles)

Chronbach's utility formula can be used to show a monetry value from this. The example is: an accountancy company recruits 80 graduates a year from 500 applicants. The total first year salary is approximately £20K per year. The cost of testing is estimated at £10 per head, giving a total cost of £5000. If the validity of the test is .45 and the company recruits applicants who achieve a mean score of 45 on the test which has a mean of 40 (the average score of the total population) and a standard deviation of 5, the utility of the test £283,000 (Assuming the SD of the criterion is 40% of salary ie £8000). There is a formula but I'm not sure how to recreate it here.

Note that on this basis:
The costs of testing are small against the potential gain
The more valid the test and the higher the cut off on the test the greater the utility
The more crucial or expensive the job the greater the potential gain
The more people recruited the higher the potential gain
This approach has no need to estimate base or success rates.

Conditions which mitigate against test use:
A lower level job,
Small number of applicants,
Individual differences in job performance are small
Job success is not critical
Failures can be tolerated
Anybody can prove successful

This 'perfect world' assumes random prediction, and selection decisions are often based on factors other than test results and this increases the room for bias. Candidates often give lower output and higher turnover during their probaionary period. Also, rejected offers reduce utility.

Reference: Smith, M (1988) 'Calculating the sterling value of selection, Guidance and Assessment Review, Feb 1988.[b][/b][b][/b][b][/b]

Hope that helps,

Wendii

aspiringceo's picture

Hi Wendii,

I am not trying to hijack this thread but I think its answering more of my questions about testing then my original thread (on psychometric testing).

Clearly this is an area that I know little about so please excuse me if I’m talking rubbish.

[quote] Conditions which mitigate against test use:
A lower level job,
Small number of applicants,
Individual differences in job performance are small
Job success is not critical
Failures can be tolerated
Anybody can prove successful [/quote]

I think most of these conditions apply to my staff, when my SMT discussed our recruitment strategy last week the idea of using testing was for our basic grade workers who provide support to people with mental health difficulties. Amongst the many skills they need, the 2 critical ones are their communication and interpersonal skills, and I think that sometimes when we recruit that we have got it wrong.

So my question is – in order to assess these 2 skills prior to offering employment would testing be appropriate or is there something else we need to consider.

I hope this makes sense.
Thanks

Edmund

wendii's picture

Hi Edmund,

I used to recruit for our local council and that included roles working with vulnerable adults and children, so I have an idea what you're looking for.

In some senses only a couple of the conditions you quoted are not applicable: job success is critical, failures can't be tolerated and only very special people are successful.

We did not usually employ permanent staff without experience. We would take on staff we didn't know as temporary staff based on an interview, as long as they showed an understanding of the work. For example, people working with children were asked: You're about to go off shift and a child says they really need to talk with you, and they'll follow you out to your car. What do you do? (Innocent people like me say that's fine. People who know what they're talking about know that's not the right thing to do).

We would work with these people for around 6 months before they were able to apply for permanent roles. The empirical evidence was then there that they understood the nature of the job and could cope with the special stresses it gives. An interview for a permanent role would go more deeply into the theory of what they were doing - not only is allowing the child to come with you wrong, but why is it wrong. I worked with very intuitive managers, who had worked in care for a long time and who wern't often wrong. However, it's all about the evidence for your gut feeling.

Once they were ready for management roles we would then test them. A assessment centre would consist of verbal reasoning skills (they need to be able to write reports about the children/adults in their care) numerical reasoning skills (to manage budgets and shift rostas) an essay question around a case study and an interview which again, was a mix of practical questions about care and about mananagement. However, we'd expect them to give fuller answers about both the what to do and why you do it. We'd also do an personality test to make sure that there weren't any areas where they expressed a preference that didn't suit the role - for example people who feel rules are made to be broken don't belong in care homes, but if they were convincing about that preference not being expressed at work, we'd still employ them - by now we'd probably have 4 -6 years experience of working with them, so the personality questionnaire is as much about development as assessment.

I hope you can see from this, that recruitment is about appropriateness, and getting as wide a range of evidence as you can. There isn't one test which will solve all your problems. And sometimes, it's about trying something and seeing if you get value from it. We'd try and essay question, not quite get what we wanted, tweak it next time, talk about whether our interview questions worked - if all the candidates missed the point, then change the question, if they all ask the same question at the end, tweak the presentation at the beginning - you just don't get it all right first time.

Testing (verbal?) communication and interpersonal skills with low levels, I'd probably only interview unless I felt I was getting some very wrong employees. It may be that you need to tweak your interview questions and interviewers skills more than introducting testing.

Does that help? I'm happy to take this to the other thread or pm's if you're worried about hijaking.

Wendii

PS sorry there's like 1000 spelling/grammar mistakes but it's not my best time of day!

aspiringceo's picture

Hi Wendii

Thanks for taking the time late at night to respond.
[quote]We did not usually employ permanent staff without experience. We would take on staff we didn't know as temporary staff based on an interview, as long as they showed an understanding of the work.[/quote]
We tend only to employ staff with "experience" and given the shortage of suitable workers and increasingly well paid jobs in my area I don’t know if people would be willing to leave a permanent job to take on a temp one, in saying that your suggestion has reinforced my sense that what we should be offering is a probation period.

[quote] worked with very intuitive managers, who had worked in care for a long time and who weren’t often wrong. However, it's all about the evidence for your gut feeling.
[/quote]
That’s a situation I recognise all too well, but for me the problem is when they get it wrong they don’t see that it’s their fault.

[quote]Testing (verbal?) communication and interpersonal skills with low levels, I'd probably only interview unless I felt I was getting some very wrong employees. It may be that you need to tweak your interview questions and interviewers skills more than introducting testing. [/quote]

It's back to the drawing board time I think and a long hard look at how we interview.

Thanks for the helpful advice

Edmund

ps [quote]You're about to go off shift and a child says they really need to talk with you, and they'll follow you out to your car. What do you do?[/quote]
The answer that I'd look for is that the worker listens to what the kid has to say before deciding what to do next

Mark's picture

DiSC is NOT personality. It is behavioral style, which plays a huge role in communication style, since communication is behavior (and cognitive processing).

And if communication isn't important in this job, just pick somebody off the street. It's fast and cheap.

DiSC is absolutely reasonable as one of of a number of hiring tools the greatest of which are the the manager's desires (not that desires are always translated into behaviors that can discern the cup that would satisfy those desires). The great thing about management desires is they are always rewarded or punished.

Ahh, consequences.

Mark