How Science Helps Firms Hire the Right Talent

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“If you invest in hiring harder, you’ll end up managing easier.”

That’s the philosophy of Dr. Jeremy Wortman, business psychology expert and one of the speakers at 2019’s AICPA Engage conference. At his talk “Using a Talent Assessment to Hire for a Culture Fit,” he noted that while employees who are a good match for a practice’s culture are likely to stay longer and be more successful, two-thirds of the time, the right people don’t get hired. Not only is this a huge pain point for senior managers and partners, but it forces firms to spend money on expensive turnover.

So, how can you stop this cycle and get it right more often? The answer, says Dr. Wortman, is science. Specifically, once you have a strong definition of what you are trying to achieve and what each role in the firm calls for from the employee who fills it, it’s relatively simple to figure out who has the right traits.

This is all a part of what Dr. Wortman calls talent management, a term that means attracting, engaging, developing and retaining the right person for the right job at the right time.

It starts with selecting an assessment tool to help you achieve these goals. Any Google search will reveal millions of these, but it’s important to look for one that is trait rather than preference based, to ensure it compares an individual’s scores to those of an entire population and to make sure it measures what it says it does and does this consistently over time.

Fortunately, there’s no need to comb through a dull technical manual to vet an assessment tool. Dr. Wortman recommended one: The Organizational Management System, which offers everything you need to hire smarter and takes just 7 to 10 minutes to complete.

You’ll also need an Employee Value Proposition, or EVP, which will assist you in both acquiring and retaining the right talent. After all, notes Dr. Wortman, during the interview, it’s important to tell today’s job seekers not only why they should want to work for you, but why they should stay as well.

An EVP can be created using seven simple steps:

  1. Gather data about the position
  2. Have a strategic discussion with managers and partners about what type of person would be the best fit
  3. Draft a detailed job description
  4. Test it out in job postings and interviews
  5. Tweak and finalize it
  6. Synthesize the EVP in your overall management plan

Break out of the mindset that people should just be happy they’re getting a paycheck, urges Dr. Wortman. As the employer, you’re now offering an experience in exchange for productivity and value from the employee.

This is why it’s crucial to not only list out the duties of each position when you create a job model, but also to list out what the work requires from the person doing it. Does it need the individual to have an assertive personality, for instance, or is it better if they’re easygoing and flexible? Should they be a real people person, or will it suffice if they prefer to be more reflective?

Once you have these specifics written out, you’ll be able to administer a short talent assessment to viable job candidates to find out who matches the requirements best. In turn, you’ll be able to interview smarter. Having the information in front of you will help you spot fakers – people who insist they have the right trait for a job because they’re worried they won’t get it without it. It will also help you ask more probing questions, which can be particularly useful if you like a person’s resume but aren’t sure about their personality.

When you put more work into hiring the right person, the entire firm will benefit, especially if your practice is small. After all, says Dr. Wortman, what’s a ripple at a big company is a tidal wave at a smaller one. Science will help you accurately assess talent and ensure everyone is benefiting.

As a final step, he recommends creating a new employee assimilation plan, which should take about 12 to 18 months to complete. It starts by offering the person feedback about their assessment results and giving their manager a coaching guide so they can tailor the training to the individual. Then, onboarding and transitioning into the new job will be smoother for everyone. In fact, most importantly, it will ensure both you and the new hire get the most out of each other.

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About Carrie Stemke

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