A Message From President Jonathan E. Dehlinger, Ph.D.
There are many ethical issues with which people in our profession wrestle. One is, who owns the data generated by a psychological assessment, the organization or the candidate? Who has a right to see it? While the answers are not often clear cut, here is our position:
Assessment data should be extremely confidential. It should be filed in separate "Management Confidential" files and have limited access, on a need-to-know basis. You should have access to this data only if you are involved in some decision-making process that involves the hiring, placement, development or coaching of this person.
Every year, clients should cull those files and destroy assessment reports that are seven years old or older. In addition, if youre making significant decisions such as a reorganization or a placement, and your most recent assessment data for an individual is four or five years old, you should consider updating the information with a new assessment.
Why? Most of the cognitive measures of problem-solving or "intelligence" will not vary over time. However, if we look at what motivates us, how we respond to different situations and our personality makeup, these things will change over time.
At VRH we cull our own files annually and destroy anything over seven years old. This protects both the organization and the individual.
Another ethical practice we maintain to protect the individual - or at least make the assessment a beneficial experience, no matter what happens with the particular job at hand - is to give the individual feedback on his or her results at the end of the interview process.
Unlike some assessment firms, well say to an individual, "Here are some things weve learned in this process that would be helpful for you to understand. This data should help you make some development plans." The individual then has a sense of gaining some insights from the experience, rather than feeling exposed and wondering, "What is my potential employer going to hear about me that I dont know?" We feel ethically obliged to provide a mutual benefit to the individual, even though in a technical sense he or she is not the paying client.
Executive Coaching Can Save Your Game
A stressed-out lab supervisor has trouble interfacing with a demanding customer. A salesperson recently promoted to sales manager feels overwhelmed by her managerial duties. A newly hired vice president of production cant persuade his plant managers to buy into his production plan.
What do these three people have in common? They all would benefit from executive coaching.
"With executive coaching and development, we look at an individuals strengths and areas that need development, and work with him or her to develop a plan to acquire skills they dont have or change behaviors that are detrimental," says VRH Business Psychologist Lynda M. Dahlke, Ph.D. Coaching can lead to a dramatic increase in leadership effectiveness.
Coaching usually involves pencil and paper work as well as interviews. The process generally takes two to eight sessions, depending on the clients needs.
"One tool we use in the process is 360-degree feedback, where we get information from the managers peers, boss and direct reports regarding his or her strengths and developmental areas," Lynda says. Human resource experts generally regard 360-degree feedback as the most comprehensive, accurate and engaging assessment of performance. It is considered a superior means for providing feedback to individuals for development.
Whos a good candidate for coaching? "Its often first-time managers," says Lynda, "but it can be almost any position. Ive worked with everyone from CEOs and vice presidents to customer service people, shipping dock supervisors and police detectives."
"Much of what I do is help individuals understand the work style of others who are not like them, and how they can work effectively with somebody who doesnt see the world the same way they do," Lynda says. This leads into development of communication skills, one of Lyndas areas of expertise.
"Because of my varied background, with many different kinds of organizations and businesses, I can ferret out strengths and developmental areas," Lynda says. "I think I have a good sense for people and I try to be a very good listener. I help people put into perspective the needs of the organization as well as the individual."
Lynda feels that "the individual is my client as well as the organization. Along with productivity and performance, I emphasize collaboration, teamwork, the work style of the individual and how that fits in the culture of the organization."
The organization benefits when coaching enables it to:
Improve an employees skills (un-addressed
performance problems are costly)
Retain an employee and avoid the time, energy, expense, uncertainty and morale-sinking process of replacing him or her; and
Promote from within a known quantity who understands the companys processes and procedures.
In addition, coaching benefits individuals because it enhances their career growth and development and expands their repertoire of skills.
VRH Presents Listening Awareness Program at Conference
Have you ever attended a meeting or seminar where, after a few hours, the facts and figures became a blur? The Salvation Army recently asked VRH to help prevent that from happening at a three-day conference. In June, VRH conducted a listening awareness program on nonverbal communication and attentive listening for the organizations planned giving staff.
"This was an opportunity for the staff to get some people skills training in a fun, participative way," says David Himes, Planned Giving Consultant for The Salvation Armys Midwestern Region. "It gave the meeting the right balance between technical, marketing and people skills."
"We talked about what constitutes nonverbal communication, what sorts of listening skills individuals possess, and how to interpret these," says VRH Management Consultant Rena D. Matusiak, M.A., who presented the program. "We conducted an experiential listening activity where the planned giving staff could role play using nonverbal communication cues together with various listener preference types."
"We wanted to enhance their understanding of nonverbal communication so that they can be more effective at understanding the needs of the people theyre talking to," says VRH Business Psychologist Lynda M. Dahlke, Ph.D., who made the presentation with Rena.
"The Salvation Army doesnt want to just take money from people," Lynda says. "They want to collaborate with their donors and match their needs with the needs of the individual. ItŐs a win-win approach. To be effective, members of the planned giving staff need to be sensitive listeners and good communicators."
"The VRH staff made the presentation in a delightful way," says David Himes. "They injected humor into it and got our people to participate in role-playing. We received lots of favorable comments. It was a highlight of the meeting."
VRH and Executive Coaching
Professional coaching is an area of expertise for VRH for many reasons:
We have primarily long-term clients, and we
understand their businesses, cultures and expectations very well.
Unlike other consulting firms, VRH is made up of
business psychologists who are trained to help
individuals better manage their businesses and careers.
VRHs battery of tests is particularly good at
providing useful data to help focus on individual
VRH uses the most current psychological research and management
practices in all of its work.
VRH Assesses Itself! MP/SP+ Scores High for Predicting Sales Success
VRH recently had the opportunity to research how well MP/SP+, our computerized assessment tool, predicts success in sales positions. Last spring we conducted research that focused upon a study group of 89 individuals tested by VRH in early 1996 for Snap-on Incorporated in Kenosha, Wis., a worldwide supplier of precision automotive tools and diagnostic equipment.
The study focused upon identifying differentiating characteristics between top and bottom performing franchise dealers. It also looked at how well MP/SP+ predicted success for dealer positions.
The study reestablished that MP/SP+ is very effective in identifying individuals who do not have those qualities that make an effective salesperson and, to a slightly lesser extent, it is effective in predicting those who are good potential salespeople. It reaffirms that the sales aptitude score MP/SP+ generates can indeed be a good predictor of overall sales success or lack of success.
MP/SP+ measures a persons assertiveness, temperament, self-sufficiency, sales personality and management personality. It is a convenient, cost-effective method of sorting through a large candidate pool, getting a quick look at someone in a different geographic location, or screening for lower level positions.
VRH-Sponsored Art Exhibit "Made Marks" in Milwaukee
Last summer VRH co-sponsored a major exhibit at the Milwaukee Art Museum, "Making Marks: Drawing in the 20th Century From Picasso to Kiefer."
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel said, "Never before have so many seldom-seen prizes from so many carefully sequestered private residences been brought out in one place, at one time, for the enjoyment of the public."
We hope you were among the thousands of museum visitors who enjoyed this special exhibit.
Looking for Better Hires? Consider Validating Your Selection System
The process of selecting a potential employee for your organization is an important one and usually involves the interview, job application, checking references, etc. However, these steps alone may not be sufficient to identify whether the individual will most likely be a productive employee and have the basic skills to perform the job.
VRH can add to your selection process by developing a test that can be used in combination with other selection methods (such as the interview, application, reference, etc.) to provide an objective basis for making your decision.
When screening people for craft, clerical, entry-level and other jobs, you want to be sure that the selection program does at least two things. First, it should help you identify the people who have the basic skills, abilities and aptitudes to do the job. Second, it should be legally defensible. If you are currently using a selection test in your screening process and are not sure that these two points are being met, you might want to consider contracting a VRH consultant.
One VRH client, Phoenix Products Co., Inc., a Milwaukee-based manufacturer of industrial lighting fixtures, wanted to waive the GED requirement for an assembler job, so they needed a basic skills assessment to make sure that applicants had the necessary skills to perform the job.
"We have found that just because a person has their GED, it doesnt always mean they can read well or do the math that the job requires," says Lori Neils, Phoenix Products Human Resources Manager. "We hope to hire better skilled, better qualified people."
Tests are one of the most effective ways to measure the skills and abilities that are important to the success of a job. If a candidate scores higher than other applicants on the test, we assume that he or she is more likely to be a more productive employee.
In order to select appropriate tests, we conduct a validation study. A validation study is a rational and empirical process that involves gathering information that shows the logical relationship between behaviors or duties on the job and a selection procedure thats chosen or developed to give a representative sample of the knowledge, skills and abilities needed to perform those duties or behaviors.
A validation study requires a time commitment, but the process doesnt have to be painful. "The people at VRH were knowledgeable, easy to work with, and very helpful walking us through the process," says Lori Neils. "It was time consuming but it needed to be done. Were looking at doing it again for another position."