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Vernon Roche Hodgson - Publications

Jonathan E. Dehlinger, Ph.D - President Vernon Roche HodgsonVernon Roche Hodgson - Newsline

Fall 1999

A Message From President Jonathan E. Dehlinger, Ph.D.

Bill Roche is retiring. Really.
Those of you who know Bill and have worked with him over the years understand that he has been sneaking up on retirement for quite awhile. When I joined VRH in 1993, Bill informed me that his personal and professional goals included transitioning some of his client activity to 'the next generation' so more time would be available for other of his passions, especially travel. Over the years he has been true to his word teaching me how to manage a consulting business and trusting me with his clients, many of who had forged a close personal relationship based on Bill's wisdom and professional advice. 

Now Bill is retiring, really, at the end of this year. I can't think of anyone that is more deserving of the opportunity to pursue such varied leisure interests as his. Travel, writing, genealogy, and Civil War research will fill much of his time. And then there are the grandchildren! Thus, it is fitting that this issue of Newsline features a consulting assignment shepherded by Bill to a very successful conclusion. As you review the process undertaken by the AGC, and Bill's participation in their transition of a key management member, consider it just one example in a 40-year professional career of a psychologist who knows (and enjoys) his business.

An Executive Management Selection Process - A Model That Works

When David Cullen, board vice president for the Associated General Contractors of Greater Milwaukee (AGC), received word in May 1997 that their longtime executive vice president was planning to retire on December 31, 1998, he realized his upcoming presidency had just been handed an incredible challenge, and opportunity. The challenge and opportunity presented to Cullen and the board was to thoughtfully plan and execute an executive management selection process that would allow them to secure the best candidate available to lead their association into the new millennium.

Planning For Success

Formal selection process planning began immediately. Determined to have a six-month transition period between the retiring and new executive vice president, the board had about a year to accomplish their search and selection. By mid-1997, a six-member management succession committee comprised of past and future board presidents was formed from the 11-member board. Also included on this committee were the retiring executive vice president and legal counsel.

According to Cullen, the committee had "no hard and fast roadmap" but ultimately developed a step-by-step plan along with a timetable, which they rigorously followed. 

Briefly, the plan model involved:
1. Defining the job and conditions of employment.
2. Identifying the required competencies.
3. Establishing job specifications (salary, benefits, etc.).
4. Partnering with an Industrial Psychologist to provide candidate assessments.
5. Developing and placing employment advertisement.
6. Reviewing applicant resumes.
7. Determining top 10 candidates.
8. Administering and analyzing screening assessment tools (Industrial Psychologist).
9. Choosing 5 finalists.
10. Conducting in-person selection interviews (AGC).
11. Performing full psychological appraisal and interview (Industrial Psychologist).
12. Comparing assessments.
13. Selecting the top candidate.
14. Extending an employment offer.

Besides updating the job description, designing the compensation package, and understanding the 1998 budget implications, the committee elected to involve industrial psychologist, Dr. Bill Roche, from Vernon, Roche and Hodgson (VRH) in the process. Cullen's company, J.P. Cullen & Sons, Inc. of Janesville, Wis., had previously utilized various VRH assessment and evaluation services when selecting key managers and "felt very strongly about VRH's involvement providing both an analytical and systematic measure to the process." 

The committee first met with Dr. Roche in mid-September to discuss and define the role that VRH would assume in the selection process. "Roles and responsibilities during the process were well articulated between the committee and VRH," asserts Cullen. Committee member Gary Jorgensen of Voss-Jorgensen-Schueler, Waukesha, Wis., adds, "I have never used an industrial psychologist. Dr. Roche gave us a solid description of how his role would work and we were very comfortable including his expertise in our selection process." 

By the end of November, a 'position available' advertisement had been crafted, and national and local media, such as The Constructor, Engineering News Record, and ASAE/WSAE Magazine, had been selected for placement. The position was formally advertised as planned in January 1998 publications. 

Executing the Plan
Near the close of February, approximately ninety (90) resumes were returned to AGC for consideration. 

Each committee member read through all the resumes submitted and selected their top fifteen 'favorite' candidates. The entire committee then reviewed all 'favorite' candidate resumes and reached consensus on the top 10 who would be advancing in the selection process. "What was amazing was that as we got into the committee review, many of us had nearly identical lists," comments Jorgensen. "Apparently we were all on the same page!" Dr. Roche was also sent the 10 resumes. 

These 10 candidates were subsequently notified of their 'short list' status in the mid-March timeframe. They were also sent screening assessment packets prepared by VRH that included a measure each of intellectual strength, leadership style, temperament and personality. 

"The assessment packet was a critical element of the process. We needed to get into what makes these individuals tick and there was really no other way to go from 10 down to 5 candidates without it," affirms Cullen. Committee member Rupert Kotze, Kotze Construction, Inc. of Milwaukee, agreed. "It provided us with another tool to confirm our evaluation of the candidates." 

Executive Management Selection 
Within 10 days, all the packets had been completed by the candidates and returned to VRH for scoring and analysis by Dr. Roche. 

Dr. Roche shared his analysis of the candidates with the committee. "It was interesting because the assessment quantified various qualities of the candidates without ever having met them! We realized that this did not reflect an individual's personality but it was certainly a good place to start," observed Kotze. Once again, each committee member individually reviewed the analysis provided by Dr. Roche and selected their 5 top candidates. 

The committee convened and the 5 top finalists emerged. The committee designated a three-member interview team (a subcommittee of the management succession committee) determining that this would be the most effective approach to interviewing the finalists. According to Kotze, "The interview team had a mix of differing perspectives - a good cross-section of history with AGC, and board experience and tenure."

Dr. Roche would also administer a full psychological appraisal and interview each candidate about their career, the position, and share their screening assessment results. In late-April, the committee extended an invitation to the top 5 candidates to come to Milwaukee for personal interviews and the final assessment by VRH. 

"We worked off the same set of questions for each candidate and interviewed them as a team. Immediately afterward, we discussed each interview while our impressions were fresh," said Jorgensen. "This was an important undertaking for AGC and so we wanted to be excruciatingly thorough and diligent in our task!" added Kotze. 

By mid-May, both the interview team and VRH had completed their assessments of the top 5 candidates, and had selected their successor. According to Kotze, "Our assessments (AGC and VRH) were a nice compliment. We really needed both perspectives to select the right person." 

"Dr. Roche came back with solid comparison data from his assessment. It was apparent that he had a good read on each candidate, and provided us (the interview team) with additional confirmation relative to our own assessment," said Jorgensen. 

The interview team confidently made their successor recommendation to the committee, who in turn, met with this individual. Following this meeting, the committee presented their choice to the board for final approval. 

Mike Fabishak was extended an offer to be the new executive vice president in early June. On July 1st, 1998, the transition began.

Mike Fabishak - AGC - Milwaukee, New Executive Vice President "The industrial psychologist was new for me and an interesting component. The interview session with Dr. Roche was excellent. I was very interested in learning the results of the initial assessment, which Dr. Roche described verbally during our interview session. He basically validated why you are who you are! I was able to express myself in a very non-threatening way." "Obviously, an industrial psychologist provides a more objective way of quantifying and qualifying individuals for a particular position."

Dr. Bill Roche - VRH Principal and Industrial Psychologist 
"This whole process was an example of Personnel Management 101 at it's finest. This is how to staff successfully!" "AGC tailored this process to get the job done. They had to have the process well thought out and in my professional opinion, this one was! They knew what they needed to accomplish and so it was a matter of backing into it with a solid plan. It was complete, respectful of the candidates and involved a very linear decision making process." "The results speak for themselves - the process works if you let the process work for you!"

David Cullen - AGC - Milwaukee, Board President & 98 and Management Succession Committee Member 
"We were confident in the position, the process and the caliber of the candidates who applied. We all did our job and felt very good about it." "As a committee, we saw the value in what VRH could do for our association in this crucial selection process."

Gary Jorgensen - AGC - Milwaukee, Board, Succession Committee, and Interview Team Member 
"The process we developed and executed was excellent for doing this type of position selection. The next time my company looks for a key person, I will use this process and work with an industrial psychologist."

Rupert Kotze - AGC - Milwaukee, Board, Succession Committee, and Interview Team Member 
"Everyone and everything was considered in this process. Candidly, as a potential candidate, you couldn't have had a more open and straight-forward process.

Apprentice Testing - A Program for the Skilled Trades
"The expectations of life depend upon diligence; the mechanic that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools." -Confucius 

It is not unusual for skilled trade groups to receive anywhere from 200 to 1000 applications each year in an effort to fill from 15 to 25 apprentice openings. Many organizations may think this is an enviable position, especially in light of the current difficulties attracting and hiring employees. The real predicament from the trade union's perspective, however, is selecting the most qualified individuals, those who are the most likely to succeed in performing on-the-job. 

Over the past 30 years, skilled trades have been turning to VRH for a tool or system that takes the predicament out of this selection process - Apprentice Testing. 

The VRH Apprentice Testing Program is an aptitude-based selection process that utilizes objective, nondiscriminatory testing procedures. "The selection programs we develop are very trade specific and always customized," according to Rena Sokol (formerly Matusiak), a management consultant for VRH.

Sokol outlines how the Apprentice Testing Program works.

  • Step 1: VRH initially meets with the skilled trade group to learn about their business goals, current recruitment, training, and certification processes. Familiarizing the trade group about various testing options also occurs during this step.

  • Step 2: The trade group and VRH mutually decide on the selection strategy that complements their needs and business goals.

  • Step 3: A customized selection program is developed and validated by VRH.

  • Step 4: VRH administers, scores, and analyzes the test results for the potential apprentice candidates continuously ensuring test security.

  • Step 5: VRH generates a comprehensive report capturing the individual test results and offers recommendations based on statistical analysis.

The areas or aptitudes addressed in a selection program typically include measuring:

  • Mathematical Reasoning - practical shop math (adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing), working with decimals and fractions, or reading simple gauges and charts.

  • Mechanical Reasoning -the ability to perceive and understand 'how things work' (physical forces and mechanical elements) in practical situations.

  • Spatial Aptitude - the ability to manipulate objects mentally, and conceptualize in a 3-D fashion.• Manual Dexterity - gross movement of hands and fingers.

  • Manual Coordination - the ability to copy simple pattern outlines precisely and accurately.• Visual Acuity - the ability to compare differences and similarities between objects.

  • General Reading Comprehension - the ability to read and comprehend technical literature and documentation.

"These aptitudes are provided only as an illustration of some of the basic areas we can test around," states Sokol. "The Apprentice Testing Program that we develop will fit your needs and business goals, be reliable, valid, have a practical business effect, and will be in compliance with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission standards governing employee selection. That is our commitment to you!"

Other benefits are equally apparent, such as:

  • Asserting clear, impartial hiring criteria tailored to the specific skilled trade.

  • Providing objective tools for making placement decisions.

  • Minimizing risk in negligent hiring and placement decisions.

Sokol adds, "Our objective is to ensure that those qualified individuals who are most likely to succeed in your apprentice program are selected."   

For additional information or to set up an appointment to begin developing your Apprentice Testing Program, contact the experts at VRH.  

Did You Know... 

According to a recently released five-year gender and leadership study, 2,482 male and female employees from more than 400 companies across 19 states perceive women as better managers than men. Using a 360 Feedback Assessment approach, Lawrence Pfaff, Ed.D., found that in addition to the traditional 'softer' skills - communications, feedback, employee empowerment - female managers have acquired nontraditional strengths in recent years, such as decisiveness, planning and setting standards. The study also indicated that male managers have not broadened their skills in the same way, continuing to rely on a more autocratic style, emphasizing individual accomplishment and competition. Considering the contemporary workplace needs more supportive and collaborative ways of relating, female managers are increasingly better equipped for leadership roles. (Source: The Monitor, September, 1999, a publication by the American Psychological Association)

A recent survey of 601 U.S. human resource professionals conducted by career services firm Lee Hecht Harrison, revealed that employee turnover decreased when greater compensation was combined with career development and other practices such as training and flexible staffing. While 55% of the organizations surveyed have taken steps in the past year to improve professional or executive retention, only 10% have actually reduced their turnover level. (Source: Management Review, January, 1999

Customer Perspectives

"The quality of applicants for our electrical apprenticeship program has greatly improved with the development of the aptitude test by VRH"  Debbie Cimarossa, City Water Light and Power

"The VRH Apprentice Testing Program is very professional and reliable."  Jim Murray, Ceramic Tile Layers and Terrazzo Workers, Local 67


Spring 2002
Fall 2001

Spring 2001

Winter 2000

Fall 1999 
Spring 1999 
Fall 1998 

VRH Insights 
(VRH's short topic pieces that relate to organizational performance.)
Commemorating 20 Years of Service 
"Sorry, wrong executive." 
"Leaders aren't born" 
"Fit is It" 


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