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Soulful Selection

To improve the hiring and developing of talent, human intelligence—not AI—is still your best resource to reduce turnover and improve the candidate experience. Here’s a six-step process.

Organizations often look for the latest and greatest tool for their hiring and development processes—often chasing every shiny object with sexy marketing designed to solve all problems with a flick of a switch. Too often, those organizations then pay the price in poor hiring decisions and succession planning, weak leadership and lawsuits.

Enter the latest and greatest super shiny object: artificial intelligence. Everywhere you look, there is discussion and opinion about AI. For now, however, AI is still based on mathematical modeling that’s solely reliant on the input of users or web scraping. CHROs cannot give up on critical assessments that have been proven for over 100 years, nor can they give up on tried-and-true analysis of data.

This article highlights how to use the other kind of AI—actual intelligence—to implement a hiring assessment process that reduces turnover and improves the candidate experience. Plus, it addresses how to align your leadership development approach with your hiring process to create effective succession planning and talent management.


Middle School Math > AI

A key part of the CHRO role in any organization is to mitigate risk—and AI carries a lot of risk, as well as muddied ROI for hiring and development. In fact, AI use in hiring and development could lead to penalties. AI has been around long enough and triggered enough negative outcomes that 17 states have introduced AI bills or resolutions to heavily regulate or even ban its use in certain instances.

Before accepting AI into their hiring and employee development processes, CHROs should understand that there are more proven techniques available that, if executed correctly with human expertise leading the way, can maximize retention and performance while avoiding the other AI—adverse impact.

In middle school, do you remember learning about “rise over run” in algebra? You probably thought it was useless knowledge that you would never call on again. Wrong.
Covariance modeling is the foundation of analytical techniques that are proven winners when it comes to selecting employees, whether this be correlational, multiple regression or structural equation modeling.

SHRM and the Society for Industrial/Organizational Psychology (SIOP) publish guidelines on using these techniques in hiring, and the EEOC has endorsed such guidelines. You should too. Artificial intelligence, on the other hand, takes the data you feed it—or mines “similar” data from the cloud—and then twists and turns it in thousands of iterations to maximize prediction.

Don’t get us wrong—maximizing prediction is important. But not at the expense of dehumanizing hiring and development and risking discrimination. The candidate experience during hiring cannot be underestimated. It is critical not only to landing the best candidates, but to building loyalty by embracing our common humanity.


Improving the Candidate Experience

Another issue with shiny HR objects is the underlying assumption that the candidate experience means assessments should be more “gamelike.” What candidates really want is not to be ghosted during the process and for the organization to be transparent about the assessments they are required to take.

In the typical candidate experience, candidates never hear a peep from the hiring firm—they’re completely ghosted. Many other applicants, if not ghosted, receive a generic rejection letter. This lack of authentic communication exasperates candidates. LinkedIn is filled with stories of post-interview ghosting and how frustrating it can be.

As a CHRO, you can be more strategic in your hiring process by not only communicating with candidates when they don’t get the position but providing developmental reports and follow-up emails with developmental coaching. If the candidate was unsuccessful in advancing in the hiring process, a follow-up developmental report is designed to keep them focused on reapplying to your organization for a different role, even if they weren’t a great fit for the position they originally applied for. The follow-up emails with developmental coaching tips will keep the candidate “warm” for your recruiters for potential roles in the future—and this process can be automated so as not to add even more to recruiters’ workload.

Developmental reports turn the ghosting narrative on its head, providing valuable feedback and making sure the candidate knows how to improve. This means the recruitment and hiring experience can be both empowering and useful, even when the candidate isn’t successful. Since most organizations don’t provide this kind of feedback, your company, when it does, can stand out and provide a boost for your employer brand.

A Hiring and Development Process That Works infographic

A Hiring and Development Process that Works

Too often, organizations rely on an unstructured interview process that incorporates a lot of go-to questions interviewers have used throughout their careers. Unfortunately, more than 100 years of research has shown that unstructured interviews are only slightly more effective than flipping a coin. Plus, this type of hiring process is filled with bias and could leave you in the crosshairs of the EEOC. Making the jump to equally biased AI hiring tools is not the strategic answer. Here are the elements that CHROs can incorporate and integrate to make your hiring process extremely valid and accurate, while avoiding adverse impact and other bias issues.

1. Assess Skills and Competencies Tied Directly to Business Outcomes

CHROs spend time on building competency models that definitely “sound” right and reflect what the organization wants out of its employees. To ensure those competencies are valid for hiring and development, you must conduct linkage analysis studies that connect the competencies to actual business outcomes: productivity, retention, performance, etc.

Many organizations do not take the time to do these studies, or they don’t ask their hiring and development vendors to prove the impact of the competency models they use. Effective CHROs focus on ROI, and this is a great place to start. The key approaches to assessing competencies during the hiring process are situational judgment tests (SJTs) and biodata/
experience assessments tests, followed up with structured interviews for your finalists.

2. Use Comprehensive, Proven Personality Assessments

The “Big Five” model of personality traits has been around for decades, and it defines five core dimensions of personality: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion (extroversion), agreeableness and neuroticism. While this model has been effective, three key shortcomings emerge from this approach to personality assessment.

First, honesty/humility is missing from the Big Five framework, and this trait is predictive of key business outcomes. Second, the Big Five has limitations from a cross-cultural research perspective, which is particularly important when focusing on diversity and adverse impact. Third, the direct validity and business impact of Big Five personality assessments, while they do exist, are below expectations from a practical perspective.

Some popular personality assessments include many irrelevant and potentially biased questions. (Example: a question about whether the candidate enjoys going to art galleries.) When candidates see these types of questions, they may get the impression that the process is unfair, and that there is pseudo-psychology going on behind the scenes.

Enter the cross-culturally valid HEXACO model of personality. This model optimizes the hiring and development assessment process because it is proven to drive actual business outcomes, asks relevant questions of individuals about work and takes a few minutes to complete.

Before accepting AI into their hiring and employee development processes, CHROs should understand that there are more proven techniques available that, if executed correctly with human expertise leading the way, can maximize retention and performance while avoiding the other AI—adverse impact.


3. Apply Bias-Free Cognitive Assessments

You should be focused on measuring cognitive ability without the adverse impact baggage of intelligence tests. Working memory is an excellent construct that allows just this.

Working memory methodology is more predictive than traditional cognitive ability measurements. Specifically, effective assessments measure the ability to control attention during goal-directed activity. Individuals with greater working memory capacity can do a better job of focusing on goal-relevant information, keeping this information accessible, integrating new information and suppressing attention to irrelevant information. All this leads to enhanced decision-making, which is critical for any leadership position.

4. Objectively Assess Culture Fit and Past Experiences

Standard hiring and development assessments often leave hiring teams without a clear idea of candidates’ true culture fit and career goals. Sometimes, organizations will onboard a candidate and then find out too late that these factors create a mismatch or poor fit.

Understanding what a candidate values in an organization’s culture and analytically aligning that with how your organization delivers on those cultural elements is key to understanding fit. This type of data is highly predictive of performance and turnover and can be used for both selection and development.

5. Launch Onboarding Coaching from Day One

On average, the first-year employee turnover rate in organizations is almost double the overall turnover rate. Candidates frequently leave their jobs shortly after being hired. This underscores the need for effective onboarding tools and an excellent candidate experience. Many hiring software companies simply make a recommendation and then leave the highest-scoring candidate to “hit the ground running,” without any real support. This does not set new hires up for success.

To run an effective onboarding process, and minimize the chances of turnover, your organization will benefit from having:

  • A comprehensive assessment review with the new hire’s direct manager. This person needs to understand the new hire’s strengths, weaknesses and motivations, so the new hire can be well-managed from day one.
  • An onboarding toolkit that introduces new hires to your organization and teaches them how to onboard their own newly hired employees. This will enable them to perform at the highest level and reduce employee turnover within their team, while encouraging them to stay at your organization.
  • A customized coaching plan designed to maximize performance. This plan will be created by integrating organizational data (such as recent employee survey results) and company wellness resources with the new hire’s assessment data. It will help new leaders understand their direct reports better, and it will maximize their ability to focus on priorities such as wellness and inclusion. A customized coaching plan should be in effect from day one to maximize performance and loyalty.

6. Align Your Assessments for Hiring, Development, Succession and Future Leader Identification

Your hiring process will be most impactful and successful when you integrate all the elements above. By observing the candidate’s performance across all measures, you’ll be able to easily discern between candidates and select the best one for your role.

The other huge opportunity for CHROs is to utilize the same process and assessments for developing current leaders and identifying future leaders. This approach will give you a complete understanding of your leadership pipeline across all talent pools.

By aligning all your assessments from the beginning of the employee life cycle, you will start the talent review process by comparing all leaders (and future leaders) on the same criteria of effectiveness: competencies, personality, biodata, acumen and values/culture fit. The succession/talent review process is maximized because you will have aligned information as well for both recently hired leaders and all other leaders.

Beyond having aligned assessments, it is critical to bring in a few KPIs that the organization is focused on. Why? Although the aligned leadership assessments will tell you a lot about the elements of the leader and what drives outcomes—such as turnover and performance—integrating each leader’s actual performance on those KPIs into your succession/talent review process ensures that you get the complete picture of each leader.

This complete picture will maximize your ability to make the right succession decisions based on the most objective and valid data possible.


The Real Deal

What we describe here is a valid, highly predictive process for hiring and developing human talent to maximize performance and loyalty. No artificial intelligence is required, just the real deal—human intelligence. For CHROs to maximize the business impact of their assessment process, it is important to focus on these key areas:

  • Use actual, proven valid assessments with no adverse impact.
  • Align assessments for hiring, development and leadership identification.
  • Show the direct business impact of your assessments—by aligning with KPIs.
  • Provide a great candidate experience by giving all of your candidates developmental feedback and digital coaching.
  • Integrate all the assessments into one platform—and make the process easy and take less than 30 minutes to complete.

Believe it or not, each of these principles can easily be achieved with a simple, integrated and thoughtful assessment and hiring process. This is where advances in technology and analytics produce a significant impact for organizations and candidates. 

Craig Wallace
Scott Mondore

Craig Wallace, Ph.D., and Scott Mondore, Ph.D., are managing partners of Hutrics LLC, an assessment technology company that is based in Georgia.