repeat from Recruiting Trends 3/16/2012

Here’s something big to think about….

How many times have organizations focused on hiring ‘the best and the brightest’ people, and how many times have those people failed? According to a recent three-year study by Leadership IQ, 46% of new hires were deemed failures within 18 months, and only 19% were considered unequivocal successes.

Why do people fail? More often than not, it is because they do not live up to the expectations that they created for themselves, and or the expectations that others have created around them. As it was stated so memorably in the classic film Cool Hand Luke, “What we have here is a failure to communicate,” and the failure involves the hire, the hiring process, and the person(s) responsible for hiring – and firing.

Wherever you have a failure to communicate, there is a deficiency in ‘teaming’ with others in a clear, positive, and constructive manner.

Decades of experience, study, and development of best practices tell us that resumes, education, experience, testing metrics, and face-to-face presentation are essential to the hiring process, and yet we still have high percentages of failed hires. Worse yet, amongst the ranks of America’s most successful employees, we see the recurring incidence of malfeasance, fraud, and scandal. Could it be there is still some crucial element missing from the hiring equation?

In the Leadership IQ study’s ‘reason for failure’ list, “poor interpersonal skill” was #1, by a mile.

Inter-personal = between persons. A person can be on a team as soon as one other person shows up. If they ‘connect,’ it can be a good team. If not, it probably won’t be. Let’s take this to the next level and call that connection ‘teamability’: the ability to be a positive, constructive team player.

Everyone wants great team players. Even people who aren’t great team players want great team players.

The history of sports teams and top athletes is full of interesting examples. In recent years we have seen one after another baseball, basketball, or football player with superstar talent being bounced from team to team. Why? It’s not because they don’t play well. It’s because they don’t ‘team well.’ Meanwhile, some sports franchise owners continue to load their teams (and their payrolls) with top talent, expecting to take the top spot, but it rarely happens. Instead, the prize goes to those who make the most of what they’ve got – the teams that play with passion, and find a way to win despite the odds. It’s a very public example of what’s going on ‘behind the curtain’ in many corporations and institutions.

In today’s organizations, positive team players are actually high-quality nodes in a performance network. But business has a long history of focusing on people as a collection of ‘traits and talents’ with a fixed price tag.

Putting price ahead of performance is a transactional, not a strategic, point of view. It does not recognize ‘teamability’ and it has led to some very bad decisions. A typical example is a workforce reduction initiative that terminates the highest paid employees without ever considering their intrinsic value to ongoing business processes. In one high-profile U.S. corporation, pure cost-reduction objectives drove an early retirement program. The result: an abrupt loss of leadership and process knowledge sent manufacturing activity into chaos. A subsequent shutdown and re-start cost over $1.6 billion: about 3 times the cost of the buyout itself.

The same transactional approach dominates job screening and hiring, but the impact is not as obvious.

Average turnover in the U.S. is 12%, and standard HR practice calculates turnover cost at 1.5 times salary. That’s not so bad – a mere $180 million/yr. in a company with a $1B payroll. But what about the ‘collateral damage’ that results from poor teamwork? Add in the cost of failed strategic initiatives, damaged relationships, lost time, and lost sales, and transactional cost pales by comparison!

Organizations do try to improve their quality of hire and to ward off the dreaded ‘bad hire’. Many rely on pre-hire and post-hire assessment tools and methods like tests of personality, aptitudes, interests, values, general intelligence, and so on. Interestingly enough, only about a quarter of the organizations that use these instruments routinely make the effort to measure their impact on business value.

To be sure, the tools and metrics mentioned above can be accurate and informative, but none of them were specifically designed to address the presence or the quality of teaming behaviors.

Having new information about teamability produces new and better ways to hire, manage, and lead individuals and teams.

A barometer will tell you a lot about ‘big picture’ weather trends like rain or shine, and warming or cooling – but it won’t tell you the temperature. For that, you need the instrument that was designed to measure a different aspect of weather. Similarly, if you want to measure ‘teaming,’ you need a different kind of instrument.

Creating the ‘technology of teaming’, took a great deal of research, modeling, and testing. The first step was to understand exactly what needed to be measured. Then the target had to be isolated from other factors, and finally described and measured. In all, it took 25 years of research, including 9+ years of software development. This completely new technology relies on multiple interlocking behavioral simulators, which were validated in actual business settings, by trained observers, for both accuracy and business value.

So what do you learn by identifying teamability? There are three ‘Teaming Metrics’.

First, there is ‘Role.’ This will tell you the kind of organizational need to which a candidate is fundamentally attracted. If you seek passionate, committed, team players, you might think of their Role as their ‘mission in life’. This is something that teaming technology elicits. It can’t be determined by direct questioning because some people may not even recognize it in themselves, and others may be inclined to simply tell you what matches the job posting, or what they think you want to hear.

Second, you need to definitively measure the quality of their ‘teaming’ which is, ideally, clear, consistent, and focused. We call this Coherence because it is analogous to physical properties of coherence: as in light or sound transmissions that are absent of noise or distortion. Translate that to interpersonal communication and team responsibilities, and you’ll understand how valuable Coherent teaming is to any organization. At any level, it’s an overarching metric of quality.

Third, you need to identify specific ‘teaming characteristics’ that may or may not be relevant to a particular team or business context. When such elements are a good ‘fit’ to the situation, context, and culture, you increase the likelihood, and the benefits, of positive team play.

Everyone agrees that it’s important to get the right people on the bus, and in the right seats on the bus.

In the past, this has not been a very easy thing to do. But measuring teamability fills in the missing pieces of the ‘right people/right seats’ puzzle. The right people are the ones who will naturally ‘team’ in such a way that they fit the mission of the team they are on. And the right seat is where each person’s job responsibilities are aligned with their Role (i.e., their mode of contribution to the team, not their job title).

When you begin to align people in teams where they are able to accomplish their heartfelt mission, you create an infrastructure that encourages and supports positive team performance, and this is how a team develops synergistic energy that enables them to do more with less – to deliver more business value as a high-functioning team than they could ever do as a group of individual contributors.

In the end, successful hiring and successful teamwork come down to a pretty simple concept:  People do best what they like best, and they like best what they do best.

In a group with high teamability, team members sense that their contribution is understood and appreciated, and they have a better understanding of how other people seek to contribute. Ultimately, this makes the workplace a better place to work. And when the people go home feeling good about their work, their team, and themselves, it makes the world a better place to be. That, dear reader, is your reason to care about teamability.

Dr. Janice Presser is CEO of The Gabriel Institute, creator of the Technology of Teaming™: a completely new way to predict how people will perform in teams.  She blogs at Leadership is a Team Sport and tweets as @DrJanice.

Author: Rick Zabor

Engineer / Scientist / Researcher turned Recruiter in 1987. Interested in the best way to do things and mixing with people who have passions for life. Writes on topics important to building winning teams and personal growth and accomplishment. Connect with me on Linkedin. Lives in Atlanta, GA.