Devin FosterDecember 09, 2020
Topics: Recruiter Experience

How to Use Data-Driven Tools to Improve Leadership Hiring [VIDEO]

Filling leadership roles with the right talent is directly linked to better employee engagement, reduced turnover, and stronger financial performance.

But identifying and hiring the right leaders is a difficult and complex task. Using objective data that evaluates a candidate’s behaviors, cognitive abilities, and work preferences can help recruiters make solid, reliable decisions.

Mike Guglielmo, Academic Director – Executive MBA Program at the Fox School of Business at Temple University, joined us last week on Talent Experience Live to explore how assessments and objective data can equip recruiters with insights to hire the right leaders.

Guglielmo’s career has spanned accounting, IT, finance, operations and HR. He talked about his experience with data-driven assessment tools, Gen Z students … and why recruiters should check out the movie "Moneyball."

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How can TA leaders and recruiters obtain objective data to guide leadership hiring decisions?

A self-assessment tool that measures personality traits, behavioral traits, motivators and work style preferences will produce objective data points that can help identify characteristics of successful leaders. Used in combination with subjective methods (e.g., 360s, competency measures), this approach can help ensure selection of leaders who will coach, inspire, and champion team members – some of the most important factors in employee engagement and retention.

Guglielmo drew on his experience as a recruiter for a major long-term care organization to illustrate how transformative using a tool like this can be. His team dealt with a constant need to staff nurses and doctors. “It was like a giant bucket with holes in the bottom,” he says of the turnover.

To get answers, the team launched a data-driven research project. They ultimately determined that leadership was responsible for the high turnover.

How can HR teams use data to uncover effective leaders?

The key characteristics of strong leaders – ones who mentor employees, provide career path coaching based on strengths and skills, and who personally speak with team members on a regular basis – were not being assessed during the hiring process. Instead, medical staff with strong technical ability and performance were being promoted up to fill leadership roles.

But being the most highly skilled doctor or nurse does not automatically mean you’re going to be a great leader, Guglielmo pointed out.

Assessment tools measure potential for leadership success. Guglielmo’s research also revealed that top-performing companies were using assessment tools to measure behavioral traits, cognitive ability and work style to determine who would be a successful leader. Depending on the tool (there are various versions out there), employees are assessed against either top-performing leaders within their own organizations, or against a national benchmark.

When individuals assess themselves against internal or external benchmarking data, you’re almost guaranteed to get data that feeds sound leadership decision-making, Guglielmo said.

As he and his team found, a self-assessment tool can add value in several stages of the talent lifecycle:

  • Leadership development: Existing managers were asked to complete the self-assessment tool, and it helped them understand performance expectations based on what top managers were doing.
  • Career pathing: In some cases, taking the assessment helped managers realize they’d be happier returning to individual contributor roles.
  • Internal mobility: The team used objective measures from the tool as well as other data measures (e.g., customer satisfaction, employee engagement, financial performance) to guide decisions on promotions and leadership.
  • External hiring: Using the tool in combination with basic screening methods, Guglielmo’s team was able to craft interview questions that would focus in on a candidate’s competency gaps compared with other top performers.

“An assessment tool used in combination with other methods is the way to go,” Guglielmo said.

How can organizations best position these tools for younger generations of leaders?

As a director for Temple University’s Executive MBA Program, Guglielmo has plenty of experience with the incoming generation of workplace leaders.

Here’s what he tells his Gen Z students: “Use the assessment as a tool to see where you want to be eventually … don’t feel like it locks you in. Your life and roles will take a circuitous path.” (Guglielmo’s own career path, he points out, wound through fields that a self-assessment tool would tell him he’s diametrically opposed to. He regrets none of it.)

Great leaders partner with their team members, he noted. They study personality and interests and help employees figure out their best fit. Organizations should point out that self-assessment tools are meant to benefit employees – that they are an investment in their opportunities and growth.

RELATED: The Modern Internship: Reinventing a University Recruiting Staple with Quick-Win Campaigns

What types of tools can help recruiters objectively craft interview questions?

Combining an objective data-driven tool with subjective tools like a fit score gives a more complete picture of whether a candidate will be a good fit in a leadership role. This means interview questions that differ from traditional standbys such as “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”

Instead, an interview question might take the form of, “Tell me about a time you were on a team and felt like your voice wasn’t being heard. How did you get your voice out?” The way the interviewee answers can reveal a lot about leadership style, problem-solving style, and the way they’ll contribute on a team.

Pro tip: Objective assessment tools can support D&I efforts.

Some self-assessment tools are honing in on how to improve diversity through workplace culture, Guglielmo says. Because they measure invisible diversity elements, like motivations, behavior, and decision-making style, they provide an objective, scientifically validated way to provide more diverse thought processes and approaches to the workplace culture.

How can recruiters stay true to their own processes and decision-making?

As recruiters gear up for 2021, it can be exciting to consider all the tools and technology available to make life easier… but also a little overwhelming. How can recruiters strike a balance between using their own judgment and relying on tools like personality assessments?

Pay attention to the data that self-assessment tools can offer, Guglielmo recommended. And calibrate interview scores across candidates. Depending on individual judgment alone presents the risk of inherent bias, which is very difficult to eliminate.

RELATED: 3 HR Tech Implementation Tips to Prevent Analysis Paralysis

Recruiters can view a personality assessment tool as a second opinion, Guglielmo said. After all, today’s job candidates are savvy – they’re online, they’ve researched the right responses to interview questions; their resumes are polished to perfection. An assessment tool can provide objective data to help recruiters probe beneath the surface to evaluate a candidate’s potential for success as a leader in their organizations.

Side note: Watch "Moneyball."

One of Guglielmo’s favorite films, "Moneyball" has been recognized by others in the HR industry for its parallels to using data in talent acquisition.

The movie "Moneyball" tells the story of how an underdog (and underfunded) MLB team used data-driven analytics to assemble a lineup. Instead of relying on subjective judgment and box sheet statistics, the general manager advocated for looking at other data points like on-base percentage as well as specific player abilities to select a team of undervalued players.

Spoiler alert: Despite resistance from scouts and the team manager, the approach resulted in a competitive run that season, with a record-breaking winning streak. So check it out soon … and get inspired for new approaches in 2021.

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