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Psychology Within Recruitment

  1. PSYCHOLOGY WITHIN RECRUITMENT AYTAN HILTON, OCT 2016
  2. Contents • Introduction • We are all different… • The Selection Process • Organisational Design, Efficiencies & Effectiveness • What does this all have to do with recruitment? • Cultural & Social Influences: ”The Individual Self” • Motivation & Emotion • Prejudice & Discrimination • Conclusions
  3. Introduction The reasons (psychologically, physically and socially) why our cognitive behaviour is the way it is are complex and will extend far beyond the topics covered today. But in fairly simplistic terms and articulated i hope in a way that is relevant and applicable, i will attempt to cover some of the following areas around the psychology within recruitment: • Drivers & Motivators behind why behave the way they do • Looking at the Social: Thinking / Influence / Relations side of things • Emotional: "Biopsychosocio" views to our behaviours • Workplace Cultures & Environments By the very nature of the world I will be exploring, the sheer volume of people involved as recruiters, candidates, clients, hiring managers and so on runs in to the millions...and that in itself will mean that the following has to be interpreted predominantly as qualitative interpretation of studies, insights and observations rather than necessarily a quantitative exercise based purely on probability, statistics and data. There is plenty of it, but ultimately as you will see; a lot of the psychology behind recruitment is driven by circumstances within an environment rather than through design or engineering.
  4. We are all different… It is known from research into the psychology of individual differences that people differ from each other in stable and noticeable ways. Some differences and their links with job performance criteria are easy way to identify (at a fairly general level). But what role does ‘emotional stability’ play? For most jobs and people it’s quite difficult to be certain what the precise mix is between psychological characteristics that are important for success. Selection therefore seeks to identify the common characteristics of those people who perform well, even though those individuals may be different in other ways. The goal of selection research over the years has been to establish specific links between individual difference variables and job success. In broad terms, the most important individual difference characteristics for selection are "Cognitive Ability" (Carroll, 1993) and "Personality" (Costa & McCrae and Digman, 1992). Across our 4 audiences (Candidates, Hiring Managers, Recruiters / Suppliers and Clients), setting out our criteria for job success shared amongst all: • Performance / Proficiency - effectiveness in conducting work tasks • Attendance - Reliable attendance at normal work times • Tenure - Length of stay in the job • Progression - Through relevant grades in the organisations hierarchy • Training Performance - Effectiveness in assimilating and benefiting from the training provided by the organisation
  5. The Selection Process We often look at the above in terms of Competency Based Interviewing (CBI) to ascertain the right person for the job - identifying and measuring individual differences in specific work-related behavioural constructs that can be seen as samples but not necessarily signs of behaviour. In psychology, "The Big 5 Factors of Personality" refers to Extroversion, Neuroticism, Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness and Agreeableness...and the practical difficulties of CBI alone means the understanding of a person's potential to perform may be of more interest (but ultimately missed) to the organisation than if he or she can actually do the job right now, today. We need to be able to make good predictions about a candidate's likeliness to succeed based on measures of their character (The Big 5) too. So, in this first area; the selection process must begin with a strong job analysis to identify the key components of what is required of the role in turn creating a person specification indicating which skills and characteristics to look for in a good candidate. If we go on to accept that candidates will be different to each other, it is these differences that we are going on to assess and understand as the heart of our selection - the criteria and competencies forming the validity and reliability of what we are looking for at the core of the individual. A contemporary 'hot potato' in the world of recruitment at the moment is (as with a lot of trends) "Unconscious Bias - UB". This is a very complex topic to explain and is a paper in itself. A personal view and one that can be justified through further reading around UB, is that ultimately it is a natural, biological phenomenon that cannot be eradicated from someone's behaviour (partly due to it developing over the duration of our lives and partly due to its physiological complexities going beyond a few training sessions in the office).
  6. The Selection Process contd. Where I think organisations and companies could perhaps better focus their attentions if following trends is to first understand what Emotional Intelligence is, how it fits within the framework of Cognitive Intelligence (linking to IQ for example) and to then go on to understand and appreciate what “Emotional Quotient – EQ” means within the workplace. Then, dealing with UB could be more objective and beneficial to everyone. Salvoes & Mayer (1990) originally defined EQ as "the ability to monitor one's own and others' feelings and emotions, to discriminate amongst them and to use this information to guide one's thinking and actions." Within recruitment, this concept has massive implications at various and all stages of the lifecycle. Studies and Scholars have debated for some time whether EQ is a trait / characteristic associated with The Big 5 Personality Factors or as with IQ is a measure of ability of intelligence rather than personality. Where EQ does become wholly relevant to recruitment is the relationship between it and job performance; as Goleman (1998) found in competencies such as ‘understanding & influencing others’ being essential for job effectiveness for example. However, emotion at work is a relatively new topic within psychology and is deemed quite a different expression to other feelings such as stress or satisfaction...How employees and organisations manage the experience and expression of emotion is a key consideration - EQ likely to be important therefore in doing so.
  7. Organisational Design, Efficiencies & Effectiveness Organisations are investing heavily in recent years around “Organisational Design (OD)” and “Organisational Efficiencies / Effectiveness (OE)”. These areas focus on Culture Performance and Environment. Defining and measuring these could be categorised as follows: Power Distance: The degree to which members of an organisation accept distinctions between members on the basis of position - including such things as status and decision making power... Uncertainty Avoidance: The degree to which members of an organisation actively attempt to reduce ambiguity in organisational life by relying on norms, rules and policies... Humane Orientation: The degree to which members of an organisation encourage and reward individuals for being fair and kind to others... Assertiveness: The degree to which members of an organisation are assertive, dominant and demanding in their interactions with others... Gender Egalitarianism: The degree to which men and women are treated equally in terms of tasks assigned and opportunities for training / development (Inclusivity)... Future Orientation: The degree to which an organisation encourages and rewards long-term versus short-term planning... Performance Orientation: The degree to which an organisation focuses on and rewards high performance and efforts to improve quality... Individualism / Collectivism: The degree to which an organisation focuses on individual accomplishment versus those of & within a group... Organisation Collectivism: The degree to which organisation members take pride in being associated with the organisation...
  8. What does all of the above have to do with Recruitment? All of the above create your “EVP and perception of your Brand”. That is ultimately what we are promoting, attracting and encouraging candidates to buy-in to in addition to the technical opportunity they are seeking. Psychologically, Levering (1998) found in his book "A Great Place to Work: What Makes Some Employers So Good (and Most So Bad)?" - • Trust: Credibility: The trustworthiness and competence of management. Respect: recognition of employees' personal and professional worth. Fairness: Equitable sharing of opportunities and rewards. • Pride: Value attached to one's job, work group and association with the company. • Camaraderie: Friendliness and community in the workplace. In turn, we aspire to find the above values expressed and demonstrable from our candidates.
  9. Cultural & Social Influences: “The Individual Self” The importance of social factors and group memberships is recognised when talking about the "Self Concept". Most of us exist within a network of communities and social expectations: be they family, friendship groups or occupational ones. Many people seek out communities to belong to: religious groups, communes, volunteer groups...and indeed, workplaces they feel that they would "fit in" to. In other words, we don't really exist as independent individuals necessarily, rather we live within social networks and groups. So, what does this mean for D&I initiatives and strategies, seeking variation of individuals brought together and made to feel equally welcome with the same opportunities for success? We potentially gauge our fit through "Social Identification" - large scale in terms or ethnicity for example, medium scale such as our profession (accountant, doctor, mechanic etc) and on a small scale perhaps social clubs or groups we might attend. Social Identity theory is interesting as it highlights to people that they belong to more social groups & categories than they perhaps realise and if they are unaware of this as recruitment adopts more and more anonymisation to its process, peoples' identities once masked to avoid UB for example or in the hope of promoting positive discrimination; may lead to the loss of social identity altogether. Ultimately losing not only your own identity but that of the organisation you are working within. From an early age we develop a "Theory of Mind". An awareness of what other people are thinking and feeling, which we go on to use to interact effectively with others. However, if we are constantly told it doesn't matter what people think about you - the way you dress, speak, think, feel...we lose the ability, slowly, to engage purposefully with others. Liberalism and acceptance of any and everyone and their behaviours and actions is progressive thinking, but without the understanding of people's 'non-verbal communication' we run the risk of totally misinterpreting someone. Con Artists for example have excellent control of their non-verbal communication because they need you to focus on what they are telling you...whereas a young person who is not yet able to articulate themselves fully may mislead your assumptions of their attitude due to a casual posture for example. This could be critical and key in interview or assessment situations where someone is physically in your company rather than on the phone or communicating only by text.
  10. Cultural & Social Influences: “The Individual Self” contd. A positive organisational culture makes people feel valued and able to do good work, so they are proud of belonging to that organisation. A dictatorial culture, or one where cost-cutting means that people have to do bad work they are not proud of, produces high turnover and dissatisfied workers. Increased attrition, almost impossible retention and increasingly difficult attraction. The power of organisation culture is closely linked with social identification. People always form social groups at work and a positive org culture can include those groups as its strengths because everyone is pulling together to succeed in the same direction...but, in a more negative culture, the group's values and this of the management don't connect and the workforce becomes disengaged.
  11. Motivation & Emotion The study of motivation is the study of the causes of behaviour. Motives comes from the Latin for 'move' and denotes that which energises and gives direction to people's behaviour. This can be driven through need and also by desire. The physiological reasons for motivation are extensive. But in this paper's context, Core Social Motives such as belonging, understanding, controlling, self-enhancing and trusting are the more relevant ones around why each category does what they do in recruitment. We often talk about understanding the 'Drivers' and 'Motivators' of Hiring Managers and Candidates. Here, we are looking to ascertain the balance of understanding between need and want from either party. What is critical / key to success and what is desirable, personal preference? It's interesting also to consider the concept that 'Emotion' is not necessarily biological, but potentially psychological and cultural. The same Basic emotions (see diagram by Plutchik) differ from culture to culture and eventually within cultures; so a physical expression of emotion ends up being driven by psycho-social factors rather than physiological ones. So when people say they are "following their gut" or "led by their emotions" it's quite possible that in fact they are being led by the social / working groups or organisational culture that they are working within. This is a form of professional UB rather than personal UB.
  12. Prejudice & Discrimination As an extreme attitude, 'Prejudice' comprises cognitive (stereotype), affective (hostility) and behavioural components. Discrimination usually refers to the kind of prejudiced behaviour. Most definitions of prejudice identify it as the characteristic of an individual, but it's often associated with intergroup conflict - racism, sexism...ageism...regarded as ideologies; which are characteristics of society, not individuals. The idea here that an individual may simply be acting out the prejudices of the group they belong to, or indeed work for. Replicating influences they are seeing from the top down. 2 major motives for conformity are 1) the need to be right and 2) the need to be accepted by others. While independence is often seen as preferable to conformity, conformity also serves an important social function. So how would all of this tie in to Inclusivity policies? Are we looking for conformists or individuals? Do we want more of the same or do we want lots of difference aiming for the same common goal?
  13. Conclusions There is much more to all of this, but in the interests of opening things up to discussion, I will start to draw some conclusions and closing statements. The key question for me therefore is “What is the balance between understanding and application?” The understanding of all that has been said in this paper versus the pragmatic application of processes and practices that get the job done day to day by those who perhaps are unaware of the psychological, social and corporate influences upon them. The more we analyse and obsess over things, are we making them less productive or should we carry on exploring and peeling back the layers of why people behave the way they do, aspire to success in a certain way and accept that without this ability to truly understand “why” we will be reactive transactors rather than proactive implementers of successful talent acquisition and management across our organisations. My advice would be to master the basics first, explore the more complex concepts from a number of perspectives / viewpoints and train incrementally rather than attempting to learn it all in one go or session. One 2-hour session on UB for example is not going to mean people are able to reduce or manage it…the same way CBI isn’t going to be the most appropriate method of assessing HR Candidates one day and Digital ones the next…we need to have appropriate and fit for purpose options that can be tailored to varying needs. It’s fascinating and constantly learning and developing. The key is to keep up and wherever possible go ahead by not being afraid to take a few risks and benefiting from making the odd mistake…but having tried and failed rather than not and remaining static in our approach to recruitment, talent acquisition and workforce development.
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