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Which Competency Model System is Best for My Company?

October 4, 2016

Many competency model systems are too narrowly applied for the value, amount of work and expense. I found one offering meets all of my requirements for cradle-to-grave talent management use, high manager acceptance and engagement, amount of work required and cost/value for what you get.

According to Talent Management Magazine’s article on December 3, 2015 by Jim Graber, “Competency models allow leaders to implement a systematic approach to all facets of talent management.” Perhaps you’ve put your own preface to that statement: “In an ideal world.”

Here is my list of applications (wants and needs) for a valid and reliable competency model system:

  • Highly effective for the industry, company and jobs I’m supporting.
  • Reduces subjectivity and measures what it is suppose to measure.
  • Development of a job posting that attracts the right talent.
  • Eliminates the redundancy and necessity of job descriptions.
  • Ability to use a complimentary assessment for assessing applicants for the open position.
  • Ability to generate a Gap analysis automatically between an applicant and the job benchmark (job’s competency model).
  • Ability to generate a candidate comparison report of best candidates from the pool of finalists.
  • Provide the hiring manager and the new hire with the key accountabilities for the role, a talent report and gap analysis, along with a professional development plan and specific talent development goals as part of the onboarding plan.
  • Provide managers with tools that make it easy to have a laser-focused performance management or professional development discussion with their employees.
  • Provide employees with the “what” and the “how” to be successful.
  • Support objective “job fit” discussions when superior performance isn’t possible.

A competency model that doesn’t fulfill every one of those requirements isn’t acceptable.

What I Found.

TTI Success Insights (TTISI), a global assessment company, developed a competency model system several years ago and received a patent for its unique and highly reliable approach. That means no other firm offering competency models can copy it.

I’ve been using this system for over ten years in partnership with HR executives, HR business partners, C-level executives and department managers. If it didn’t meet all of my criteria I would have dropped it long ago. Instead, the most rewarding aspect of TTISI’s competency model system is the high level of engagement and adoption I receive from managers.

Managers intuitively and quickly recognize useful, value-added tools vs. time-wasting, low-validity or low-value tools. I find managers are advocates after completing and using just one job benchmark. Even better, the manager becomes a strong advocate for the system to other managers. As a customer-centric HR-geek, that has always been my number one measure for customer value: do my clients recommend the tool or strategy to other managers.

Consider what your Voice of the Customer rating is for your talent management system and specifically your job competency modeling system. If managers love what you are providing, the adoption rate is high and sustainability of your talent management strategy practically goes on auto-pilot. When was the last time you had a manager come to HR and beg for an exercise in writing job descriptions? Never. Is your current competency modeling system having to be pushed by HR and seen as too subjective or flawed by managers; or are your internal clients demanding it in their organizations?


In fact, managers that have leveraged the system demand its use for ongoing hiring. At a time when your Talent Acquisition folks (aka Recruiters) continue to be rewarded for “time-to-fill” off of an antiquated job requisition system, hiring managers have a way to inject “quality” into recruiting and hiring process.

Employee engagement, performance management and professional development

Experienced employees who are provided the opportunity to use the system consistently state “This has been the best performance discussion I’ve ever had in my entire career with my manager.” and “For the first time in my career, I feel like I know how to pursue and achieve the next level for my career.” New hires maintain that new hire excitement well past the honeymoon period.

From hiring to performance management to high potential development, TTISI’s patented process for competency modeling along with their talent assessments is a clear talent management program differentiator.

I realize this article sounds like a PR article. I encourage you to use the requirements list above to compare different competency modeling systems you are considering. Invite your internal clients (managers) into the evaluation process. And feel free to call me if you have questions about the TTISI patented process for competency modeling.

Need more information about TTISI’s patented competency modeling system (we call it a job benchmark)? Contact Carl Nielson at 972.346.2892 or email him at


Intentionally Focus Your Energy, Create More Success

May 12, 2016

Marshall Goldsmith is perhaps my favorite go-to thought leader for what I do. At the bottom of this article is an invitation to participate in a study he is conducting. Below are six engaging questions to use on a daily basis.

Engaging self-reflection questions can be useful in changing behavior.

To prove the validity of “engaging” questions and to compare them with “active” questions, Goldsmith initiated a study with participants in his leadership seminars. In the sessions, people answered six active questions every day for 10 working days. He “reverse engineered” the questions based on his experience and the literature on the factors that make employees feel engaged.

cropped-bigstockphoto_puzzle_pieces_27863-1638x1229.jpgHere are the six engaging questions he uses in his study and why he chose them.

1. Did I do my best to set clear goals today?

Employees who have clear goals report greater engagement than employees who don’t. If you don’t have clear goals and ask yourself, “Am I fully engaged?” the obvious follow-up is, “Engaged to do what?”

2. Did I do my best to make progress toward my goals today?

Harvard Business School’s Teresa Amabile in her scrupulous research has shown that employees who have a sense of “making progress” are more engaged than those who don’t. We don’t just need specific targets; we need to see ourselves nearing, not receding from, the target.

Anything less is frustrating and dispiriting. Imagine how you’d feel if you chose a goal and you got worse. How engaged would you be? Progress makes any of our accomplishments more meaningful.

3. Did I do my best to find meaning today?

I defer here to Viktor Frankl’s 1946 classic, “Man’s Search for Meaning.” Frankl, an Auschwitz survivor, describes how the struggle to find meaning can protect us in even the most unimaginable environments. It’s up to us, not an outside agency, to provide meaning.

4. Did I do my best to be happy today?

Happiness goes hand in hand with meaning. When employees report that they’re happy but their work is not meaningful, they feel empty. On the other hand, when employees regard their work as meaningful but are not happy, they feel like martyrs.

As Daniel Gilbert shows in “Stumbling on Happiness,” we’re lousy at predicting what will make us happy. We think our source of happiness is “out there,” but we usually find it “in here” when we quit waiting for someone or something else to bring us joy and take responsibility for locating it ourselves.

5. Did I do my best to build positive relationships today?

Gallup once asked employees, “Do you have a best friend at work?” and found the answers directly related to engagement. By tipping the question from passive to active, we’re reminded to continue growing our positive relationships, instead of judging our existing relationships. One of the best ways to “have a best friend” is to “be a best friend.”

6. Did I do my best to be fully engaged today?

To increase our level of engagement, we must ask ourselves if we’re doing our best to be engaged. A runner is more likely to run faster in a race by running faster when they train and time themself.

Likewise, an employee will be more engaged at work if they consciously tries to be more engaged and rigorously measures her effort. It’s a self-fulfilling dynamic: the act of measuring our engagement elevates our commitment to being engaged and reminds us that we’re personally responsible for our own engagement.

My class voluntarily considered these questions. After ten days we followed up and asked, “How’d you do? Did you improve?” So far we have conducted 79 studies with 2,537 participants. The results have been incredibly positive.

An employee will be more engaged if they consciously try to be more engaged.

About 65 percent improved on at least four items; 89 percent improved on at least one item; 11 percent didn’t change on any items; and 0.4 percent got worse on at least one item.

Given people’s demonstrable reluctance to change at all, this study shows that active self-questioning can trigger a new way of engaging with our world.

If you would like to participate in Marshall Goldsmith’s “Six Question” research, please send an email that says “Six Question Study” to, and he will enroll you in an upcoming study.

Carl Nielson is founder and principal of The Nielson Group, formed in 1998 to help organizations create breakthrough performance. Today, he and his team of esteemed colleagues serve the human capital management needs of complex organizations in a wide range of diverse industries.

Carl’s expertise includes executive coaching, engaging and developing teams, job-talent matching, high-potential talent development, senior management team development, cross-functional employee engagement, new manager assimilation and goals-and-role alignment.

Prior to starting his own consulting and coaching firm, Carl served for 18+ years in management roles:

  • IHRIM, Inc. Executive Director/COO, non-profit association management
  • Haynes and Boone, Director, Human Resources, large regional law firm
  • Pepsico/Frito-Lay, Group Manager, Human Resources
  • Honeywell/Allied-Signal*/Union Texas Petroleum, Group HR Manager
    *Allied-Signal acquired Honeywell and took the name for the ongoing entity.

Carl brings in-depth experience successfully  implementing organizational change, managing acquisitions and divestitures, talent acquisition and performance management.

In addition, Carl found a passion for applying his corporate talent management knowledge to help students in high school and college with career coaching. He is the author of Career Coaching for Students, a state-of-the-art career exploration coaching program for high school and college students.

He holds a BS degree in Organization and Industrial Psychology and is a Certified Professional Behavioral Analyst (CPBA), Certified Professional Motivators Analyst and Certified Professional TriMetrix® HD Analyst (CPTHDA). He is also a certified facilitator of The Coaching Clinic for managers and supervisors and is an IAC certified Relationship Coach.

Through his Success Discoveries brand, Carl has developed and offers several personal services and self-directed programs including Resume ReWrite™, Success Discoveries for Couples™, Developing Resiliency™, Career Coaching for Adults™, Success Discoveries for Me™ and Success Discoveries for Emotional Intelligence™.

Studies Show Why Global Teams Struggle

April 24, 2016

In multinational businesses, team members often have to communicate information to colleagues located across the globe. But for a host of reasons, information sharing and collaboration often doesn’t happen as effectively as it should.

This article references two studies to identify strategies for improving global team performance and ensure success: one conducted in 2014 by Target Training International, Ltd. on the behavioral style and personal motivator norming patterns by country using over 190,000 records from 14 countries; and a 2015 study by Martine Haas from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and Jonathon Cummings of Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.

Martine Haas was curious about precisely which issues were most responsible for impairing vital communication in multinational companies, and what could be done to improve it. She and Jonathon Cummings revealed what they learned in their paper, “Barriers to Knowledge Seeking within MNC Teams: Which Differences Matter Most?”, published in the Journal of International Business Studies.

Seeking that better understanding, Haas and Cummings surveyed more than 2,000 members of about 289 teams that worked globally for a large multinational company.

Findings from Haas and Cumming’s study show that geographic differences and working in different parts of the company’s structure had the greatest impact preventing people from collaborating with others.

“This research was motivated by the idea that multinationals work in teams to get their work done, but a high percentage of multinational teams struggle to succeed. We know that is a big problem in lots of organizations”, stated Haas. “You’ve got people all around the world who are not sharing information and knowledge as much as they could. So we’re trying to figure out: Why is that? What are some of the problems that these teams face? And how can they be overcome?

The particular focus of the Haas-Cummings study is on the extreme diversity. “We talk about four different kinds of diversity: 1) people from different geographic locations 2) people of different nationalities 3) people who work in different parts of their organizations — we call them structural differences and 4) people are demographically diverse — age, gender, tenure in the company and years of experience.”

The fact that the study revealed geography and organizational structure differences as the culprits to effective communication and collaboration surprised Wharton management professor Haas, who says that while different nationalities and geographic distances often are viewed as barriers to better communication, structural barriers within an organization wasn’t expected. “It appears that when it comes to team communication and collaboration,  working in different countries and structural differences — working in different parts of the organizational structure — mattered.”

“We know that when people on one team speak different languages, it’s a big deal. Managers tend to focus on some of the most obvious things that are really salient when you’re internationally dispersed,” she says. “But the structural stuff, for example, which we found to be surprisingly important, we don’t think about as much in a global team.”

She also explains that while nationality differences do matter, they aren’t as important as the actual physical distance between workers.

These people are also coming from different parts of the organization usually and we found this was a really strong — to some extent, the strongest — barrier. So the fact that people worked in different divisions in the organization — different functional areas or different business units — those kinds of differences were really problematic for the members of those teams. And, I think, that was the most surprising to us, given that the focus of many studies is usually on nationality and geography.

“If we’re in the same country and we’re different nationalities it’s actually not a very big deal. If we’re in different countries — even if we’re the same nationality — that’s a big deal,” she says. “But the good news and the key findings were that if you had worked together before in a team, you could get over to some extent those geographic and structural barriers.”

A key factor for project team success depends on team members having established  relationships prior to the start of the project.

Two key takeaways from the Haas-Cummings study for those managing multinational teams [HR/Talent Management might also take heed here]:

  • Managers tend to focus on some of the most obvious things that are really salient when you’re internationally dispersed such as different time zones, languages but may be missing the big elephant in the room – the company’s own internal structure.
  • When building teams and launching projects, it is relatively easy and inexpensive (compared to the cost of failure) to bring the team together at the beginning for goal setting, planning and team building with an emphasis on having team members work together and providing an introduction of each cross-functional area. Key functional executives can present an overview of their organization, their key accountabilities and their specific goals/interests/expectations for the project. These executives can also address known barriers to success (their concerns) as well as facilitate a discussion around the team’s concerns to identify barriers and counter-measures to ensure barriers are broken down.

In April of 2014, Bill Bonnstetter, Rick Bowers and Ron Bonnstetter, Ph.D. of Target Training International, Ltd, a global assessment company specializing in the Science of Self and organizational performance, presented two key studies focused on individual behavioral style and personal motivators across countries. In their whitepapers, Using Big Data to Better Appreciate Cultural Differences, they examined the behavioral norms of 10 countries and the personal motivator norms of 14 countries. Their primary goal was related to continued improvement of assessments and provide industry leadership in the realm of global norms. The full results of their findings has been embedded within proprietary systems and intellectual property.

While these results provide accurate impressions of cultural lifecycles, they are not meant to be used to stereotype or mischaracterize one country, but to shed general light on each culture’s uniqueness.

“Behavioral style and personal motivation assessments and neurology have taught us that all people are unique based on a combination of nature and nurture. Our gene pool sets the stage, and lifelong personal experiences establish our individuality.” states Ron Bonnstetter. “Companies based in the United States may have a WEIRD bias, that is, Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic. Expecting global project teams to  have great communication and collaboration skills without some level of investment in initial and sustaining team development is simply a WEIRD expectation with great potential for project team failure.”

Target Training International, Ltd. (TTI) used over 190,000 records to study world-wide norms. To analyze the data, TTI developed proprietary software. Countries studied include the USA, France, Russia, Brazil, Sweden, Netherlands, Mexico, Spain, United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, Italy, China and Turkey. TTI research has identified different norms for behavioral style* and personal motivators* from nation to nation due to their unique language and shared cultural experiences. These differences cry out for their own expression. It has been well established through extensive studies and experience in performance management and organizational development that behavioral differences are a key to breakdowns in communication and collaboration within organizations. This includes challenges that are faced by global project teams.

*TTI’s behavioral assessment is based on Marston’s DISC model. TTI’s personal motivation assessment is based on the work of Spranger, Allport and Vernon.

Table 1 shows the uniqueness of Russia’s and China’s D population breakdowns. Twenty-three percent of Russians possess a high D behavioral segment, which is slightly higher than all other countries examined. On the other hand, China shows 11 percent high D behavioral segment, which is considerably lower than all the other countries examined.


Table 1


 Personal Motivators Study Sample Data

Motivators USA-favs-April 2014

Table 3 – USA Most/Least Popular Motivator Statements

Motivators USA-Russia-favs-April 2014

Table 4 – USA compared to Russian Motivators

The research proves that every country is unique and with its own behavior and motivator norms.

Two key takeaways from the TTI international norming studies for those managing multinational teams:

  • A WEIRD bias creates a blinded view of the true needs of project teams to understand personal motivators and behavioral style – to have a sense of self and then understand, recognize and adapt to difference behavioral styles and personal motivators.
  • When building teams and launching projects, it is relatively easy and inexpensive (compared to the cost of failure) to bring the team together at the beginning for goal setting, planning and team building with an emphasis on having team members work together and providing assessments, team analysis and training on the DISC styles and personal motivators of the team.

As members of a global village and marketplace, we need not to only foster awareness of the unique diversity of culture, but also engender understanding of those diversities. Greater understanding of unique world cultures and perspectives will lead to enhanced opportunities to collaborate and grow as individuals, as economies and as a world community.

Leaders of multinational teams must be alert for a variety of problems that can crop up for multinational teams, so they can work proactively to improve them instead of just relying on a cookie-cutter approach. Team building just got bigger and more complicated.

Carl Nielson, managing principal of The Nielson Group, works with multinational project teams, leadership teams and cross-functional teams to ensure team and individual success. A favorite offering is a customized New Team Fast Start program. For more information about The Nielson Group go here.

Ownership, words by Marshall Goldsmith

April 21, 2016

Marshall Goldsmith, a bestselling author and world-renowned executive coach, has published a new book called Triggers.  In the book, Goldsmith examines the environmental and psychological triggers that can derail us at work and in life.

“Triggers provides the self awareness you need to create your own world, rather than being created by the world around you.”
— Alan Mulally, CEO of the Year (US) and #3 on Fortune magazine’s 50 Greatest Leaders in the World (2014)

Reading Triggers is like talking with Marshall. You get clear, practical, and actionable suggestions.”
–Ian Read, CEO, Pfizer

“Triggers inspires us to be better people, better leaders, better fellow travelers. ‘Creating behavior’ is our new battle cry for a bright future.”
Frances Hesselbein, President and CEO, The Frances Hesselbein Leadership Institute, 1998 Presidential Medal of Freedom Award Recipient

by Marshall Goldsmith

Marshall_GoldsmithOne of the biggest mistakes in all of leadership development is the roll-out of programs and initiatives with the promise that “this will make you better”. A classic example is the performance appraisal process. Many companies change their performance appraisal forms on a regular basis. How much good does this usually do? None! These appraisal form changes just confuse leaders and are seen as annual exercises in futility. What companies don’t want to face is the real problem – it is seldom the form – the real problem is the managers who lack either the courage or the discipline to make the appraisal process work. The problem with the “this will make you better” approach is that the emphasis is on the “this” and not the “you”. Coaching clients need to understand that ultimately only you can make you better.

Successful people tend to have a high need for self-determination. In other words, the more that leaders commit to coaching and behavior change because they believe in the process, the more the process is likely to work. The more they feel that the process is being imposed upon them or that they are just casually “trying it out” – the less likely the coaching process is to work.

Coaches and companies that have the greatest success in helping leaders achieve long-term change have learned a great lesson – don’t work with leaders who don’t “buy in” to the process. As coaches, we need to have the courage to test our client’s commitment to change. If clients are just “playing a game” with no clear commitment, we need to be willing to stop the process – for the good of the company and for the good of the coaching profession.

In goal-setting coaches need to ensure that the change objectives come from “inside” the person being coached and are not just externally imposed with no clear internal commitment. Coaches need to let clients know that they are ultimately responsible for their own lives. As coaches we need to make it clear that we are there to help our clients do the work – not to do the work for our clients.

Talent Management Strategist is the official blog of The Nielson Group.

Thoughts for a New Year

December 31, 2015

A new year is a great time for reflection as are birthdays and anniversaries. Here are some quotes that are worthy of framing and reading on a regular basis.

“2016 is a new year. A new beginning. And things will change.” ― Taylor Swift


“Although no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.” ― Carl Bard


“The beginning is the most important part of the work.” – Plato


“There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning.” –Louis L’Amour


“Whatever you do or dream you can do – begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it”. -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Hiring Isn’t a Crapshoot: How HR Can Become Heroes

December 16, 2015

SelectionIsntACrapShootThe use of assessments in corporate America has grown tremendously over the past decade. A 2014 report by business intelligence firm Aberdeen Group showed nearly 60 percent of employers use a formal hiring assessment.  Moreover, research and advisory firm Bersin by Deloitte estimates that the assessment industry has grown 30 to 40 percent in the past five years. Some estimate its revenue nearly $800 million.

The driving force for pre-hire assessments has been costly hiring mistakes. According to HR trade association the Society for Human Resource Management, the cost of a bad hire can be as much as five times that of a new hires’ annual salary. To reduce this cost, companies use assessments to get quantifiable data with the hope of changing the “gut instinct” hiring strategy and reducing the mistakes that go along with that strategy.Today, pre-hire assessments have evolved to do much more.

Avoiding a mistake suggests mitigating risks associated with hiring. CEOs want something much more effective for growing the business. Every person needs to be a “linchpin” (reference to Seth Godin’s popular book Linchpin). And new hires need to have the  “potential” to reach two or three levels above the position they start at. Otherwise, they may be blocking the organization from developing a workforce of linchpins.

While assessment vendors proliferate, using them in the hiring process is a delicate balancing act — one that forces talent managers to weigh their
potential benefits and drawbacks in equal measure.

Do Your Due Diligence

Talent managers need to ensure the assessment serves its purpose. First, an assessment should eliminate the guesswork – giving the hiring stakeholders clarity around a person’s talent and gaps for performing in the job.  Ensuring the hire is a reasonably good fit for the role, the organization and the candidate is paramount.

When not used correctly, even the best pre-hire assessment tools can backfire. One example is the recent legal battle involving retail
giant Target Corp. In that lawsuit, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission sided with Target job candidates who said the tests they were
given as part of a hiring process for upper-level management positions were not sufficiently job-related. They also argued the assessments disproportionately screened out applicants based on race or gender. Target
agreed to pay a $2.8 million settlement. [Note: Target was and is not a
client of The Nielson Group.]

These high-profile cases have some HR and legal advisers responding cautiously to hiring managers’ requests to use assessments for hiring. Unfortunately, advising internal clients to categorically not use pre-hire assessments is very bad advice. The good news is that such high-profile cases haven’t stopped proponents from saying the tests are scientifically able to predict job success. “Well-developed assessments have repeatedly been shown to reduce turnover and predict job success,” said Samuel McAbee, an organizational psychologist and assistant professor in the psychology department at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

The Nielson Group uses a patent process to identify the talent requirements of the job – letting the job talk. We use the resulting “job benchmark” to compare to applicants’ talent assessment resulting in a gap report and suggested interview questions for the hiring manager to use.

Companies must understand what it takes to implement a pre-hire assessment strategy that gets the results and protects the company legally. Many assessments come with flaws. For example, the Myers-Briggs Type
Indicator (MBTI) has been used for many years as a pre-hire assessment, yet it is not validated for use in hiring. The publisher, CPP ( has acknowledged the instrument is not to be used for hiring. See Forbes
article, The Mysterious Popularity Of The Meaningless Myers-Briggs.

Not all assessments are validated for pre-employment. So the first step is to ensure the assessment is valid for hiring.

It’s also important to use tests that are developed per testing industry and EEOC guidelines.

Second, assess from different dimensions of talent. The Nielson Group uses a multi-modal approach with two, three and four sciences to identify and gauge a person’s talent. The two-science assessment may be the best choice based on the position. The four-science assessment will provide more insight and will be more suitable for management-level, sales and professional technical positions.

Finally, make sure you are partnering with a specialist that supports the interpretation. Hiring is both art and science – you need a specialist to
evaluate and protect the integrity of whatever measurement instrument you choose.

Clearly Define Roles

Assessments should only be used when the job they’re hiring for is clearly
defined. One of the biggest mistakes employers make is assessing a candidate before understanding the role they are hiring for. A ‘job analysis’ or ‘job benchmark’ starts with a proper description of the role’s key accountabilities (the actual work someone will be doing) and concludes with a scientifically constructed survey that is completed by stakeholders
(hiring managers,incumbents, key benefactors of the role). The result is a
valid and reliable job profile that will not only identify the talent requirements for the job but will also protect the company from legal
challenges.If the Job Could Talk

High-Low Performer Analysis Has Been Subordinated

In the past, the only way to create a job profile was to analyze top performers by piloting an assessment technology with current incumbents in the role and then performing a rigorous analysis on the results of the high and low performers to come up with a job profile. The skills and attributes identified in the study were then used to help build the “fit profile” and correlate to candidate results.

When Possible, Validate Job Profiles with Top Performers

A good job profile will take into account the skills and characteristics of
a company’s top employees in the role. According to Aberdeen Group, companies who correlate pre-hire assessments with ongoing employee
performance are 24 percent more likely to have employees who exceed
performance expectations. While this can’t be done for every job, where
there are multiple incumbents and you have solid high performers in the
role, assessing the incumbents and analyzing the match to the job profile will solidify the validity of the job profile. The watch-out here is that identifying top performers is easier said than done.

Most organizations don’t do a good job of identifying their top performers, in which case, taking this validation step may not be possible. Several years ago we took a client through the high-low performance analysis to validate the job benchmark and were struggling with a significant inconsistency. Three months later, we learned a person identified for our study as a high performer was fired for performance.Whether the client planted the bad apple on purpose to test our ability or didn’t realize what high performance was is unknown.

Today, our patented job profiling process eliminates dependency on a
subjective high-low performer process. Doing the high-low performer analysis is now subordinated to a post-benchmark validation step. Using this job benchmark process, we are able to steer employers toward a deeper understanding of top performers that is unique to their company. Often a hiring manager may be focusing on attributes that they think are critical, but when we dig deeper and test assumptions, those are not the attributes their top performers actually have. We like to say we “let the job talk”.TTI_Assessments_2015Pages

Don’t Stop There

If talent managers consistently return to the job profile throughout the
talent life-cycle, the new hire has a greater likelihood of predictive success. The exercise need not stop at the pre-hire stage. Once a person is hired, the patented process used by The Nielson Group not only produces a clear job profile for hiring, we use the job profile for new hire onboarding. A manager-new hire review of the key accountabilities and key talent requirements of the job within the first week is incredibly valuable for new hire success. This step not only helps match for job fit, a master job profile enables a faster ramp up for the new hire.

To maximize the value of a pre-hire assessment, use the assessment report as an ongoing developmental tool for the employee. Ordering the expanded coaching report based on the pre-hire assessment results in a minor additional expense. Both manager and new hire benefit.

Measuring Talent With 2, 3 or 4 Sciences

Applicant assessments are all but moot if they can’t be applied to the job’s talent requirements. Any applicant assessment must be evaluated
against a specific job family or specific position. Many jobs can be effectively profiled using two sciences. For management-level positions, success increasingly requires cognitive acumen. One’s ability to understand people, tasks and systems and ability to assert ones self is key to success in management roles. This is where three or four sciences become very important. We also find cognitive acumen to be an important measure for technical professionals in highly complex roles such as project-based engineers working in a cross-functional team environment.

Designing an Assessment for Every Job or Designing the Job Profile, Which is Easier?

A solid applicant assessment allows the evaluation to be tailored based on the job. The other way, tailoring the applicant assessment, is very cumbersome and will likely open the door to validity/reliability challenges. Rather, the job profile provides the ability to tailor the evaluation properly. That allows the applicant assessment to maintain validity and reliability. If we had to create an applicant assessment for every role, the
cost and sheer weight of the development work would stop the initiative
cold. We see this issue often in things like role-based in-basket exercises.

A Good Assessment Helps Avoid Unnecessary Spending

In terms of immediate return on investment, the immediate payoff of a solid  applicant assessment is that they help companies determine when it makes sense to move forward with a candidate – or not. This saves time and money for the employer. Many of our clients are flying candidates in for face-to-face interviews at a cost of thousands of dollars per job. An effective process that involves administering assessments after resume and phone screenings but before incurring travel expenses avoids unnecessary expenses and time.

A multi-modal assessment strategy is key to driving return on investment. Hiring managers reduce their interview-to-hire ratio by 30 to 40 percent, which ultimately means they are spending less time with poor-fit candidates, more time with good-fit candidates, and getting to a smaller sample of more-qualified individuals faster and more reliably.

An applicant assessment alone won’t deliver the return on investment that most companies are seeking in hiring. A total talent management system that profiles the job and assesses people is one resource that needs to be coupled with other processes to create a turnover reduction.

Companies also need to continue to focus on things like refining their pre-screening questions and training managers on interview techniques.

For more information, call Carl Nielson @ 972.346.2892.

Are You Using a Flimsy Assessment for Hiring?

August 12, 2015

Good news: Assessment use is on the rise for hiring. Bad news: In the rush to enter the market, assessment providers are pushing out assessments (or personality tests) with a decided lack of science behind their products.

But because there’s nothing to require assessment providers to maintain reliability and validity standards, you could very well be left using tools that aren’t adequately accurate or reliable. But how would you know. Many mediocre assessments may be an improvement over using nothing at all – until they cause you to pass up an ideally  talented person or convince you to hire a person that will not be a good fit.

And then there is the risk of adverse impact.  Any reasonably good assessment, when used correctly in the hiring process, can actually serve as a strong defense if you are faced with an adverse impact challenge. Your labor and employment attorney should be able to support this claim. The challenge is in knowing how solid the assessment really is. In my experience, the actual risk on the legal side is close to zero. The risk on the time and cost side due to wrong hires is great.

Bill Bonnstetter, Founder and Chairman, TTI Performance Systems, Ltd.You, your leadership team and your entire HR organization is invited to join TTI SI chairman and founder Bill J. Bonnstetter during a LIVE webcast, Thursday, Aug. 27 at 2 p.m. (EDT), as he shares three signs assessments may not be as valid as you think and what five questions to ask before purchasing. Mr. Bonnstetter is the founder and chairman of TTI Success Insights, a global assessment company, that provides a total talent management suite of valid and reliable assessments, from organizational and individual 360’s to the recognized leader in talent assessments, the TriMetrix Talent Assessment.

After you attend the webinar, allow me to expand on what you learn, answer any questions you have and offer you a way to try before you buy. Bill won’t be selling assessments. He’ll be sharing what you need to know when evaluating your current assessment or considering entering the market to buy assessments. Even I won’t be trying to sell you anything. I, like Bill, want you to make the best decision for your company, in a manner that leads to your success.

So sign up for the webinar! And then contact me at

P.S. – Need a solid, highly valid, reliable assessment for hourly/non-professional hiring that won’t break your budget and will literally change your company’s performance? Let me know!

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