How to Unlock Employee Potential? Through Data

How can HR practitioners better understand critical talent issues like employee selection and employee engagement? How can practitioners better evaluate and motivate talent? Read on for our interview with Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic about his latest book.

How and why should managers differentiate between employees’ maximum and typical performance?

By examining both their abilities (what they can do) and personality (what they usually do). The former can be tested via aptitude tests (e.g., knowledge, intelligence, creativity, etc.), the latter via 360s or personality assessments.

As for the "why?" part of the question, the answer is that ignoring either of these aspects of talent equates to having an incomplete picture of the individual. Every person differs from others in what they usually do, but also in what they are capable of doing. And work involves both instances.

Most of the time we operate on typical performance mode, and when potential employees or managers are selected, it is important to predict how they will behave most of the time. At the same time, there are always high-stake instances at work in which our maximum performance (the best we can do) is tested. In short, to understand talent we must focus both on what people are capable when they are highly motivated, but also how they will usually perform (when their motivation is average, so to say). 

You discuss the flaws of traditional self-appraisals. How can companies improve their processes?

Companies can improve processes by using 360-degree feedback surveys. This also includes self-appraisal, but the addition of peer-ratings can help the manager understand a person's reputation and how aware they are of it. Another way is to use valid personality assessments (which predict the 360s). And lastly, look at objective performance data. At the moment most companies just have self-assessments and a single supervisor rating the candidate; both things are unreliable and subjective, as well as distorted by politics. If performance can’t be measured correctly, then it also won’t be managed correctly.

In The Talent Delusion, you mention that relying on intuition rarely works for talent spotting. How can managers spot talent?

As I explain in the book, there a wide range of methods that have been tested by scientists for years. The short answer is:

(a) Use analytics for hard skills and experience-related variables (resume stuff)

(b) Add robust psychometric tests

(c) Follow-up with a structured interview and, if you can, a work simulation.

If you do all of this right you will end up with suitable candidates in 85% of the cases. 

How can managers discern what their team wants from work so that the manager can build a highly engaged team?

Managers can do this by assessing values and needs of the members of their team. Basically this provides the manager with an idea of what the team's (and its members') inner compass is. Managers can find out answers to questions like what are they hoping to achieve? Can they indeed be expected to achieve something together, greater than the sum of the individual parts?

Team members can be perfectly complementary in terms of their skills and style but if their values are incompatible they will not work as a coherent unit - there will be no synergy, just different egos competing. 

If readers only take away one key learning from The Talent Delusion, what do you hope it will be?

Science provides concrete and practical answers to most of our talent management problems, so stop playing it by ear (or we will end up with many more Donald Trumps). 

What was your favourite part when writing this book?

I think the book virtually wrote itself. It is really a summary of my talent philosophy, and I've been speaking and writing about this stuff for the past five years. Now I hope it can make an impact, and not just on those who don't need it. 

What is your go-to business book that you always recommend?

It's hard to pick one. The ones I have read more than once are David Ogilvy's Confessions of an Advertising Man (it is really a book about leadership), Geoffrey Miller's Spent, and Robert Hogan's Personality and the Fate of Organizations.

Dr Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic is CEO at Hogan Assessment Systems and Professor of Business Psychology at University College London and Columbia University. His most recent book is The Talent Delusion


Opps! Please enter something in order to comment.

Preview Comment