Hiring Practices That Improve Employee Quality and Reduce Turnover
by Rodney B. Warrenfeltz, Ph.D . , Hogan Assessment Systems
(Article published in Building Services Management magazine, March 2006)
Hiring practices are commonly neglected as a key aspect of professional facility maintenance. Too often, personnel are hired as a matter of convenience with the aim of insuring a sufficient quantity of people on hand to perform needed services. The consequences of this approach range from poor quality work to high turnover rates. It is not uncommon to see turnover rates in the range of 200% to 300% for entry-level service jobs, meaning managers must fill the same positions two or three times in a single year. Beyond the aggravation of hiring multiple times for the same position, high turnover results in lower productivity, increased hiring costs, increased training costs, and significant reductions in customer satisfaction. Many of these costs remain hidden because supervisors simply expect high turnover and accept the hiring treadmill. Often, they don’t even consider alternative hiring practices in their haste to keep jobs filled. However, with a small investment in upgrading hiring practices, significant inroads can be made in reducing turnover and upgrading the quality of employees hired.
Hiring practices vary almost as much as the people they are designed to screen. They range from unstructured interviews to the use of complex assessment tools. These practices are not all created equal and their application will have a significant impact on the type of employees hired. This article will discuss three widely used hiring practices, highlight their impact on reducing turnover and upgrading the quality of employees selected, and provide insight into a “best practice” approach that could easily be implemented in most facility management settings.
The interview is the most prevalent employment screen, used by nearly all hiring supervisors in one form or another. However, because of the many variations in interviewing (e.g., structure, type of questions, coverage areas, etc.), there is a lack of uniformity in how interviews are conducted from organization to organization.
The effectiveness of the interview as a hiring practice is very mixed. Positive results can be achieved if certain procedures are followed. For example, behaviorally-based structured interviews using pre-established questions will outperform unstructured interviews. The ability to select high-quality employees largely depends on following proven interviewing procedures. Otherwise, an interview is no better than flipping a coin to make a hiring decision.
Hiring employees is one thing, but turnover is a much different issue. People leave jobs for a host of reasons. The key to reducing turnover is to understand why certain employees stay in a position and remain good contributors over an extended period of time. The next step is to incorporate that knowledge into your hiring practices. Unfortunately, a job interview, particularly one focused on whether a person can do the job, may not be the best way to uncover characteristics that lead to turnover. More often than not, voluntary turnover is related to a person’s satisfaction with a job and all the factors that influence satisfaction (e.g., salary, supervision, shift, future opportunities, etc.). An interview is simply a poor technique for trying to uncover factors that will drive a person’s satisfaction with a particular job, so it is not likely to be very helpful in reducing turnover.
Intelligence tests have been used in hiring for decades. These tests measure verbal ability, math ability, reasoning skills, or other aspects of cognitive ability. Intelligence tests have received considerable support because they have proven useful in predicting employee success. These tests are particularly effective when selecting employees for jobs requiring a high level of mental capability such as a scientist or an engineer. However, they are much less effective if job success depends upon the ability to consistently follow a routine or in jobs comprised of tasks offering little variety or stimulation. Many of the jobs associated with facility maintenance are by their very nature routine, requiring consistent performance with little variation. Therefore, the use of an intelligence test for jobs of this nature may not be appropriate.
Intelligence tests also have a significant drawback. These tests almost always produce “adverse impact.” Adverse impact is a legal term that refers to a hiring practice that disproportionately discriminates against a group of people based on protected characteristics such as age, race, or gender. Consequently, organizations interested in a diverse workforce could actually reduce diversity in their organization by using an intelligence test in the hiring process.
Use of personality tests in the hiring process is one of the fastest growing trends in the field of human resources. A personality test can be thought of as a highly structured interview that is delivered in the form of a self-report questionnaire. Prior to the 1990s, personality tests were mostly reserved for clinical applications. Recently, a number of personality tests have been developed for business applications, and are an excellent tool for predicting the success of applicants for a wide range of jobs.
To see why a personality test is an important part of employee selection, consider for example, the job of janitor. This job requires a person to consistently follow a standard routine. Successful janitors are not overly ambitious, tend to be a bit introverted (requiring less than average social interaction), willing to help when called upon, conscientious, and enjoy routine tasks — precisely the types of characteristics measured by a personality test. Furthermore, they are poorly measured through a typical job interview or through an intelligence test.
Additionally, if the personality test is properly configured to identify people who will be highly satisfied with important aspects of a job, hiring such people will significantly reduce turnover. For example, if a large part of the job requires the daily performance of a series of highly routine tasks, then it behooves a supervisor to hire people who can not only perform the tasks, but will be very satisfied performing the tasks over an extended period of time. The personality test can provide just that type of information. In other words, organizations interested in hiring high quality employees and reducing turnover can achieve greater success in both areas by employing a well-developed personality test in the hiring process.
Hiring practices vary almost as much as the people they are designed to screen. Given this perspective, what would be considered best practice? A best practice begins with a clear evaluation of the target job(s) for which the organization is hiring. Once the job requirements are defined, the organization can identify the hiring practices most appropriate to screen candidates. Use a well-developed personality test as an initial screening tool. The flexibility of a personality test allows an organization to screen candidates for quality and the likelihood that they will stick with the job.
Candidates who are successful on the personality test move on to an employment interview structured around key job requirements and conducted by a hiring manager trained in interviewing skills. Those who successfully complete both the personality test and interview are considered viable candidates for a job contingent upon meeting any other requirements, such as a successful background check, drug screen, etc. Finally, best practice includes a system that monitors hiring patterns to ensure positive movement toward employee quality and turnover reduction goals.
Rodney Warrenfeltz is the Managing Partner at Hogan Assessment Systems (HAS). He has over 25 years of experience with assessment-based leadership selection and development working for such Fortune 100 companies as IBM, Kodak, Lockheed-Martin, and Pepsi Cola. Dr. Warrenfeltz has a Ph.D. from Colorado State University in Industrial Psychology and a Masters Degree from Vanderbilt University in Psychology.