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Opinions of Monday, 26 October 2009

Columnist: Agyemang, Frank

Smart Employers must look beyond

When birds learn to fly without perching, hunters also learn to shoot without missing!

We are in exciting times witnessing competition within the various sectors of Ghana’s economy, especially in the banking, telecommunication and manufacturing sectors. The competition extends further downwards to the hospitality industry, private security firms, vehicle rentals and makola market. Corporate or business entities are therefore adopting innovative strategies to out-perform each other in their respective fields since those that wobble will certainly lose out. It is therefore certain that highly skilled labour coupled with experience is a major asset for all players in the various sectors.

In the midst of all these competitions, it is time for Smart employers to realize that qualifications, skills and experiences of their workers though very essential cannot be the major factor that will distinguish their organizations from their competitors. Professional interviewers have always given utmost priority to persons’ cognitive ability as a predictor of job performance. This simply means that smarter people were considered more likely to succeed on the job. However, over the period, researchers have realized that such smartness or intelligence is just part of the whole story. Creativity, leadership, integrity, attendance and cooperation also play major roles in a person's job suitability and productivity. Psychologist Joyce Hogan, PhD, of the University of Tulsa noted that personality traits, rather than intelligence, predict these qualities.

In recruitment or selection process, though several tests including psychological, aptitude and background checks are conducted during the interview process to eliminate inappropriate candidates, organizations have had less success in hiring or employing high performing workers. The emphasis had always been on the most qualified and most experienced candidate with less focus on personality traits. The Smart employer must commence a whole reengineering process with respect to standards for hiring and recruiting workers.

The time has come for the Smart employer to consider personality trait as a major determinant in selecting or hiring workers and placing them where they would be most comfortable and effective. There are numerous instances where most qualified persons in terms of skills, qualifications and experiences end messing up fortunes of their employers by virtue of their disposition or merely because they have been placed in areas or departments they are not comfortable with. Complexities within the working environment call for simpler approach towards recruitment and this must focus on examining employees or potential employees’ personality traits and creating an exciting working environment, both for the employer and the employee.

Admittedly, behaviour of employees which could be traced to their distinctive personality traits does have impact on their individual performances as well as that of the organization. Right from the front desk person through the sales persons or middle level staff up to the Chief executive, each and every person has a way of reacting to situations based on his or her unique traits.

Personality traits are distinguishing qualities or characteristics of a person. They are a readiness to think or act in a similar fashion in response to a variety of different stimuli or situations. One’s personality traits affect his or her health, relationships, goals, achievements, professional success and even spiritual life. Ones whole life is in a way affected positively or negatively by the personality traits.

Psychologists, Mark Mallinger, PhD, and Ileana Rizescu have done some work which prove that the cultural match between an individual and an organization is determined by the degree to which the individual’s personal traits fit the organizational culture, or perhaps vice versa. It confirmed that in a situation where a person’s traits matches to an assigned task, he or she performs effectively hence derives inner satisfaction which in itself becomes a motivating factor. Vice versa is true.

John Holland’s career theory (vocational personalities and environments) was developed to organize the data about people in different jobs and the data about different work environments to indicate how people make career choices and explain how job satisfaction and vocational achievement occur. Holland suggested that “people can function and develop best and find job satisfaction in work environments that are compatible with their personalities” (ICDM, 1991). He went ahead to classify the personality’s types and work environments into six types namely realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising and conventional. He suggested that the closer the match of personality to job the greater the job satisfaction.

Smart employer in recruiting workers must critically look at the personality traits that match the organizational cultural framework which will certainly enable the worker to feel comfortable in the specific organizational environment, feel motivated by this environment and be able to deliver the expected results for the organization.

Several researches have been conducted with respect to classification of personality traits and admittedly, identifying the traits and structure of human personality has been one of the most fundamental goals in psychology. Classification mostly recognized and appreciated by several independent set of researchers is termed as the Big Five Traits namely Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism. These five factors provide a platform for the integration of all the research findings and theory in personality psychology.

Per a Wikipedia research, the big five factors and their constituent traits can be summarized as follows:

• Openness – appreciation for art, emotion, adventure, unusual ideas, curiosity, and variety of experience. • • Conscientiousness –a tendency to show self-discipline, act dutifully, and aim for achievement planned rather than spontaneous behavior. • • Extraversion – energy, positive emotion, urgency, and the tendency to seek stimulation in the company of others. • • Agreeableness – a tendency to be compassionate and cooperative rather than suspicious and antagonistic towards others.

• Neuroticism – a tendency to experience unpleasant emotions easily, such as anger, anxiety, depression or vulnerability; sometimes called emotional instability.

• Using the big five traits, it is just wrong to put a person who falls under the Neuroticism group in charge of the front desk or make such a worker personal secretary. This person, regardless of the qualifications, experience or the physical appearance could at any time lash out his or her anger on clients or business partners which could certainly have devastating effect on the organization. Already, the person has unpleasant emotions and is described as emotionally unstable. This however does not mean such a person cannot be useful in other department within the same organization but suggests that it is just not right to put that person in the front line where interpersonal relationship is very relevant.

Some financial institutions in the country have realized the need to make use of employees’ traits hence have deliberately been reshuffling their staff to maximize their inputs. How do you as a client or customer feel when approached by a very smart looking person beaming with all smiles and has pleasant manners to provide your required service? How about you walking to an office and meeting a front desk person with a frowned face and snobbish attitude and seem uninterested in talking to you?

What the Smart employer should be looking for right now is how to conduct these personality tests or assessment or the tools for the test. There are sets of questionnaires and test tools designed to help in this regard so the onus now lie on employers to look out for such materials.

With careful realignment and adjustment of workers, organizations can maximize their gains whiles at the same time provide opportunities for workers to gain job satisfaction. The competition is getting tougher; experiences, qualifications and skills are available, the distinguishing factor now is how to create an exciting working environment with emphasis on traits of employees. Smart employers are certainly looking beyond!

Frank Agyemang