Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Using personality tests to prevent turnover

Turnover is costly and a major headache for most employers that becomes an even bigger problem when the labor market tightens. Can different hiring practices help solve the problem?

Perhaps, says Texas A&M professor Ryan Zimmerman, whose work in the area has recently been profiled in various places, including the national press, recruiting websites, and SIOP (article no longer available except cached version).

So what has Dr. Zimmerman found? We'll know more when his meta-analysis research is published in an upcoming Personnel Psychology issue, but in a nutshell his research found that three aspects of the Big 5 have been linked to turnover:

- Agreeableness
- Conscientiousness
- Emotional stability

Zimmerman argues that selecting for people based on these qualities is just as powerful as, say, how the job is designed.

Some things to consider while we wait for the research to be published:

- Survey after survey show that quality of supervision is a powerful retention factor (check out the Gallup 12 to see an example). This suggests selecting good supervisors may be an equally powerful factor.

- Other research, including some by Zimmerman himself, suggests person-organization (P-O) fit may also be a significant contributing factor to turnover. P-O fit is a combination of both the person and the environment, so personality would be just one side of the equation.

- Many people forget there is positive and negative turnover--not all turnover is bad because there are some people who simply aren't a good fit for the job. Simply finding a correlation between one factor and turnover is the beginning of the story, not the end.

- Average job tenure, particularly among younger generations, is around 2-3 years. So is turnover really what we should be focusing on?

Stay tuned here for more details when the research gets published.


Chris Young said...

Bryan - Interesting post...

Goes to show that the retention puzzle is ever changing and quite complex.

You had a great point about not all turnover being bad when when team members are not a good fit for their position.

While this turnover may be good in the sense that the organization loses an employee who is likely not engaged in their position and producing less than he or she should be, the turnover still costs that organization a considerable amount of time and resources.

I think this reinforces the importance of putting people in jobs where they are a good fit for the position and the organization.

Basically the line in the sand has to be drawn somewhere and organization's have to stop accepting "good" turnover and prevent it before it ever happens.

The Big Five as you mention has some good predictive qualities.

Michigan State University also published an interesting study indicating the predictive ability of personality asessments and other steps in the hiring process that affect the likelihood of a successful hire and reducing turnover.

You might find it interesting... Check it out here

Chris Young
The Rainmaker Group

BryanB said...

Thanks for the comment, Chris. I think what this study, and the graph you link to, point out is there are many options when it comes to selection and it depends on your end goal. Are you trying to predict turnover? Performance? Citizenship behavior? It's a complex exercise, which of course is why it's so fun!

Chris Young said...

Bryan - you're right there are as many tests and instruments as there are factors to consider in the selection process... Sales ability, turnover predictability, leadership potential, honesty, integrity, behavior style, cognative ability etc.

The mistake many organizations make is that they don't start with the end in mind when hiring. They don't really know what they need to measure and why.

I think this is part of the reason there are so many botched selection decisions out there.

Be well Bryan!

-Chris Young