As an analyst, much of your week is spent in conversation: Conversations with subject matter experts, conversations with solution providers and practitioners – even conversations with yourself. Usually these conversations provide much-needed context for trends you’re seeing in your research (for example, my forthcoming perspective on the state of talent acquisition today). My favorite conversations, however, are the ones that stop you in your tracks, and refuse to let go of you until you’ve thought them through.
Today’s chat with my colleague David Grebow, Brandon Hall Group’s principal learning analyst, was one such conversation. We were talking about some research he’d been doing on education, and shared a TedTalk by psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth. In it, she poses the question, “What if doing well in school – and in life – depends on much more than your ability to learn quickly and easily?”
As you may know, I have a few thoughts on the standard practices employers use to gauge the quality of their applicants. Many require college degrees or “equivalent experience” for entry-level positions, which I think is preposterous. Quite the contrary, I’m of the opinion that college degrees are dime-a-dozen these days – and a poor indicator of candidate potential.
Duckworth’s extensive research proposes there may be a much better measure of viability. It wasn’t social intelligence or IQ – it was grit.
“Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals,” explains Duckworth. “Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out – not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years – and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
I was immediately reminded of my brother’s success. After graduating high school, he made a very modest living working as an electrician. He worked hard – harder than many college graduates I’ve known – but after nine years and a lateral move to another company, he was laid off. He took it as a sign that it was time to change careers, took a job doing inside sales at Dell, and worked as hard as he always did.
By the end of his first year, he had won numerous awards – including rookie of the year and sales rep of the year. With zero sales experience and no college degree. Did he make some mistakes along the way? Probably. Did he have the grit to overcome them? Definitely – and this brings me to my point.
One of the key findings from Brandon Hall Group’s Talent Acquisition benchmarking survey is a serious disconnect between the goals hiring organizations have set for 2014 and the processes they have in place to achieve them. Hiring better talent was the most important goal for our survey respondents by a long shot, and yet … the majority of these organizations are still beholden to traditional assessment practices with the main objective of screening applicants.
Consider this: What if the perceived shortage of talent – and even the skills gap at large – is the result of assessment malpractice? What if, by asking the wrong questions, we’re burning the chaff and the wheat? Are you measuring for grit? Do you have quantifiable measures for culture fit? Do you have qualitative measures for potential?
Your next rep of the year could very well be the underdog your recruiters would never give the time of day. He or she may be the gray squirrel that was overlooked because you’re still chasing the purple ones. If you subject them to assessment malpractice, they’re very likely to end up gathering nuts for someone else.
Assessment technology is evolving rapidly – both in talent acquisition and in talent management. If you have thoughts or questions, I invite you to reach out to me anytime.
—Kyle Lagunas, Talent Acquisition Analyst, Brandon Hall Group