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Published 16 May 2013 11:22, Updated 17 May 2013 07:33
What does a great sales person look like? The answer, drawn from analysing human resources data, may surprise you.
Nowhere in the list of success factors is a reference to extroversion, resilience or gift of the gab. These may be useful attributes, but when HR company Bersin by Deloitte went digging through the data at a financial services company to find out what made its top sales people tick, it discovered that an ability to spell, some perseverance and experience in selling high-priced items are what counts.
The company listed the following desired characteristics:
What does not matter is where they went to school, what grades they achieved or the quality of their references.
The financial services company used that information to introduce a new screening process for its job candidates and, within six months, revenues rose by $US4 million, says Bersin by Deloitte founder Josh Bersin.
Employers already have this data, it is just that they are not making the best use of it. What it aims to do it take the guesswork out of hiring and managing the highly complex organisms that are human beings.
Organisations that have been very active in using their own data to predict success include Google, US electronics retailer Best Buy, Limited Brands and Starbucks.
At Best Buy, a good fit between a job and an employee can boost engagement scores. A 1 per cent increase in employee engagement can lift the annual operating income of a Best Buy store by $100,000, according to management author and research director of the International Institute for Analytics, Tom Davenport.
At Google, Project Oxygen examined its best managers and identified eight behaviours that characterise them in its attempt to build a better boss:
Three things good Google managers don’t do are to have trouble making a transition to the team, lack a consistent approach to performance management and career development, and spend too little time managing and communicating.
At Google, like many other companies that operate in a technical environment, it would be a mistake to promote to management people who are great at their technical specialities but next to useless at dealing with other people.
Strategic workforce planning and analytics consultant Alex Hagan says that each organisation and team will have their own recipes for success.
“It is different in every organisation,” he says. An analysis of high performers may take in many data points, including such things as tenure in the job, technical skills, level of education and the salary and bonuses that they are paid.
Football team AC Milan, for example, draws on some 60,000 data points for each player to help gauge their health and fitness and make contract decisions.
Hagan says some of the data has an impact on performance, “but the big thing, the biggest correlation, is last year’s productivity”.
So the best predictor of success is actually the most simple and easy to prove: how did they do last year?
However, this won’t help if they are new to the job and there is little access to details of past performance. TheAre Leaders Portable? study co-authored by Boris Groysberg, Andrew McLean and Nitin Nohria finds that even highly successful leaders won’t be able to transfer that success to another organisation if their skills are too company-specific.
In another study, Groysberg writes about the way “stars” flame out when they leave the support network that sustained them in their former role.
However, Hagan says that people who are high performers tend to remain that way because their intrinsic motivations drive their productivity.
“How you view your work and some of the ways you approach your work indicates whether you are going to be a high performer or not,” he says.
Being able to map networks and relationships within an organisation can help in planning teams of people who can work well together, while bad managers can be easily identified so they can be coached, or moved on.
One of the concerns about using talent analytics is that employers are effectively trying to “clone” their top performers and will end up with a workforce that lacks the advantages of diversity.
However, Hagan says the technique can be used to ensure there is the kind of diversity that is necessary for innovation and breakthrough ideas.
Alex Hagan will be talking on agile talent management at the Australasian Talent Conference from May 28 in Sydney.