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Kronos Essay: Employee Management

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Hiring effective employees is perhaps the greatest challenge both upstart and mature businesses face. Unlike a new server, policy, or business strategy, employees come with a host of ideas, personalities, abilities, and quirks of their own. In a perfect world, these traits help build the value of the business. However, in the real world often as not they conflict and contrast with both the employers goals as well as employees around them. So how can an organization successfully hire candidates that have traits which promote business goals, and avoid hiring those that don’t? When faced with this question, many major corporations turn to Kronos, a business based out of Chelmsford, Massachusetts. Kronos attempts to help solve this dilemma through a proprietary test which evaluates applicants’ personality.

When designing and implementing such a test, a few questions must first be asked. What sort of personality is the organization looking for in a candidate? How should the test score the individual, and what score is desirable? What weaknesses does the test posess? Kronos has attempted to answer these questions with their current implementation. This document will evaluate both the ramifications of such questions, as well as Kronos effectiveness at dealing with these questions.

Personality is defined as ‘the structures and propensities inside people that explain their characteristic patterns of thought, emotion, and behavior’. From an organizations perspective, there are three keys here: thought, emotion, and behavior. All three of these can have significant impacts on the output of an individual inside an organization. However, this definition is a bit imprecise in its current format. Thus behavioral psychologists break personality into five dimensions known as ‘the big five’: conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism, openness, and extraversion.

Of these factors, conscientiousness is arguably the most significant to an employer. As an employer, what your business does or outputs is of paramount importance. Finding a successful business owner who lacks conscientiousness would be nearly impossible. For this reason, an employee who doesn’t care, and has no desire to perform good work on behalf of the company stands no chance of sharing the same goals as his/her employer.

While arguably less important than conscientiousness, agreeableness is also a key factor in determining a personality that works well for a position in the company. An employee who lacks agreeableness may have their own ideas about the way the company should operate. This makes it difficult to implement initiatives; such an employee will tend to go in the direction they see fit best for them. This conflict of interest leads to lost time and resources, as well as potential for undesirable behavior.

Neuroticism likewise has potential for being less important than the other factors. This factors relevance largely depends on the position in question. Jobs that deal with the public or other business professionals in an interactive, social way, will want to avoid such a trait. However, positions that are more solitary would be less affected by such a trait.

Openness, like neuroticism, really depends on the position with regard to significance to an employer. In a job such as construction, such a trait would seem almost useless, as convention, inartistic, and traditional tend to have strong positive correlations with construction work. However, a position heavy in problem solving may require a great deal of openness.

Finally, extraversion fits right in with neuroticism and openness. While a job in sales or real estate would like require huge amounts of extraversion, a job in accounting might not require a high degree of extraversion.

So how does an organization determine which traits get a lot of weight, and which don’t? Or perhaps no weight at all? One potential way an employer could determine what traits are most important to the organization, would be to conduct an unbiased evaluation of all of its current employers based on these traits. The organization could then cross-reference this with output metrics, such as sales, or other performance based reviews.

Then, after conducting a statistical analysis that tracked positive and negative correlations between the ‘Big Five’ and positive desired output, the attributes of most significance could be determined. The Kronos case did not specify methodology regarding which traits are most important, but the proposed method above is one approach that Kronos may have employed. Additionally, simply asking the employer which they felt was most important would be an additional, more qualitative method of gathering this key information.

Once weights have been gathered and assigned to the various ‘Big Five’ factors, or any other set of factors, it’s simply a matter of writing a series of questions or statements that correlate to each factor, and assign desired scores. The candidate is then cross referenced against these scores. These scores are finally summed to form a final score. The employer can then filter candidates based on that number or metric. Having taken a unicru survey myself, this is in fact how the test works: candidates respond to a series of statements, and are rated on a percentage of alignment with desired answers.

This strategy carries a number of weaknesses and concerns. First, false positives are an issue. However, this issue is quickly mitigated when put alongside false negatives. It is arguably much better to pass up a great candidate and get a slightly worse one, than to be stuck with an employee who has significant traits that are in direct conflict with company initiatives or goals. That is to say, the opportunity cost of an missing an ideal candidate is significantly lower than the realized cost of hiring an employee with later-discovered problem personality traits.

Thus another concern is raised; does the test filter out false negatives effectively? As it currently stands, in my opinion Kronos methodology is rather flawed. Like any effective survey or test, it is important that the individual being tested is blind if avoiding bias is important. In the hiring process, it couldn’t be more relevant; the employee wants to get hired!

As such, they are compelled to answer is a way that is constructive to such a goal. Therefore, a level of ambiguity with regard to the employer’s desires is important. The employer wants honest answers, not ones grounded in a candidates desire of obtaining a position. Another way of dealing with this issue is to implement an ‘honesty’ attribute. By cross referencing several questions that correlate to one another, but are different in some ways may help reduce this false positive number. No test is perfect, but the emphasis on reducing false negatives is a critical one.

While quite arguably imperfect, Kronos test is certainly a step in the right direction. After all, it’s better to have a metric or statistic than none at all. One must then take care to be careful how to proceed with the gathered information. Furthermore, it is important to ensure that the information is gathered in as unbiased a way as possible. Perhaps Kronos could learn a thing or two from the medical field in developing its test’s with a bit more emphasis on being blind. But for now, it is yet another tool employer’s can utilize to help get the right people in the right positions.

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