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Developing High Performance Teams
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Shaping Your Workforce
What is an Organizational Psychologist?

"I get the feeling that our people are not as ___________ as they should be." 

(Fill in the blank with: intelligent, aggressive, motivated, flexible, etc.)."

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Shaping your Workforce --- A Case Study

A number of years ago, a client CEO said to me, "As you know, I came from IBM and their people were really exceptional. My company is not IBM and requires different kinds of people, so I can't just hire a bunch of IBMers. How can I make my workforce as exceptional as theirs?".

An Often-Ignored CEO Option

Hidden in that statement is a critical element -- The belief that one can take action to shape their workforce. This is no minor task. It take patience, thought, and determination on the part of the CEO. It requires the CEO to think beyond the hiring of individual employees. It requires the insistence on standards that go beyond "meeting job requirements". It requires that the CEO get the entire management team "on board" for this goal.

Start With an Outsiders View of your Workforce

The key starting point was a hypothetical situation and question: "Let's say that we have been successful at developing your ideal workforce. Imagine being at an industry trade show and overhearing your competitors or your suppliers talking about your people. What do you hear?". This point of view helps to clarify the general characteristics you want all of your employees to share.

Build a List of Characteristics

In the case of this client, the CEO wanted his people to be seen as:

  • smart,
  • competitive,
  • socially skillful,
  • insightful and
  • high-level achievers.

We discussed what, exactly, each of these terms meant to him, and whether they were "nice to have in an employee" or "absolutely required". Because these were "extra" qualities, over and above what was required for the basic jobs, that would mean rejecting candidates who fell short. It would also require special attention to following federal hiring guidelines. The next step was not so obvious:

Build an Environment That Would Attract These Kinds of Candidates

The next question was, "What kind of company attracts this caliber person?". We discussed this idea for a while before deciding to collect some data. We selected 10 current employees, who we believed fit the profile we had developed and met with them to discuss, "How can we make our company more attractive to these kinds of candidates?". Most of the suggestions revolved around providing more opportunities for growth, independent action, as well as personal and professional development.

Develop and Execute a Plan

A long-term plan was developed and begun. Those immediate changes in the company that could be implemented happened quickly -- others were implemented as they became possible. All people involved in the hiring process were informed of the additional requirements. My role involved assessment of candidates, and I gave special attention to those traits required.

Needless-to-say, the company was less than perfect in its implementation of the plan. It was, however, determined that it would happen. We met every six month to review and perform "course corrections".


Within a year, there were some observable changes in the performance metrics. Revenues were up, market share increased, turnover (which started low) became even lower, and profits increased. I noticed that the candidates that I was assessing seemed better, in general. I initially attributed that to better selection before the candidates got to the assessment stage.

During the second year, I noticed that an unusually large number of candidates were currently employed at competing companies. I knew that the salaries and benefits programs were not significantly better than those competitors. The candidates seemed to be quite successful and had no obvious reason for leaving their current employers. When asked about that, I repeatedly got a similar message: "Everyone knows that, in our industry, this is the best company to work for, with the best people. I am a top-notch guy, so I should be with the best."

Mission Accomplished (but not completed)

Our periodic meetings had shown that the average intelligence of the new hires had moved significantly upward. Need for achievement measures showed a similar rise. the other three characteristics were harder to quantify but we agreed that they seemed better. The P & L numbers indicated that we were on the right track. In addition, costs per hire were reduced as were time to recruit and hire.

This was not the end of this program, although it transitioned into a maintenance phase. The CEO knew that these efforts had to continue or the gains would have been lost.

Is YOUR Workforce As Good As YOU Think It Should Be?

It can be !!!

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