A winning team: Measuring ability might not cut it

There’s power in the yin and yang approach
Behavioural profiling is gaining traction among recruiters.
How do you build the perfect team? If you’re faced with the tough choice between two applicants for a job, surely appraising their skill-sets or asking the right questions at interview is enough to find the right fit? It’s not quite so simple. And to show you why, I want to tell a short story.
A major pharmaceutical company was faced with the complex issue of training its 10,000-strong sales team. To all intents and purposes, the team was dynamic and agile, yet sales had been dropping and the current training did not seem to be making much difference.
So the company decided to assess the sales staff via a series of behavioural tests. This type of profiling differs markedly from cognitive tests in that it measures emotional, motivational, interpersonal and attitudinal characteristics. It more clearly distinguishes between those who prefer analytical, direct approaches and those who are more comfortable with dialogue and personal connections, say.
The results were striking: 80 per cent of the sales team demonstrated sociable, optimistic traits. This in itself was not remarkable, given that these people had to move on quickly from rejection and deliver dynamic presentations. What was interesting was the assessment of the people the team sold to. The vast majority of doctors, surgeons and GPs demonstrated detail-oriented, analytical traits. While enthusiastic presentations suited the sales team, they were the wrong way to work with the audience.


As any recruiter will attest, team building can be described as a function of the uniqueness of the individuals in the team multiplied by the number of people in the team. Yet behind this simplified view lies the complex nature of diverse individuals, all with their different approaches, skills and, importantly, behavioural traits, which can give those in charge of developing effective teams sleepless nights.
To further complicate matters, research has shown that homogenous teams of like-minded people are not always effective. Quite the opposite. Instead, juxtaposing ideas, informed by a variety of backgrounds and differing behavioural attitudes, frequently results in more innovative approaches and achievements.
How best to build such a team relies not just on cognitive ability tests or on solid interviewing techniques for that matter. Instead, we are starting to see behavioural profiling gain traction in the assessment process.
Incorporating this additional information into the corporate environment means building teams that mesh people who are more likely to work well with each other, as well as communicate well with their own target audiences. The emphasis is on understanding the different ways people operate, communicate, socialise, integrate and tackle goals. In an age where corporate strategies rely heavily on effective teams, this is vital information.
And as seen with the pharmaceutical company, behavioural approaches open up a raft of opportunities that go beyond recruitment requirements.
Simon Wilsher is chief executive of The Wilsher Group. www.wilsher-group.com.

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