The Science Behind Professional Business Development

The current economic crisis has disrupted companies around the world. Everything from business models to hiring and firing are under tough scrutiny. For business leaders, now is the time to make sure that you and your team are listening and following the science of talent acquisition, says Dr. Russ Riendeau, of New Frontier Search Company.  

October 21, 2020 – Does your company “follow the science” behind searching for and hiring top talent? Research data around the science of careers and talent acquisition reveals that 75 percent of business professionals have not read a professional development book on their specialty in the past four years.

“Trust the science… listen to the science… look at the facts… numbers don’t lie.” You have heard these phrases in our COVID-19 world since the beginning of 2020. When life and death are on the line, COVID-19  and science ignore who might be the victim. It is an equal opportunity killer. “The same stark truth applies to hiring decisions: When you see behavior – believe it. It won’t change despite the reasons and intentions a candidate will attempt to convey,” said Dr. Russ Riendeau, senior partner and chief behavioral scientist with New Frontier Search Company, in a just-released report. “You can’t talk your way out of the behaviors that put you into a situation in the first place. Decision-making prowess is the root to success in all fields of business.”

Be Productive or Be Removed

Dr. Riendeau said that in the world of commerce right now, across the planet, every business model, strategic plan, and decision made in 2019 has been disrupted, fractured, disputed, and even abandoned. “Hiring and firing are under the microscope to ensure the best decision and even more scrutiny for marginal performers,” he said. “Research is confirming that average performers – across all business sectors – are under pressure to improve; otherwise, you will be gone. The economics of commerce don’t discriminate. Be productive or be removed.”

If you are a hiring manager, CEO, business owner, or HR professional, are you and your team practicing, listening to and following the science of talent acquisition? Are your evaluation systems, interview tactics, candidate sourcing models and company culture designed to identify the best candidates and ensure they have every opportunity to succeed in your organization? Are you training every hiring manager to be a skilled interviewer and evaluator of viable talent?

Russ Riendeau, Ph.D., is senior partner and chief behavioral scientist with New Frontier Search Company, a retained search practice specializing in senior leadership, sales & sales management. The author/co-author of 11 books, numerous TEDx Talks, and a highly regarded keynote speaker, he also consults and writes about behavioral science topics and peak performance.

Considering the opening statistics you read, Dr. Riendeau said if a company changed nothing else except adding interview questions for every candidate to confirm, consistent/well-planned evidence of job changes, examples of proactive professional development, above average vocabulary, samples of their writing skills, and confirmation of an income consistently strong for their tenure and industry, the results around talent management would be more efficient, turnover would be reduced and productivity would increase.

“I am both a card-carrying capitalist and an ethically-obligated scientist,” Dr. Riendeau said. “I pursue facts, not philosophies. As a search professional, I am evidence-based, not merely theoretical. I study behavioral science to understand what makes people successful. I search for facts and figures showing evidence of a person’s success patterns first, before I consider their ‘philosophy of working.’ Why, you ask? Reason being, if a person has a proven track record of success in their business career, we can then compare/contrast their philosophy of work and success more accurately.”

Measuring Success

Conversely, Dr. Riendeau said that if a person describes their philosophy (even if it sounds like a smart, logical, practical one), yet can’t prove or document the physical evidence of successful patterns or show the fiscal results showing they are in the top levels for their respective field/age/tenure, we know there is a disconnect between what the person thinks they do, compared to what they actually are doing. Science of numbers, patterns, and cognition prove out this hypothesis.

Dr. Riendeau provided an example: A candidate sent his resume to him last week. A review of job changes and his LinkedIn profile revealed no less than 12 jobs with different companies in the past 22 years – less than two years per job. He had a reasonable argument why each job change was made, as well as letters and references of recommendation. However, this pattern can be a pattern of poor decision-making, laziness, people skills, inability, personal struggles, etc., said Dr. Riendeau. “What is also interesting is that the individual keeps getting hired. Some manager believes this pattern of job change will change on his or her watch. Somehow, this new hire will change their ways and stay longer. Odds are highly against success.”

So, the question remains: How can hiring executives better utilize and compare the science of talent acquisition to the natural human tendency to trust instincts, hope, likeability, industry-specific knowledge, etc.? How can you balance the human side to the hard sciences of facts?

Dr. Riendeau offered these tips using behavioral science and data that will help you and your team make better decisions and reduce the risk of making a bad hire:

Protect against biases: When interviewing candidates, have more one-on-one interviews compared to panel interviews. Research shows dominant interviewers will bias others and taint impressions, giving inaccurate feedback and thwarting efforts to find strong talent. “If one-on-one interviews are used, don’t let prior interviewers tell colleagues that will interview the person after you what your impressions were,” Dr. Riendeau said. “Stay neutral in voice and body language to ensure better insights are gleaned to compare.”

Patternicity:  The science of patterns is seen in how people pick careers, change jobs, pursue research for new careers and begin to earn more income. Job change patterns don’t change much over a person’s career, unless some major life event alters the pattern.

Decision-Making Skills: Frequent job changes (or staying too long at a company), for example, are typically a result of poor decision-making patterns. “This can be seen in a lack of motivation to do research, listening to simple advice, following an old boss, lack of direction in a career track, physical challenges, arrogance, naïve to the workings of business models, and lack of education in the field,” said Dr. Riendeau. “Loyalty and longevity in a company are not the same thing and often are excuses for laziness, lack of direction, etc. Dive deep in interview questions as to why a person left/started a job. Listen for excuses, blame, being the victim and so on.”

Related: 3 Ways Assessments Can Go Wrong and How to Get Them Right

Vocabulary: Vocabulary and overall success in life strongly correlate. Listen carefully to the words a person chooses to use. Do they articulate their position on something, how they describe their job duties, strategies and goals? Are the words demonstrating the pursuit of advancing their intelligence and expertise? Or are they a wandering generality?

What’s in Their Wallet?  In a capitalist world, personal income is most often a measure of one’s value to the marketplace. Physical evidence and fiscal evidence must align to demonstrate proof of performance.

“Watch carefully the job tenure/income earn ratio,” Dr. Riendeau said. “If a person is not earning (note, I didn’t say ‘paid’) an income that is above the averages for a person with X years of experience in a certain industry, this is consistently evidence of  under-performing individual. There are always exceptions for teachers,  government jobs, hourly workers and the like.  However, in a capitalist business world, money is earned with performance proven. Sales, management, marketing, production floors,  as a few examples, reveal the best and worst productivity.”

When the Mask Comes Off: Job Hunting in a Post Pandemic World
Asking yourself tough questions ahead of your job interview will allow you to prepare truthful responses and ensure a better outcome, says Russ Riendeau, of New Frontier Search Company, and Tim Tolan, of The Tolan Group, in a new report. The coronavirus crisis may have cost you your job, but it won’t last as an excuse for having failed to advance your career. Here’s why.

The science of math and productivity continues to show if a business professional is not earning what they could be earning to get to the elite status; there is something occurring in themselves that they are not able to do, unwilling to do, or not yet been taught how to raise their game. “Excuses are not an option to consider. In the executive ranks, people have a choice to leave a job that they claim is not paying them a competitive wage,” Dr. Riendeau said. “Staying put is an excuse, not a legitimate argument.”

Related: How to Leverage Talent Assessment & Development in Uncertain Times

Self-Awareness: The intrapersonal intelligence level we all possess is wide-ranging. How one sees themselves, understands what drives them to success, what angers them, frustrates them, challenges them are the critical sciences of awareness, resiliency and cognitive thought. Interviewers need to listen carefully to how a person describes how they got this point; what decisions and changes had to be made to achieve their goals; how do they process and make decisions on goals, activities, learning, etc.?  Do they sound like the victim if they were laid off? Or do they understand the reasons why and explain it in a way that demonstrates maturity, reflection and appreciation for business economics?

Assessment Tools (personality tests, some call them): “As a psychologist, I have much respect for assessment tools’ potential to reveal certain patterns and tendencies of a person’s total personality,” Dr. Riendeau said. “And as a psychologist and capitalist, I believe assessment tools can muddy the waters in hiring decisions and can be a deterrent to making good decisions. Reason being is that assessment tools are self-reporting. It is your decision to put down whatever answer you want. This attempt to game the tool, while challenging, still only provides philosophy and self-impressions. If we follow the science of career evidence (personal income shows success, job consistently, educational pursuits), we can make a better prediction of success.”

Dr. Riendeau pointed out that research continues to confirm that the use of assessment tools have benefits as one tool and not as a go/no-go hiring decision. Taking the accountability out of a hiring manager’s hands by letting a self-reported diagnostic tool make the decision is not a logical approach to leadership and success.

Proactive Behavior: Science and data show correlations to success and proactive learning. “What an individual pursues on their own time around personal and professional development is a strong indicator of success,” said Dr. Riendeau. “Reading, business-related studies, physical fitness, travel, industry specific training programs, joining industry associations, utilizing LinkedIn or monitoring other business platforms to stay viable, relative and at the expert level will reveal what that person’s real and actual potential are. The laws of attraction come into play in professional development.”

“Trust the science behind search when your company is interviewing for executive roles, top sales and marketing elite levels – $125,000 income levels and above,” Dr. Riendeau said. “The correlations discussed deliver fast, accurate perspectives to a person’s ability and stability to perform at a high level. Likeability, industry experience, referred by a trusted source – all factor into decision-making – yet all too often are believed on face value without confirming the data points and science as to whether they can fit your culture and expectations.”

Related: Conducting Executive Searches During a Pandemic

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor  – Hunt Scanlon Media

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