Larry Cipolla
August 31, 2012

I’ve had a couple of recent visits to organizations that were looking for some help with similar people problems. Both were experiencing a higher than average level of turnover and both companies asked me if Pro.file did some level of cognitive or intelligence testing.

I always look forward to the discussion when someone brings up cognitive or intelligence testing because more often than not people are seeing the symptoms but misdiagnosing the problem. In both cases the roles where these issues were presenting themselves were not positions that required above average levels of intelligence or people with a unique set of numerical or verbal abilities. The problems revolved around new hires that either left during an initial (roughly) 6 week training phase or people who were in the role but unable to keep up the appropriate level of accuracy and thoroughness required – despite additional training. What I thought was interesting was that both companies I met with figured these people just weren’t smart enough to learn the role – so they couldn’t perform consistently.

My suggestion to both companies was that these problems had far less to do with intelligence and much more to do with a person being motivated to consistently apply the knowledge they’d gained. We started by taking a look at a few of their longer term, high performers and it became immediately evident to them and to us, that in these roles a unique but consistent set of traits were present in each person. When we looked at a current set of applicants and compared them to our high performers we found that in almost every case, the wrong people were making it far too deep into the recruitment process. The promising recruits were showing well in live interviews but had really poor trait alignment compared to the role. Despite the training they’d receive if hired they would never be motivated or even have the natural ability to consistently perform well in the role.

I run into this far too often where people think the performance problems they’re experiencing are because a person’s not smart enough. It was a little counter intuitive when the minimum level of education for the roles we discussed was a University Degree.

Mike Moreau