Prof Edwin Locke offers evidence-based HR Tips, taken from his newly edited Handbook of Principles of Organizational Behavior (Wiley, 2009).
by Prof Edwin Locke
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Edwin A. Locke, Dean's Professor of Leadership and Motivation (Emeritus), Robert H. Smith School of Business. For more information please email Edwin at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Select on intelligence. (Chapter author Frank Schmidt). Intelligence or general mental ability (GMA), the capacity to grasp abstractions or concepts, is the single best predictor of performance on the job. A major reason is that GMA affects how much job knowledge people acquire and job knowledge affects job performance. GMA also has a direct effect on job performance, because problems can come up on the job that are not covered by previously acquired knowledge. These findings apply to all jobs although GMA is even more important in complex jobs. This does not mean that GMA is the only factor in job success. Other factors play a role such as mental health, rationality, motivation (e.g., effort), integrity, motivation, and personality.
Select on Conscientiousness and Emotional Stability (Chapter authors Murray Barrick and Michael Mount). These are the two personality traits in the “Big Five” that are most consistently related to beneficial outcomes. Conscientiousness refers to being dependable, hard working and achievement focused, whereas Emotional Stability refers to being non-anxious, secure and confident. These two traits have been found to be related to job performance, cooperative work behaviors, low turnover and absenteeism, effective leadership, lower accident risk, pro-health behaviors, job satisfaction, and organizational commitment. These traits add to what outcomes can be explained by GMA alone.
Use Structured Interviews to Recruit and Hire the Best People (Chapter author Cindy Stevens). Such interviews have to be carefully planned and the procedures are explained in this chapter. These work consistently better than unstructured interviews by greatly reducing the subjectivity that the latter type of interview typically involves. Such interviews can provide information about applicants that supplements what can be found with GMA and personality tests. Structured interviews may also project professionalism which can aid recruiting.
Design Training Systematically (Chapter by Eduardo Salas and Kevin Stagle). Training is an enormous field and organizations spend trillions of dollars on it annually. Unfortunately a lot of the money is wasted, because people are often trained to do the wrong things and/or in the wrong way. Effective training has to start with identifying training needs and then identifying performance requirements. The context in which training takes place has to be understood and methods have to be used that will insure the trainees actually acquire the needed skills and that the latter are actually used on the job. Finally, training effectiveness needs to be evaluated, especially in terms of whether it improves job performance.
Use Performance Appraisals to Improve Performance (Chapter by Maria Rotundo). Performance appraisals are widely used in organizations but more often than not they do not serve to improve performance. One reason is that prior job performance is not assessed accurately. Accuracy requires that performance be observed frequently and recorded. Further, there need to be multiple sources of performance feedback, including from the employee being assessed (i.e., self-assessment). In addition, performance needs to be assessed in terms of behaviors, not just outcomes. Behaviors are what cause performance outcomes, but not the only cause; outcomes may be less in the employee’s control than behaviors. Effective performance appraisals also need to involve setting goals for the future and coaching of the employees.