Early attrition from factors such as failure to conform, mental or physical adaption to work environment, or simply not being able to fit company standards consumes profit and productivity. The cost of turnover is more than lost training and suffering to the bottom line; attrition affects every level of company performance. Daula and Smith (1992) report that nearly one-third of the entire operating budget for an Army unit they studied was due to new personnel training and turnover. Attrition hurts manning for business team development and line operations; it ensnares valuable time from senior personnel needed to bring new recruits up to speed while they waste precious energy applying acculturation models (Cohen & Swerdlik, 2005). Attrition also reduces the available talent pool of potential future leadership (Scroggins, 2008). Social psychologists who have been researching ways to improve retention in organizations have found, not surprisingly, that organizational leadership must ensure to fit the right person into the right position to create a situation where they want to stay (Cohen & Swerdlik, 2005; Daula & Smith, 1992; Scroggins, 2008). Schneider (1987), as quoted in Scroggins (2008), argues “individuals will select themselves out of an organization in which they do not perceive that they fit” (p. 62).
Government and private companies have come to recognize the value of putting an increased effort toward their accession-source recruiting in order to match the best people with the appropriate jobs. This also means that hiring agencies recognize that what one has or has not done previously may be an indicator of how the company can expect new hires to perform once placed. A study by the US Army, for example, reported that “historically, approximately half of all NHSDG [non-high school diploma graduate] recruits fail to complete their initial term of enlistment.” Sadly, NHSDGs represent 20% of the available pool of applicants the US Army is targeting. Facing this challenge, the military has been looking for different ways to measure predictive values in personnel assessment tool other than previous academic standing (White, Young, Heggestad, Stark, Drasgow, & Piskator, 2008).
Clearly, placing personnel into the right career path, where he or she finds their work meaningful and rewarding, is a key factor in retention. Environmental and Social psychological research suggests that employees are motivated toward self-consistency when selecting and remaining with a company (Scroggins, 2008). Finding this consistency, and making informed placement with respect to its motivation, “is a common element that underlies attendance, tardiness, work effort, and [employees’] donating [of] personal time to work. It is also believed that these work behaviors can be expanded to include turnover behaviors and that meaningful work and work motivation resulting from fit are likely to impact job attitudes as well” (p. 59).
Gone are the days where companies can expect pre-ordained conformity and loyalty from new hires. The kind of loyalty to a firm that was passed down from father to son has slowly been replaced by the new American demographic where young perspective employees are not as likely to seek the same career as his or her parents (www.careervoyages.gov). The value of finding applicable psychometric personality measures is becoming more obvious as the diversity of mission statements grows with the diversity of available hires. “There is now increasing evidence that both ability (high general intelligence) as well personality factors” predict not only entrance exam results and employee absence, but also career success across a lifetime, earnings, loyalty, and longevity (Furnham, Dissou, Sloan, & Chamorro-Premuzic, 2007). The creation of a universal and multidimensional assessment tool to accomplish this is not an easy task.
Inevitably, the choice to assess personality attributes and the way to utilize them rests within the construct of the company doing the hiring. That is, in order to remain solvent, companies must seek to build a like-minded employee base from the available pool of applicants. But “measuring personality [traits] is not like measuring the mass of a rock” (Pervin, Cervone, & John, 2005, p. 42). There are as many ways to assess and report personality as there are personalities to report. To complicate this, unlike measuring a rock where society has a basically agreed upon reporting standard (in kilograms or pounds, for example), there “is no uniform agreement among personality psychologists regarding exactly what personality variables should be measured and how to measure them” (p. 42). This is not to say that no guidelines exist for creating templates for assessment, only that most layman and professionals tend to hold different opinions and priorities while measuring, reporting, and reacting to an assessment standard. “Despite growing problems associated with litigation with respect to fairness of intelligence testing, many organizations recognize the reality” that assessment of ability can have real meaning for employment and advancement (Furnham, et al., 2007, P. 100). Despite the risks, companies recognize that employees “of higher mental ability, [or with more advanced skill-set adaptability,] are both more productive and most costly” (Daula & Smith, 1992, p. 272). Yet the high cost of quality recruitment and assessment is offset exponentially by the gains of a positive, loyal, and proactive employee base (Daula & Smith, 1992; White, et al., 2008). Companies need to recognize the why of pushing greater funding for entry-level assessment and then research how they will assess and interpret/employ those results while mitigating the risk of alienating a non-qualified population of personalities.
John Holland, as summarized in Cohen and Swerdlik (2005), has argued that people can be categorized into “one of the following six personality types: Artistic, Enterprising, Investigative, Social, Realistic, or Conventional” (p. 339). “Holland’s system allows for the matching of individuals with jobs or occupations for which they will be more compatible” (Scroggins, 2008, p. 67). Once the company has created a likely profile match for a job they need to fill, Holland’s Theory could be employed to find a profile to match it. Cardiologists Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman conceived the popular Type A and Type B personality traits commonly spoken about in the US Navy officer accession testing. As Naval Aviators, we are expected to be ‘Type A’ personalities; part of the entrance exam requirements consists of the taking the Military Flight Aptitude Test. This test is not merely about which way is up, or how an airfoil works. A great portion of the test is a masked personality assessment. Although these tests are sealed and re-written each Fiscal Year, and therefore I could not get a copy of one, the concept never changes. For example, the Navy is looking for the applicant to answer the following questions ‘correctly.’ ‘Would you rather run on the beach or read a book?’ The ‘correct’ answer is ‘run on the beach.’ If the test asks ‘Have you ever sped for the fun of it?’ the answer is ‘yes’ because the Navy wants people who are thrill-seekers and not afraid to push limits. Friedman and Rosenman, as reported in Cohen and Swerdlik (2005), claim that Type A is “characterized by competitiveness, haste, restlessness, impatience, feelings of being time-pressured, and [a] strong need for achievement and dominance” (p. 339). This appears to describe everyone around me at work, and regrettably - me (a little). Type B is the opposite – “mellow and laid-back” (p. 339). As mentioned in assignment #4, I self-reported and manipulated the outcome of my MFAT, but can now, sitting as an instructor nearly ten years later, certainly validate the need for certain types of people to be hired, and even more importantly, due to safety and high training cost (nearly 3 million dollars in the first three years alone). There is valid need to screen out people who have the wish, but not the drive or ability, to become Naval Aviators. In my defense, I’m only doing this until I retire and get a real job.
Lending in part to its simplicity of application and made famous by Facebook and other social networking sites, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) may be the most popular personality test among laymen. The MBTI has been described as “the most widely used non-clinical measure of personality in the world” (Furnham, et al., 2007, p. 101). MBTI claims that people can be narrowed to eight types; each type then narrowed further from two juxtaposed characterizations into a four-letter code. A person is an Introvert or Extravert, an Intuitive or Artistic person, a Thinker or Feeler, and a Judger or Perceiver. Together, choosing one of each four pairs gives each person a four-letter code summarizing their personality. Herein the assumption is that by codifying one’s personality into categories corresponding to predispositions and tendencies, the researcher can make accurate assumptions about behaviors, reactions, likes, aptitudes, and attitudes in generalized situations (Cohen & Swerdlik, 2005; Furnham, et al., 2007; Pervin, Cervone, & John, 2005; White, et al., 2008).
“In military organizations around the world, leadership is a sought-after trait, and personality tests help indentify who has it” (Cohen & Swerdlik, 2005, p. 341). The military has more at stake than picking leadership however; not all of the 1.4 million Service members in the US military can be in charge. In 1989, upon my first military enlistment, I was asked to take the self-reporting style Armed Service Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) by the US Army. To the Army, “the ASVAB is a measure of cognitive aptitude used in the selection and classification of applicants for the Armed Services” (White, et al., 2008, p. 3). Cohen and Swerdlik (2005) describe the ASVAB as the “most widely used multiple aptitude test in the United States” (p. 292), and as not being just for military service and its constant drive for healthy recruitment. For many, “the ASVAB is designed to help test takers learn about their interests, abilities, and personal preferences in relation to career opportunities in military and civilian settings” (p. 292).
With this in mind, the ASVAB composite score is used to help candidates and recruiters maneuver career choices toward a “best-fit” (Scroggins, 2008, p. 3) category in an effort to find meaningful job placement. For example, if one wanted to be a reporter or work in administration for the military, and the aptitude test indicated a strong propensity for Mechanical Comprehension rather than administrative tasks, the recruiter would guide the decision process toward a career in Mechanics of some kind. The ASVAB assesses applicants’ Mechanical Comprehension, Math Knowledge, Assembling Objects, Word Knowledge, and Paragraph Comprehension. Ultimately, the ASVAB is used to guide the potential employee in finding what career field he or she might be best fit for, and the composite score allows the military to decide if the person is worth the investment in training to let them pursue it (Cohen & Swerdlik, 2005).
It is important to highlight that Cohen and Swerdlik (2005) recognize that this, and all assessment, is not just a screening tool for accession, advancement, or termination but also, to a certain extent, they are a self-assessment and discovery tool for test takers in order to explore, perhaps for the first time, the assessees’ self-concept (p. 341). Again, as Scroggins (2008) insists, fitting the right people into the right job is the key to successful human resource management. “A person-job fit approach to meaningful work and employee retention is described [as consisting] of matching individual self-concept[s] with job tasks and behaviors” (p. 57). “[M]eaningful work experiences are critical to employee engagement, performance, and turnover” (p. 57). Some may find ethical difficulty with this is an important consideration. Yet, in my experience, it would be dangerous and a disservice to the company as well as the individual to put that person in a situation that they are not mentally or physically prepared for. This goes for all extremes of personal experience whether it is running an obstacle course in Army Boot Camp (1989), fighting a high-speed ship flooding drill in Navy Boot Camp (1992), or flying through pitch-black sky and typhoon winds to rescue a sinking boat’s crew (2004).
Who you are can be an important part of what you can accomplish safely. Personality testing and assessment can help employers and potential employees piece together life-experience, constructs, resume, and personality to make the right career decision the first time. If done well, one may not have to make another career choice at a later time.
Career Voyages is a web site which is the result of collaboration between the U.S.
Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Education. It is designed to
provide information on in-demand occupations along with the skills and education
needed to attain those jobs. (http://www.careervoyages.gov)
Cohen, R. J., Swerdlik, M. E. (2005). Psychological testing and assessment: An
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Equipment Costs. Social Science Quarterly, 73(2), 266-275.
Furnham, A., Dissou, G., Sloan, P., & Chamorro-Premuzic, T., (2007). Personality and
intelligence in business people: A study of to personality and two intelligence
measures. Journal of Business Psychology, 22, 99-109. Retrieved August 16, 2009 from ProQuest database.
Pervin, L. A., Cervone, D., & John, O. P., (2005). Personality theory and research (9th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Scroggins, W.A. (2008). The Relationship Between Employee Fit Perceptions, Job
Performance, and Retention: Implications of Perceived Fit. Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal, 20(1), 57-71. Retrieved March 9, 2009, from ProQuest Psychology Journals database. (Document ID: 1427166171).
White, L. A., Young, M. C., Heggestad, E. D., Stark, S., Drasgow, F., MAJ Piskator, G.,
Development of a non-high school diploma graduate pre-enlistment screening
model to enhance the future force.