A CykoMetrix Spotlight Production

Every week, the Spotlight shines on an amazing professional with a story to tell and lessons to teach. Welcome to the CykoMetrix Spotlight.

The following is an adapted transcript of the exchange between Sylvain Rochon, CMO at CykoMetrix as host, and Ilze Johnston, Global Process Improvement & Change Specialist. 

Sylvain Rochon: Hello, welcome to Psychometric Spotlight. My name is Sylvain Rochon, the Chief Marketing Officer and co-founder at CykoMetrix. CykoMetrix is a SAS service that allows measurements of effectiveness, and team effectiveness over time, allowing for training to occur. Using our service, you can see the differences between one benchmark and later assessments and show progress in improving your teams or your individual effectiveness.

I am here with Ilze Johnston, out of South Africa. Ilze is a Global Process Improvement Change specialist. She’s a talent acquisition expert with experiences across end-to-end recruitment, psychometrics, and skills testing, succession and pipelining, retention, project management, and reporting on strategic data. More recently, driving diversity and inclusion across Europe, Africa, APAC, and Latin America.

Ilze, you’ve been all over the place, it seems, except, I think we were talking earlier, you have not been to North America. So, please come. You’re welcome in North America. So, tell us about yourself a bit and your experiences before we get into the meat of the subject.

Ilze Johnston: Great. Thank you so much for having me. I am thrilled to speak about the subject that’s really dear to my heart. So, I have not recently been working with North America, but I did actually spend eight years there. Between the ages of 10 and 18, I went to school in the States, spent four years in Orange County and four years in Greenwich, Connecticut. So, I really felt that I learned so much from living in another country, in terms of the way I think, diversification of thought.

When I finished high school, I decided to come back to South Africa to reinvest what I have learned in my experiences back into the country here, into Africa. I came back and I got a degree in Psychology and we covered quite a bit of psychometrics. So, I really understand how psychometrics fit into the greater picture of trying to objectively measure whether someone is essentially suited to a role.

And in my various roles, I’ve worked for multiple different industries and companies that have different measuring tools, differences between aptitude testing, skills testing, and of course, the typical personality test that we do. So, quite a vast background from different organizations with regards to gathering information to make the best possible hiring decision. So happy to be here, thank you for having me.

Sylvain: Well, we’re exactly in the meat of the subject already. It is all about measurements and data for us as we’ve talked about before. You’ve been using a lot of psychometrics data in your career, in your consultations across the world. One of the topics we wanted to talk about is how we measure diversity, how do we make sure we have a diverse workforce. Because we know this is important for productivity and effectiveness inside of workplace no matter where you’re going to be selling. But how do you get there? How can you use the tools of measurement to achieve success within an organization?

Ilze: All right. It’s a good question. I think, first of all, we have to look at what is the global picture, what is the strategy, and how does diversity fit into that. So globally, especially in technical industries, companies are really pushing to have more female representation across all levels. So, as a recruitment specialist what happens is, you get given a target, and you’re told, “Okay, you need to bring x amount of female hires into the organization.”

Recently, I worked for Honeywell, which is an American company, global organization, and very sophisticated processes that expected us to bring in 30% females on our slate or a shortlist. 30% of females in interviews, and then 30% of females in hires. So that’s kind of how we measured whether we were successful in achieving a diversity agenda. We then took what I thought was sort of in line with based practices. We said, “Okay.” We are bringing in 30% of females at the beginning of the pipeline. When we measure year on year and we look at representation in the organization, are we actually moving the needle? Are we increasing representation? Or are we just bringing 30% in and losing them? The data sometimes shows that you actually might be losing more females than you’re bringing in. So, you have this pipeline of women coming in, but do they stay? So, the question around, “Do they stay?”, the question around retention starts right at the beginning.

In the beginning, it’s about how do we measure success in the role, how do we measure that this person will be successful, and in doing so, there are different things you can do. So, ultimately, from a recruitment perspective, what we’re trying to avoid is the cost of a bad hire. I recently read a statistic. I’ve always remembered it and had conversations and say to business leaders, “When you make a bad hire, it can cost you up to three times the candidate’s annual salary to replace them in terms of all the work that goes in.”

This week, I read a statistic that said it can be up to five times the annual salary, which is a shocking expense. So, there is a huge cost-saving element in getting the right person in the right role at the right time. So, how do we do that? You know, that first day is the positioning. And then, the next question is, how do we bring in the right people?

Sylvain: Yeah, that’s the question, really, like you were talking about. This is statistics from your experience in Honeywell, and it’s going to vary from company to company. The first thing that came up to my mind is like, why is it 30%? Isn’t it supposed to be 50? But, you know, maybe that’s a question for Honeywell. But yeah, like one of the things that you were trying to do in HR and acquisition of talent is, yes, you may have some quarters when you have a diverse workforce, like 50%, 30%, or whatever it is. But then, if you have a quota, maybe you can run into the trouble not hiring the people that will end up sticking around. Because you’re forced into a quota, we want that quota. 50% to me seems logical, 50% of population representation and all that. So, how do you manage these conundrums? Can you assess the employees that are coming in to make sure, yes, they’ll satisfy a certain quota for diversity, but also they will stick around? What is the mechanism to try to ensure that actually happens? What are the tools you use, for example?

Ilze: Okay. So, I think, firstly, 30% starting off with a diversity target from scratch is an ambitious target. Obviously, we want to get it to 50%, but I think, across all the companies I’ve worked, 30% was a starting and ambitious target, and it was a baseline. So, we want to bring in more. The question that we’re receiving is, if we bring in women, what do we do with them to replace them? So, there’s diversity and inclusion.

Diversity is essentially your target, which, for example, in this example that I’ve given is 30%. Inclusion is what do you do after they join, which informs how successful they will be, whether there is retention, and so forth. But before we get to the inclusion, again, we have to start at the beginning of the pipeline. How do we measure that the person that is placed in the role will be successful? So, this brings us back to our testing mechanisms that we use in recruitment.

So generally, we say, give or take a couple of numbers. So, percentage-wise, if you take a CV and hire someone on a CV, your success rate, your success percentage is probably around, 15%. If you take a CV and you add an interview, it goes up to about 30%. So, adding something like assessments that are really well thought out and really well matched to the organization and what would be required of the individual, it’s an objective tool. Whereas a CV and an interview are not necessarily so. So, if you add that, it generally increases your chances by about 30% to 40% of hiring the right person. Now, that’s quite a large percentage.

So, the whole idea behind psychometrics is that they are designed and developed to help you objectively measure whether someone will be successful in a position. And that is essentially– at the beginning of the purse is, before you even hire the person, you are checking whether they have the right skill to perform the day-to-day function, whether they have attitude, whether they can solve problems, process information that would be required from the role and within the company or the team, and then looking at personality or what is the person bringing into the office every day? How do they relate to the team? How do they relate to stakeholders? What is their emotional intelligence?

I was reading an article that said companies are starting to use integrity testing as well as part of psychometrics, and I thought, “Wow, that is really great.” I’ve just recently– I come from Anglo-American roots, and integrity ranks top for them in terms of what they want in their employees. You know, you can already sort of eliminate quite a few people by administering this test and saying, “Okay, these are the values we want people to bring to the table, the skills and the abilities and the way of thinking.” So now, when they come into the business, there’s a higher probability of success and retention in the role.

Sylvain: All right, so you’re using assessments to try to match the candidate to company culture, like the values of the company and what they’re looking for, but also personality, communication methods and whatever metric about the team where the person is going to be integrated. Right, emotional intelligence is important because when people leaves a post — I’m going to forget the quote even though I read it recently again– I’m going to paraphrase, it says, “people don’t leave a job, they leave their boss or their team leader”. They leave their team because that’s where the conflicts actually occur, not really the company as a corporate entity, right? It’s usually the people inside that causes conflicts that provoke somebody to leave.

Going back to diversity in there, we know that we still have significant biases inside our culture’s gender or otherwise. So, in a workplace, stating workplaces that have a smaller percentage of women, it makes it harder for women to feel included because they feel probably isolated in some cases, if there are no others like them and there are the biases that flow around from the other gender. That makes their inclusion more difficult beyond the values and what is inside the company. I think that’s probably true for most cultures. There are these biases and this difficulty, this gender-created difficulty is present.

One of my past guests was — she is from India– and she read a statistic from Canada, saying that gender equality is predicted to occur in about 80 years in Canada. So, there’s still a long road to travel in that respect.  There are some challenges. I don’t know if you can talk about your experiences regarding that particular aspect and biases and whatnot in the workplace.

Ilze: So, I think unconscious bias is, it’s in terms we use, it’s in training we give, and sometimes it’s even forced. We say, well, management has to take unconscious bias training, and then no managers will have unconscious bias, and we can’t leave it there, you know. We don’t necessarily follow up and see how the thinking changed. So, I think this is a great opportunity to bring up the Big Five personality components.

Most of the time, we are only measuring the individual coming into the business. We’re moving into the direction of having more climate surveys, engagement surveys, and so forth, to actually assess, what we’re putting on our website to just put it plainly. Is what we’re putting on our website actually representative of what we’re measuring and what we’re saying our brand is all about.

I worked for one organization where we had extremely high turnover in our finance department. And the spec that we always got for the job description that we always received that we need someone that’s extremely organized, must be able to be very structured in the way that they work. But then, people would leave between three and six months. When we did our engagement survey, we actually picked up that the department itself — you speak about people leaving managers. So, the management culture was very unstructured. So, we were told to bring structured people, but then the management is unstructured. So, what we realized is that we needed to bring in people, yes, that can bring structure but that can work in an unstructured environment. Therefore, they can assimilate into the culture and create change through their way of working. But we could only figure out how to bring in the right person that would stay, by measuring what was the team culture.

So, now, coming back to the Big 5 after giving that example. If we look at openness to experience, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability, and extraversion as components that we look at, if we were to measure a team, let’s say in a technical company. Sometimes, you bring in a female and she’s the only female in a team of 10, right? And we expect everybody to embrace her and make her feel at home. The other members of the team are really getting along well. You know, we work well with the same people, we tend to have friends that are similar and so forth, so we do well with comfort.

So unconscious bias is all about, what you don’t know that makes you feel uncomfortable, and how you see people differently that are different to you, to make it really simple. So, we can give this training and we can expect people’s thinking to change. But unless we really move the needle on– for example, openness to experience, if we test a team and we see that on the scale of growth mindset and tolerance for change, this team is really sitting at this end of the spectrum, we don’t necessarily want to plug in someone into the team that is completely different. I’m not even speaking about just females, I’m speaking about all the different diversity elements. Because when you go into a lot of teams that are functioning well, you often find that they’re very similar.

We’re working in a world and a global mindset that is calling out desperately for diversity. And there are statistics and research that show that with diversity, comes more innovation and different ways of thinking and relating to a bigger client audience. There’s clear research that shows that it’s in a company’s best interest to bring in diversity. Where it’s not in the company’s best interest is to bring in diversity and to set that person up to fail.

Sylvain: So, you mean, diversity for the sake of diversity without considering the impact of the activities, and the people that are already there, in your example.

Ilze: Yeah. I don’t think that any business that I’ve worked for has done this intentionally. I think, we are all kind of chasing our tails because this is a very new area for us. In South Africa, it’s not so new. We’ve had requirements in terms of representation across different demographics that we’ve had to look at for quite some time. So, in South Africa, on top of having a statistic for bringing in women, we also have to bring in people of different racial backgrounds that may come from previously disadvantaged groups. So, we have been pushing this agenda for a long time, and still struggling to this day. Still struggling with retention issues, still struggling with making people feel a sense of real belonging when they join an organization. So, again, bringing me back to, are we doing the proper testing in the beginning? Do we have the right tools that we’re applying? To say, “Okay, this is the square that we need or the hole where we need to put the peg,” and then really matching it.

From my conversations with you and understanding your business, taking it one step further, it blows my mind. If we could get that right, and then bring in– okay, we are assessing and we’re saying, “This team is not high on openness to experience. They’re not high on conscientiousness and all these factors.” We know that upfront. Okay, so what training can we give them to change? So, then we bring someone that his different to them, for example, a female into the team of nine men. And then we test a few weeks later and we see if the female assimilating into the team. Is she fitting into the culture? Is she productive to the level that the business would expect because most companies weren’t running with you as you come in? Then, if she isn’t, that inclusion bit starts. What training can we give? What’s missing? The training in terms of inclusion can be for the team, can be for the manager or it can be for the female to say, “Okay, we really believe that she needs training and, for example, having difficult conversations at work,” which may be more difficult for a female to do in such a masculine team. Or it could be, “Okay, there needs to be some sort of team activity on openness to experience. How can we expand everybody to really become more tolerant and have this mindset around this female which is going to bring in a different dynamic and give us access to clients we may not have thought of before, and ideas we may not have come up with?” So I think if we could get that whole process right, that diversity inclusion would be really successful and reach the goal that it is intended to do.

Sylvain: I think you make excellent points. In my experience, it’s tricky to get a balance. The experiences I’ve had here were with the government or in the teaching environment, which is also public sector, where the quotas are just enforced without measurement at all. It’s just, well, you have to make sure there’s X percentage of women, X percentage of non-whites or whatever, and notwithstanding all the challenges of integration and matching with the culture, nothing of what we’re talking about. Also, no measurement of emotional intelligence whatsoever.  Just drop a person in, you fit the percentages, good luck. The outcomes are not so great.

Ilze: That explains politics, doesn’t it?

Sylvain: It explains a lot of different things. Yes. The public service here is an environment sometimes considered a bit dysfunctional, and that could be part of the problem. The dynamics are messed up. Office to office, I’m sure it’s different. I don’t want to judge every public service office, but yeah, I think you’re right, the key is to try to get proper assessments about the whole person and the whole of the team that exists there, and see, “Are they going to work together, probably? Do the communication mediums going to work? Am I generating conflict by introducing this person X into team Y? Or maybe you should find another team person X that would be a good fit. So that the person stays there, is retained and happy and productive.”

These are all things I think businesses would like to see, it’s just the tools are either not used properly or don’t exist that measure the right things. So, that’s where we come in. You, with your ability to consult in this space and us as a toolmaker, we’re trying to solve that conundrum and provide the right services to companies.

I’d like to offer you an opportunity at this stage as we conclude. There are probably some people that are potential clients of yours that have challenges. What advice would you tell them if they’re listening to us, as a tidbit, that they can use to get onto the right track to have better hiring practices to resolve their issues?

Ilze: I think, firstly, is to understand what are the dynamics that are currently present in your organization. When you bring people into a company, it’s much easier to match them to your business than other way around. So, the first point is to understand, for example, I gave the example about the finance department. Understand what your team dynamic is.  If you are in an extremely unstructured environment and you’re craving for structure, bear in mind that you have to bring in people that are tolerant of the culture currently but that can help you move to where you want to be. I think, ultimately, all businesses are hiring someone to solve a problem to get them from point A to point B.

First, you need to understand what is point A. So, when you are putting together your job description, when you are putting together your test or your psychometrics, whatever it is that you want to use, make sure that they complement what is the actual objective reality of your team that you’re hiring into. Once you have that, you can have meaningful discussions with talent. I’ve always said, you know, every company has their shit. They may just say it like that. Everybody has their baggage. There’s no company that you come into and it’s perfect, a perfect organization, perfect culture, perfect job. But how you repackage these things that are perhaps not so great about your organization or that are very challenging? I’ll mention Honeywell has an extremely high-performance culture, extremely demanding. But we packaged it in a way that we could measure that the people that we brought in could work in a fast-paced environment and could solve problems quickly. We used a lot of skills testing, especially with our sales force simulations, exercise presentations, and those types of things, to test match. We would frame the culture to make sure that you knew what you were getting into. You are coming into an extremely high-performance culture, but you will be rewarded if you make it.

It’s the same with every other organization. So even if management is a challenge, the way you approach that, the training that you expose them to– as opposed to, for example, just a blanket, unconscious bias training. If you’re measuring that your team, for example, is not very high in conscientiousness, for example, then you can have an intervention that is specific to that that will make it different and allow new talent to come in and to blossom and flourish in the organization. Then, what I would just add to that is, when you bring talent into the business, don’t just leave them. Don’t wait till the three month period, the sort of we checking you out three months is over and then you pull up the job description from the job ad and say, “Okay, how have we done?” No, don’t leave your people. Do your check-ins and ask them whether they feel like they’re fitting into the culture. Create an environment of safety where someone can say, “You know, I’m really struggling with the team at the moment in terms of, when we have a team meeting, I don’t feel like my voice is heard, and perhaps, I need a training on, as I’ve mentioned, how to have difficult conversations or how to present myself better in a meeting.” So, measure your people after they’ve joined, in terms of, are they really assimilating into the culture and what training they perhaps require.

Just a simple example is, we’ve got a lot of English second-language speakers, and we bring them in, and we expect them to perform on the same level as an English language speaker. Has anybody considered that that person might just need a 101 on how to communicate their ideas in English, whether via email or in a presentation? You know, that could be a big challenge for someone even on an executive level, I’ve seen. So, measure your people after they join and don’t just measure the individual, measure the team. Look at yourself as a manager or the head of the department in terms of what are your areas of growth. How can you challenge yourself? I think unconscious bias is always where we start. Asking yourself, how can I stretch myself in this area? What may each team member in my team require that is slightly different? Because no individual is exactly the same.

So that would be my advice.  Make sure that you’re measuring so that you know what the reality is. Perhaps, you even understand your reality, but you want to get from one point to another in terms of culture change and understanding.  Point A is always where you begin. Then you start to plug the right people in. So, the right person in the right role at the right time. Then afterward, making sure you do your check-ins, you make sure that you’re checking what else is needed from the inclusion perspective. That way, you can only really succeed as a team and be productive together through looking at all of those aspects.

Sylvain: Very good. Thank you so much, Ilze. This has been Ilze Johnston, a Global Process Improvement and Change specialist out of South Africa. I’m super excited that I was able to interview you today.  I’m sure we’ll have other connections later on. Those of you who have been watching this, please check out Ilze Johnston through Linkedin and other bits of information that we’ve posted below in the description if you want to connect with her and
have discussions about this. Bye-bye. Thank you so much, Ilze.

Ilze: Thank you. Bye-bye.

About Ilze Johnston – www.linkedin.com/in/ilze-johnston-2834b613/

Ilze is an Honours Graduate in Psychology & Communications and recently qualified as a Neurolinguistic Life Coach. She comes with 15 years’ experience as a specialist in talent acquisition strategy, onboarding, succession planning, employee engagement, performance management, retention and more recently, diversity & inclusion. In her most relevant role at Honeywell, a global tech and engineering business, she was the Recruitment and Diversity Leader for Western Europe. She confesses to be absolutely in love with her profession as it is constantly evolving and has been privileged to work for several amazing local and international businesses with varying degrees of maturity in their talent strategies. She mentions that the more mature organisations tended to have better data to enable decision making and as a self-labeled nerd, loves data and has seen what a difference it can make in human resource management from attraction to retention. Market advantage is based on the degree to which data is easily accessible, and can be used meaningfully in an organization.

Having said all that, she confesses that no data makes any sense to her until she’s had her first cup of coffee in the morning. Ilze is a lover of data but also of great coffee, yoga, Friday night movie night, debates like this one and is an avid reader. Her passion project is empowering women in corporate to thrive. With her partner Helen Aracelli Reis, Integration takes Sheryl Sandburg’s Lean In methodology one step further by recognising that women require additional support in order to “integrate” into businesses successfully. This could mean something as simple as knowing that they are not alone in their challenges when joining a new team, all the way through to learning about how to manage their health by avoiding burnout and learning key skills around wealth such as career management, budgeting and investment opportunities.

Integration provides a platform where professional women can learn from each other and grow skills required to succeed in corporate, at events and workshops relating to both their health and wealth. Managing these pillars can either lead to greater levels of job satisfaction and a feeling of success or do the opposite. “When women in corporate thrive, it benefits everyone and leads to higher levels of productivity, retention and women moving up the ranks into leaderships roles.

About CykoMetrix – www.CykoMetrix.com

CykoMetrix is a leading edge psychometric and human data analytics company that brings the employee assessment industry to the cloud, with instant assessments, in-depth analysis, trait measurements, and team-based reporting features that simplify informed decision-making around recruiting, training, and managing today’s modern workplace.

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