Personality as a leading indicator
How to change problem behaviors
Following is an excerpt from an interview with Greg Ford, CEO of TalentClick Workforce Solutions Inc.
Q: One of the problems that companies face is non-compliant workers. These are the people who don’t follow standard operating procedures. What can be done about these so-called problem employees?
A: For many years, companies implemented programs that were about catching people doing things wrong. And some of that negative reinforcement works. But it only goes so far. “Pencil whipping” defiant people is not as effective long term as some other methods that focus on changing behaviors.
Q: Are you talking about Behavioral Based Safety? There are some strong proponents and followers of BBS. But others don’t view BBS as kindly because they perceive it as “blaming the worker” — in other words, catching people doing things wrong.
A: Some of BBS is about measuring current or past behaviors — what is observable. Instead, I’m talking about something that is not readily observable, and that is somebody’s personality. Personality is a leading indicator that helps predict future behaviors. There is a movement toward helping people change through self-awareness tools and training.
Q: So, you mean working with someone to change their personality in order to change their behaviors?
A: No, personality is how we are naturally hard-wired, and it is resistant to change. But what can change are the actions and behaviors once we have a better understanding of ourselves and how we are most likely to act.
Q: What do you mean when you say hard-wired?
A: We are all born with certain personality traits. These are our natural “default settings” that are our urges and impulses causing us to act a certain way when nobody is watching. Some people, like me, are naturally distractible, impulsive and rule-resistant. I know how to follow the rules, but just ask my wife; usually I do my own thing. It’s the difference between can’t and won’t, which in a safety environment is a crucial difference.
Q: Hasn’t the subject of personality testing been around for a long time?
A: It has. But it has traditionally been used more for corporate positions in so-called “white collar” jobs. There is now a huge movement toward using personality assessments for front-line workers. There is some excellent research being done, showing the correlation between workplace incidents and personality traits such as recklessness, defiance, irritability, and so on.
Q: In a way, it sounds like a negative; like the focus of this research is also on blaming people.
A: The data shouldn’t be used that way. We wouldn’t blame you for being introverted and creative, just like we wouldn’t blame someone else for being ambitious and outgoing. That’s just how we were born.
Q: And you’re saying this has an application to safety?
A: Right. The trick to behavioral change is to increase awareness of the issue, and then give people tools and tricks to deal with it. For example, I am naturally distractible and need variety and stimulation. So, when I’m behind the wheel of my car and I hear that a text message has come through on my mobile phone, my knee-jerk reaction is to check it while I’m driving. But since I now know this about myself through self-awareness training, I resist the urge to check it, or I pull over to the side of the road. That is how the behavioral modification has happened.
Q: I can see this soft-skills, self-awareness training working not just for the front-line guys but for the people who manage them, too.
A: Sure. Think about it. Most supervisors, crew foremen and shift leaders have had hundreds of hours of training to perfect their craft. But ask them how many hours of training they’ve received on effectively communicating with and leading people. The answer is very little, if not none. A one-size-fits-all management style doesn’t work, especially for those front-line guys who are problem workers.
Q: So what’s the trick to managing them?
A: Well, the first thing is to understand what type of personality they have. If they are naturally reckless, then the supervisor needs to help them think through the possible consequences of their impulsive and risky behaviors. Using real-life stories and on-the-job examples always helps. If they are naturally defiant, then usually that personality type just needs to understand the “why” behind something. Once the supervisor takes time to explain the rules and procedures, and ask for feedback and suggestions, then that person will feel heard and become less resistant. There are many other examples, too.
Greg Ford is the co-founder and CEO of TalentClick Workforce Solutions Inc. (www.talentclick.com), a Vancouver-based Personality Risk Assessment provider, and an adjunct professor at Simon Fraser University. Greg holds a degree in Psychology and a Masters degree in Workplace Learning. He has helped many organizations improve safety and enhance productivity through workforce education and innovative behavioral approaches. Download Your Complete Guide to Getting Problem Workers to Comply at: www.talentclick.com/resources/your-complete-guide-to-getting-problem-workers-to-comply/
© TalentClick Workforce Solutions Inc., August 20, 2014