What’s the secret to hiring the right people for the right role?
In this episode, host Becca Banyard is joined by Traci Austin—Chief Talent Officer at Elevated Talent Consulting—to talk about what it means to be fit to role, how to strike a balance between hiring for skill fit versus culture fit, and how to utilize general cognitive ability metrics and the predictive index in your process.
- Hiring for Fit-to-Role [0:06]
- ‘Fit to role’, a method of evaluating potential hires based on three essential components: the head, heart, and briefcase.
- The head: assesses an individual’s natural behavioral drives and cognitive ability. It’s about understanding whether a candidate will do the job over a long period, not just if they can do it. This alignment can significantly contribute to an employee’s job satisfaction and retention.
- The heart: how well a candidate’s personal values align with the mission, vision, and values of the organization. All of us have a reason for doing what we do, and to be truly engaged in our work, we need to feel a genuine connection with the organization’s mission. This alignment is key to fostering an authentic and committed workforce.
- The briefcase: a candidate’s knowledge, skills, and abilities – their education, experience, and qualifications. While important, Traci emphasizes that it is just one part of the hiring puzzle.
- The less-discussed fourth component: seasons of life. This aspect considers the individual’s current stage in their career and personal life. It recognizes that we all have different drives and priorities at different stages of our lives, which can impact our work performance and satisfaction.
- ‘Fit to role’, a method of evaluating potential hires based on three essential components: the head, heart, and briefcase.
There are times in the life cycle of an organization where we truly need a culture fit, otherwise the organization is going to start to fall apart.Traci Austin
- The Predictive Index and Assessing Job Fit [14:25]
- Predictive Index (PI), a tool that can reveal valuable insights about a person’s leadership, communication, and environmental preferences. The use of validated tools like PI in the hiring process can offer a substantial indication of job success, providing a solid basis for decision-making.
- Maintaining equilibrium between hiring for skill and fit – the challenge lies in finding the right balance for each role, considering the unique needs and constraints of the organization. Creating a well-constructed scorecard that factors in all elements can aid in this process.
To ensure that we’re not excluding people, we just need to have a conversation about inclusivity and how we are ensuring it within our culture.Traci Austin
- Balancing Hiring for Skill and Fit [20:59]
- The hiring process is a complex dance of understanding and assessing different factors. By considering a candidate’s skills, cultural fit, cognitive drives, and current life season, organizations can make insightful decisions that contribute to the long-term success and happiness of their employees.
- The art of balanced recruitment is about much more than filling a vacancy. It’s about building a committed, engaged, and productive workforce.
Meet Our Guest
Traci Austin, is a certified HR professional with two decades of experience building HR departments from the ground up for small businesses. Her mission is to create the container for every employee, if they choose, to be fulfilled in their work while meeting business outcomes. She does this through employee development and engagement, performance consulting, training facilitation and coaching HR professionals.
Traci uses her consulting expertise to serve clients in applying behavioral concepts to hiring and selection, designing and implementing talent pathways, coaching, motivation, and leadership. She is a highly sought after expert on these topics. She hosts a weekly podcast titled, Talent Optimization with Traci Scherck and has been distributed to thousands of HR professionals and business leaders across the globe.
She is the Chief Strategy Consultant and owner of Elevated Talent Consulting, a certified women owned business, that impacts small business and HR professionals in exceeding performance expectations while being fulfilled in their work.
Every single one of us is created perfectly the way we are. However, we are not created perfectly for every role.Traci Austin
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Becca Banyard: Hiring employees who are fit to role and align with your organizational culture will not only improve productivity, but also the quality of life in your organization's work environment. So what's the secret to hiring the right people for the right role?
Welcome to the People Managing People podcast. We're on a mission to build a better world of work and to help you create happy, healthy and productive workplaces. I'm your host, Becca Banyard!
My guest today is Traci Austin, the Chief Talent Officer at Elevated Talent Consulting. And she's going to be sharing with us what it means to be fit to role, how to strike a balance between hiring for skill fit versus culture fit, and how to utilize general cognitive ability metrics and the predictive index in your process. So stay tuned!
Hi, Traci. Welcome to the show!
Traci Austin: Hi, Becca! Thanks so much for having me.
Becca Banyard: I'm really excited for our conversation today, which is going to be around hiring for fit to role. And you're going to explain all of what that means in a moment, but I'd love to just know a little bit more about yourself, your career background and what you're passionate about.
Traci Austin: Absolutely. So I'll just myself, I've been in human resources for 20 years. But with that, I've really doggedly gone after ensuring that the roles that I was in were fulfilling to me because I've been in roles that were not fulfilling and then you hate life, right? And that became such a passion for how do we create the container for every individual to be fulfilled in the work that they do?
And as leaders, we have an obligation to create that container. So individuals are fulfilled in their role and they're meeting the business outcomes and that profitability piece. So that's what's so fun about what I do.
Becca Banyard: So let's dive in to today's topic. Why don't you start by just sharing what it means to be fit to role?
Traci Austin: Yeah, absolutely. So what it means to be fit to role is that we're looking at three different buckets for fit to role, okay? So the first bucket that we look at for fit to role is we like to call it the head and that is essentially what are your natural behavioral drives and what is your natural cognitive ability?
So when we look at those two things, every single one of us is created perfectly the way we are. However, we are not created perfectly for every role. And what happens is we think we want something because we have the skill set or we have the education or the experience, but we don't love our job.
And so with the head or the behavioral fit to role looks like is it's asking the question - will you do the job over a long period of time? Not 'can you do the job?' Cause more than likely you can do it, but you won't do it over a long period of time. And guess what? We all have to do things over a short period of time and we can flex and we can adapt a hundred percent, but to do it over 3, 5, 10, 20 years, 'nope' is a lot of the answers.
So when we can align folks to the right role based on that behavioral and cognitive fit, they're more fulfilled in their role and they're more likely to stay. So the second bucket is culture, right? We call it heart, but it's really looking at what is the culture of the organization?
And this is mission, vision, values. So what is the mission, vision, values of the organization? And then I personally, my personal values aligned with the mission, vision, values of the organization. Because guess what? We all have a why, we all have a why, we all have a reason why we do what we do and we all get to a point where just doing it to do it, or even if it's a behavioral match for the role, it doesn't cut it anymore.
We have to authentically be connected to what that mission is to be making a difference. For me, that's creating fulfilling work. That is so personal and impactful to me that's a driver. And so that heart culture alignment is the second bucket. The third bucket we all know, right? And this is what we call the briefcase. This is knowledge, skills, abilities. This is your education. This is your experience. Incredibly important, but it's one part of it. Then the fourth part that we don't talk about very much that I like to bring in is seasons of life.
And here's why. If you think to a time in your career where you were climbing that career ladder and you were so driven, even though you weren't a behavioral fit, it didn't matter. You were going to get that experience and you were going to do it for one or two years. And then you got the next experience that's called a season of life. And sometimes we'll look at this and say, hey, you're not a perfect fit to role, but you're driven right now.
And you're on a career ladder to get to X, Y, Z position. And this is a part of it. That's a season of life that's going to, we're going to take into consideration with that behavioral fit. So that's an example. There's lots of examples of seasons of life that are both positive and seasons that are hard. And so we always want to pay attention to seasons of life and let that person make that decision.
Becca Banyard: Thanks for breaking it down into such clear categories. I'd love to just talk a little bit about how to identify each category in a person in somebody that might become an employee at your company.
Traci Austin: Yeah, absolutely. So I'm going to start with head or that behavioral and cognitive fit. And so what I will name, I use a tool called Predictive Index. So there's lots of assessments that are out there. When you're using an assessment for fit to role, my caution is so this is the compliance hat on is to ensure that you're using one that's validated. Because we want to ensure we are not discriminating against individuals and that's really important, especially when we look at diversity, equity and inclusion and role.
So I just want to name that and throw that out there. So what the research at Predictive Index has shown, and there's over 10,000 clients on this platform, is that utilizing behavioral and cognitive assessments at as a line to the job assessment is a 58% indicator of success on the job. That's amazing.
So, for the data nerds that are out there, I just want to throw that out there because I know we have them and I want to speak to you because you care about the details. You notice that I just talked about a behavioral drive. So when we're looking at these behaviors inside of an organization and what that specifically looks like, we're going to look at every single job first and say, what does this job need?
There's four, four key drives that we look for. And so the first one is, what is your leadership drive? The second one is, what is your communication drive? The third one is, what is the environment you work best in? And then the fourth one is looking at, how detail orientated are you? And so within that, there's a short assessment that we do on each job then we calibrate it with the leaders inside of the organization. Reason why we calibrate it is, I don't know if you've ever been in a position where you have two or three different people that you're reporting to on different things and they have different answers for everything.
And you feel like you're an octopus pulled in eight different directions and you don't know what winning looks like. It creates an environment that's incredibly disengaging and you end up leaving. And so not only are we aligning the behavioral drives, but we're aligning the leadership team on what their expectations are.
And so with that, we then match who the person is based on their behavioral assessment to the job based on the job assessment. So if you think about it, it's two sides of the same coin. And we want to make sure that we've got the heads and tails of a quarter and not a yen and a quarter, because that's not going to work.
Becca Banyard: Yeah, absolutely. So in terms of the heart or culture fit, how do you determine if a person is the right fit for your culture?
Traci Austin: Yeah, absolutely. And I love this question and I'm going to name first off, this takes a bit of work on the part of the organization. Do you love the fact that I'm just gonna throw out some of this is work to get there? Like, it doesn't happen overnight. Like, it's not just a magic wand. I'm sorry, it's not.
Becca Banyard: Wait, it's not easy?
Traci Austin: We have easy buttons, right? Yes. And we can make it so much easier, but the setup of these does take a bit. And we're here to help you do that. So when we look at culture, we're going to get it at it through our interview questions, right?
And so typically what we do is we line out and say, what are our core values? Then we're going to start asking questions around our core values. So for example, let's say responsibility is a core value of ours. We may ask a question that says, Hey, Becca, can you tell me about a time where you had to manage up because something wasn't getting done?
So you had to manage up to your leader on what needed to be done and how did that work for you? So that a core values responsibility, we're asking the candidate a question about responsibility. And what we're listening for is we're listening for how they took personal responsibility versus blaming, right, them and everybody else, and we're seeing if they actually took the responsibility.
We're also listening for how did they potentially include the team in that. So, what we do is we've got an exercise where we say, what are your core values and how does that show up at work? How do you want that to show up at work? And then we back into interview questions for it, along with what are you listening for?
The reason why we have them take that step further and tell what are they listening for, is they, the organization, typically it's the HR or the leadership team, then needs to train whoever in the organization is asking the culture interview questions or whoever's interviewing. So, we're interviewing based on the knowledge, skills and abilities, which we'll get to in a second, but we're also interviewing based on the culture.
And to define what we're listening for ensures, again, that we're calibrating what the organization is looking for as far as their values. Because culture in our definition is the behaviors that you allow or don't allow in your organization. So, when you can instill that from an interview question position, and you can instill that into what you're listening for and hold folks accountable for it, they're going to start holding each other accountable for it, and you create a much stronger culture.
Becca Banyard: How do you determine that the culture questions that you're asking, like, how do you ensure that they're not exclusive? How do you make sure that the culture that you're trying to fit for is inclusive?
Traci Austin: So there's a distinction. We have culture fit and culture add, okay? And so when we have culture fit, there are times at in the life cycle of an organization where we truly need a culture fit, otherwise the organization is going to start to fall apart, right? Like there's certain things that we need. Now, when we say culture, we could be talking about different, I'm going to say protected classes, right?
Like, are we looking at, hey, we're bringing in different races, we're bringing in LGBTQ, we're bringing in all the things, right? That's one name for a culture. But when we look at it from a diversity perspective, diversity has all of those key items in it. So I think you have to start with a belief. Do you believe that diversity adds to how you are delivering your services or don't you?
Cause some organizations flat out "don't". And so if we can just get really clear on who are we to begin with, that's important. And then the second piece to ensure that we're not cutting out people that whether it is race or ethnicity or LGBTQ, we just need to have the conversation about inclusivity. And how are we ensuring inclusivity into our culture, whether we're creating ERGs or whatnot?
So I think some of it's the question, but some of it's also what are those other pieces? So I will get back to your question as well, which is we're looking for a culture add, meaning we're looking for somebody to disrupt a bit of what's happening inside of the organization, which could mean, hey, we're bringing somebody in that very specifically has different backgrounds, ideas, race, ethnicity, LGBTQ, whatever that is.
Then that is something that we need to ensure that we're supporting and that we're building in what are those specific work outcome structures that we're expecting and where does that support come from? Is it can't just be from the CEO if they're not working directly for the CEO and the CEO is not sitting on the leadership team that's making those decisions. So we need to ensure that we have champions built in at every level of the organization, otherwise that person we're setting them up to fail.
Becca Banyard: I wanted to just actually jump back to what you were saying. We'll go through each one, but I wanted to jump back to the Predictive Index that you were talking about with respect to the head.
And you mentioned leadership drive and communication drive and I'm curious what you look for or what the Predictive Index looks for to identify those drives? And also if those things are of equal importance for each role or if they, of the four different things, the four different key drives are all weighted differently depending on the role?
Traci Austin: Yeah, this is such a great question. I'm going to first explain how Predictive Index works and that is that it essentially gives you a number of words and you say, hey, this is how I am as me, as myself, and this is how I am at, right? And so it asks two different questions so that we can see how do you, do you flip at work?
Do you turn yourself into a pretzel? Or are you still you at work? And so through those questions are essentially, those words are more of something. So the more words you choose, the more it pushes it over to a higher drive, right? So, the leadership drive might have a word as independent in it, and I don't know if I'm pulling the right words or not, but, so because leadership, there's 2 types of leaders.
We have leaders that collaborate and work through the team and we have leaders that lead independently. Right? So we need both and that's what we're looking at for the leadership drive. The communication drive, the higher the communication drive is, the more extroverted an individual is. So, if we think of somebody as social or extroverted, those kind of words indicate that.
And guess what? If a person has a low communication drive, they're typically very analytical. They're typically, I jokingly say, these are our no agenda, no attend to folks. Meaning, like, if we have a meeting, and they don't know and don't have time to prepare for the meeting before they walk in it, they're not going to say anything. Because they're typically very analytical with they want to know.
Their words really matter, right? And when they speak, it is going to have an impact on what's happening and they want to make sure they're using the right words. Whereas someone with a high communication drive, like myself, I think out loud all the time. My brainstorming is how I think, right? So I need to be really careful with my team as to, when is Traci giving a directive? And when is Traci just brainstorming to think? Because I'm going to turn them into a pretzel otherwise. So that's a self awareness piece for me. So when we look at the environment that you work best in, these are things like process orientation.
So, when we look at that C drive, it's essentially stating, Hey, are you a person that is a change agent inside of an organization? Or are you an implementer of change inside of an organization? Meaning a change agent moves really fast. They see something that needs to be changed and they do it.
And they probably get it 80% of the way there. And they drop it or they hand it off to an implementer of change who is going to work at a slower pace. They're going to do A, and then they're going to do B, and then they're going to do C, and then they're going to do D. But oh, my goodness, they follow the process and they get it done.
Right? So they're moving at a slower pace. And they're typically individuals that if they get interrupted, it's going to take them an hour and a half to get back to work. So we have to be really cognizant. How do we set the environment for our folk to get the work done in a way that works for their natural behavioral styles?
And then the D drive is the detail orientation. So this is hitting deadlines, precision, deadlines are non negotiable. Every I has to be dotted and every T has to be crossed. Where the low ones, I mean, I may dot my T's and cross my I's. I don't know. Right? So, that distinction between bullet points, 52 page report. Scanning, reading every word. Deadlines are negotiable versus deadlines are written in stone.
Becca Banyard: Yeah, totally. That makes sense. And I suppose then when you're in a place of hiring, you would have to be clear on what you're looking for in that specific role so that the metrics make sense, you can apply them.
Traci Austin: Yeah, for sure. And the thing we've not yet talked about that I'm just going to kind of describe briefly is the factor combination. So when we put those factors together and how wide they are, meaning how much of a drive you have, has a huge role in how an individual shows up. Because I think we've probably all met that individual that we're like, Oh, my goodness, they are like so distinct in what they're doing.
And then we've met others who are like, Oh, man, they're kind of hard to read. Right? And so that's, how much of that drive that they have. And so like a factor combination, an example would be, is this person a risk taker or is this person risk adverse?
Becca Banyard: So we have two more categories of head culture, briefcase, seasons of life. What are they? They're not key drivers.
Traci Austin: Yeah. I essentially say that every person is holistic and we look at the parts that make up a holistic person. And so head, heart, and briefcase is PI's terms of it. I add the season of life because I know how impactful it is, cause I've lived it. Hey, I did payroll for seven years.
Like I am not a detail oriented person, but you know what? I did it because I knew that it was going to get me to where I wanted to go. And I wanted to learn and I was so eager to learn that it was about the learning, not about the doing of the thing. And I did great at it for a while. And now I'm like, I will poke my eyes out if I have to do payroll.
Becca Banyard: We have a briefcase and seasons of life still to cover. So I'm curious for those two categories, what you look for and how you identify whether or not they're a fit?
Traci Austin: Yeah, absolutely. So for briefcase, this is our typical knowledge, skills, abilities questions. So sometimes we have requirements in a job that they have to have a licensure, right?
When we look at experience, we're really looking at what are the outcomes that they've developed, right? Or what are the outcomes that they've done up to this point? So almost like looking at a portfolio. So, for briefcase, I feel like that's a much easier lift because that's typically what we've always interviewed off of.
And so really naming what those metrics are and being really clear on it on the job description allows that to come through. So that's a short answer for that one. And there's ways to skill test assessments with math or reading tests or whatnot. So I think that one's much easier because we're much more familiar with it.
And as far as seasons of life for hire, I'm going to name, I don't typically look at this from a hiring perspective, but it's something just to be cognizant of. And the reason why I don't necessarily look at it from a hiring perspective is you never ever want to discriminate against an individual. So it's more about you've got somebody in your organization that you're seeing is kind of fluctuating a little bit like they were your star performer.
And now all of a sudden you're going, what is happening with this individual? They have not formed, what's going on? And so it could very well be a season of life. I actually just did a podcast on this on my show where I talked with another individual about this and she was saying, Hey, for seasons of life, she goes, I'm 43 and my third son just left to go into the military.
So I'm an empty nester at 43 and I know none of them will ever come home again. That's a huge season of life. I talked about divorce in mine, and so there's many different things that happen through seasons of life. Parents are ill, babies, all the things, right? Like, all these fantastic things and all these great things.
And, you know what? I'm climbing a career ladder. I'm moving across the country for a promotion. I'm doing all these amazing things. And yet what impact does that have? And we always want to ensure that we're leaving that up to the employee to make that decision. But we have to be cognizant of it because again, if we're going to be filled in work, we have to pay attention to the humans that are in front of us.
Becca Banyard: So we've talked about four different factors or four different things that make up a person when you're looking at them to hire. So how do you find a balance between hiring for skill fit, culture fit, cognitive drivers, seasons of life? How do you find a balance and determine if a person is a fit looking at all of these different things?
Traci Austin: So, if you are very detail oriented and prescriptive, you can create a scorecard around this, right? So, you can create a scorecard that essentially says, hey, we're going to balance these. I would only put the three on the scorecard. I would never put the seasons of life on the scorecard. I just want to be really clear on that.
I don't want anyone misinterpreting that. So, with that being said, what is the head, both cognitive and behavioral? Then specifically, what is that culture fit? And, what is that knowledge, skills, abilities? Now, there's going to be certain things that are going to be absolutely no goes, right?
And there may be things where maybe they're applying for an executive vice president role, and you look at their experience and you're like, you know what, they could definitely go into that role in two to three years. Is so they don't yet have the briefcase piece, but they have the other two pieces. Is there another, do we have another role?
What does that look like? Especially right now, it is really hard to find great people. I would not discount looking at, is there a spot to allow somebody to grow inside of our organization? Don't have talent pathway plans? They're beautiful for this reason because they allow you to place individuals and roles to grow into roles and to create, really the pathway plans and the succession inside your organization.
So, scorecarding it is a fantastic way to do it. And you just need to wait what those things are. Again, you need to have what are your absolute no go's. And that may be if they're not a fit for culture from these three areas, we can't bring them on, right? Like, let's talk about Planned Parenthood. If you don't agree with what's happening within that organi, I'm just naming it because it's a common organization.
If you don't agree with that, are they going to be bought into the mission? Now, we can't discriminate. Let's be really clear on that. But you can ask questions around that or fit into it because otherwise they're not going to be happy in the organization. And we just have to be really clear on it without discriminating and there's a way to do it at both.
Becca Banyard: Yeah. And what about for people who are less prescriptive, who maybe aren't inclined to create a scorecard? How would they identify or find that balance between the different factors that they're looking at?
Traci Austin: So what I would say there is when you're doing your calibration meetings very specifically for what does this job need from a behavioral drive? What does this job need from a briefcase? Typically, the culture piece is going to be baked in across the organization, and that's going to be set by your senior leadership, and there's going to be non negotiables that are already baked into that.
And I would highly recommend that you have that built in. I don't know if your listeners have ever read The Ideal Team Player, but it really specifically talks about that. Like, what's that culture piece that is just doggedly throughout our organization that you're not going to love it here if you don't have this thing.
And so that's the humble, hungry, smart folks have heard that. That said, at the organizational level. And then for the job level, you're looking at those other two kind of factors to say, what's more important here? And guess what? If this is a role that we're going to grow, maybe it's more important that they're closer fit on the behavioral side than it is on the KSA side, because we can teach them that. And so it really becomes a decision within the organization based on, look, how much can we take on from a training and coaching and leadership perspective?
And how much do we need them to have coming in? So I can't give you a, here's the answer, but what I can tell you is there's key questions that you can ask the team that's hiring and the team that will be, leading and managing this individual for how much are they willing to give to this individual to grow them.
Becca Banyard: Could you just explain a little bit more in detail what natural cognitive drives and ability looks like?
Traci Austin: So with cognitive is really, we're looking at how quickly can an individual kind of shift between different tasks? Like, do they have the decision making ability at those higher level positions, right?
And so, the way I look at cognitive is, if we put you in a pressure cooker and you've got stressors coming from several different angles, you have different requests coming from several different angles, and you have to make decisions very quickly, what is your ability to do that and do it correctly, over both a short and long period of time?
And so the cognitive assessment measures that and essentially it puts them in a pressure cooker. It gives them 50 questions in 12 minutes. 50 questions in 12 minutes is almost impossible to answer, right? So, if you think about it, but what we don't tell them is we don't tell them don't use a calculator.
Don't use the Googles. Don't use all the things. We're saying 50 questions, 12 minutes, go. We're seeing, huh, do they go, all right, I can use my calculator. If I don't know something, I'm going to Google it real quick but I also know I've got 12 minutes to do it. Have I set up my environment to not be interrupted?
Am I not looking at my phone? Like, so am I creating the space and place and the mental ingenuity to do this during this defined time period? And so that cognitive assessment is reflective of what happens in our work environments on a day to day basis, right? We have deadlines that we have to hit. We've got Slack going, we have Teams going, we have our email going, we have phone calls going, we've got presentations and all the things.
Can we get done what we need to get done in the time period using any resource currently available to us?
Becca Banyard: What do you believe is the number one thing that keeps employees happy in the workplace?
Traci Austin: So I think, unfortunately this is going to be different for every employee, but here's what I do believe. I believe every single one of us wants to be appreciated. Now we all have different ways that we want to be appreciated. I mean, there are five languages of appreciation at work, right? So, but I mean, we all want to make an impact and we all want to be appreciated for the work that we do.
Becca Banyard: And then Traci, for you personally, what do you need to be a successful leader?
Traci Austin: For me to be a successful leader, I think there's two things. One is I need to know that I'm making an impact by what I'm doing, and two is I need to have the best people around me that their strengths are my weaknesses because guess what? They are the smartest people around me and that lifts everybody up and that's fun.
Becca Banyard: Traci, it has been such a pleasure having you on the show. Thank you so much for joining us.
Traci Austin: Thank you, Becca.
Becca Banyard: If people want to connect with you, where can they reach out?
Traci Austin: Yeah. So you can find us on our website, which is elevatedtalentconsulting.com. And you can also find us on LinkedIn Traci Austin.
Becca Banyard: Great. We'll put those in the show notes.
And to our audience, thank you so much for tuning in. If you'd like to stay in touch with all things HR and leadership, head over to peoplemanagingpeople.com to subscribe to our newsletter and join our membership community.
Until next time, have a great day!