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This content was produced by Boston Globe Media's BG BrandLab and paid for by the advertiser. The news and editorial departments of The Boston Globe had no role in its production or display.

How companies are using science to find the right hire

Whether you’re an employer or looking for employment, data science is your friend.

Katherine King, CEO of corporate consultancy Invisible Culture

Any business leader will tell you the right team is essential for fostering innovation and success. But is talent development an art or a science? Increasingly, it’s appearing the answer can be found in science. And believe it or not, most leaders find that comforting, says Katherine King, CEO of corporate consultancy Invisible Culture, which helps companies develop the skills to compete in fast-changing industries and create cultures that promote healthy work habits. 

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“Many people in leadership positions need numbers and facts to support decisions,” she says. “Just having the proven metrics science offers can automatically decrease stress for those who are data-driven,” King says.

Science can be on your side, whether you’re a leader developing a team or a job applicant looking for the right fit.

Building the right team

When most people think of data-based hiring practices, they assume you’re talking about “applicant tracking systems” (ATS), software that screens resumes for keywords, skills and other important details that match candidates with positions. Given the recent spike in unemployment, companies might see a commensurate deluge of applications, making ATS software a wise initial step to screen for specific qualifications.

But data science can play a far bigger role than just determining whether someone has the requisite years of experience. In the case of Culture Index, a firm that helps optimize talent, it can help formulate a winning team based on innate qualities rather than qualifications or even personality.

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Michael A. Hall, board member and executive advisor at Culture Index

“People are a company’s biggest asset,” notes Michael A. Hall, board member and executive advisor at Culture Index. “Employees typically don’t leave their jobs because they don’t like the work or believe they are being paid unfairly. The top reason people quit is because of their boss, and the second reason is their coworkers.” 

This reality is why hiring the right people is too vital to be left to chance. Enter Culture Index’s applied analytical traits assessment, which has been called “Moneyball for CEOs.” The science-backed Culture Index measures seven work-related traits, using psychometric tools to help CEOs make personnel decisions based on applications.

“With 90% or better accuracy, I can tell you who that candidate will become three months into their stint; in other words, the version you’re going to see when the honeymoon is over and someone is under stress and strain due to the work assigned to them,” Hall asserts.

Leaders tend to surround themselves with people they like or who reflect their own personality, points out Hall, which can create stagnation, lack of innovation and a dysfunctional team. Culture Index takes the traits of others on the team into account to identify the candidate who will fill the gaps. “I tell my CEOs, ‘We’re not hiring who you like; we’re hiring who you need,’” Hall says.

Case in point: The CEO of one of his Boston-based clients insisted his college roommate was ideal for a specific key position. “Sure, this candidate was wicked smart and had an impeccable resume, but his ability to lead and manage staff didn’t line up with what they needed in this role,” Hall shares. “The CEO went against the data and hired him. A few months later they had to let him go because he was unable to lead the team.”

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While candidates might initially feel anxious if asked to take an assessment, it’s actually a benefit to both sides. Since more than half of the U.S. workforce is “unengaged,” according to a recent Gallup study, finding a company that can utilize their strengths can lead to the job satisfaction employees crave.

Fostering innovation

Jan Bruce, CEO and co-founder of meQuilibrium

Hiring the right people is just the first step; retaining and developing them is next. While workplace stress continues to rise, customer-facing positions often bear the brunt, and that can sap innovation, productivity, and engagement — and ultimately hurt customer experience. That’s where Boston-based meQuilibrium steps in, a digital employee wellbeing platform that helps employees improve stress management and resilience.

MeQuilibrium compiles a profile of emotional strengths and weaknesses, which are fed into a predictive model that helps employees understand their existing coping abilities and attitudes toward change. The software then generates resources to help them build those skills.

“Unlike a lot of assessments that are designed to screen people out, this software is designed to make people better,” says Jan Bruce, meQuilibrium CEO and co-founder. “We work to improve resilience and then double back and measure productivity and engagement. The data shows that when resilience goes up, people are inoculated from burnout and distraction.”

Importantly, she adds, the tool delivers information to companies in aggregate so employee privacy is protected.

Championing diversity

Dr. David Rock, co-founder and CEO of NeuroLeadership Institute

The final piece to the puzzle of team success is diversity. And while science has made it abundantly clear that the more diverse a team, the more effective and productive it can be, diversity isn’t just a box you check off, points out King. “An organization that is committed to diversity is one that acknowledges and accepts multiple perspectives and ways of doing things.”

But resistance to diversity isn’t as easy to root out as you might think. “Following a host of scientific research, we tell our clients that if you have a brain, you have bias,” says Dr. David Rock, co-founder and CEO of NeuroLeadership Institute, a company on a mission to “make organizations more human through science” by giving leaders insights into why people do what they do.

“While typically ‘bias’ is viewed as a dirty word or a taboo, that’s not the case. Once you understand the science behind it, it’s clear that we all see the world through certain filters that color our perception, whether we want them to or not,” Rock says.

And while you can’t recognize it yourself, science can step in to help you make better hiring decisions. That’s where a tool like Culture Index can help promote diversity, as it doesn’t recognize race, age, gender or any of the other factors where bias might inadvertently creep in.

As job seekers better understand the tools that are available to increase satisfaction on both sides, they will appreciate the holistic view that many hiring companies take. “Scientific assessments can play a crucial role as much for the job seeker as they do the hiring company,” Hall says.

This content was produced by Boston Globe Media's BG BrandLab and paid for by the advertiser. The news and editorial departments of The Boston Globe had no role in its production or display.

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