Understanding how a new employee might respond in emotionally fraught situations can benefit both you and your organisation. One way to do this is by developing a behavioural profile.
You don’t expect all of your employees to have the same skills. You don’t expect them to face the same challenges. So why would you put them all through the same onboarding experience?
Sure, there are some elements that will be the same from person to person – everyone needs to know where the bathrooms are, how to use the printer and where they can nab the best cup of coffee – but this isn’t really part of the onboarding process. It’s part of an introduction phase.
The onboarding experience is long-term. Some people suggest it should last up to six months (which is a common attrition period for new hires). As part of this process, you could conduct some personality testing to create a ‘behavioural profile’ of your new employee.
This is something Mehtap Ozdemirci CPHR, founder and director of Lock HR, recommends all her clients do when onboarding a new employee.
“We all have different styles of working,” she says. “If you’re able to do some personality profiling it helps to understand people’s behaviours and thinking styles a little better.”
By doing this, you’re able to show your new hire that their uniqueness is not only valued but catered for. You’re not asking them to fit your mould – you’re showing them that the mould is malleable.
What is a behavioural profile?
Ozdemirci says behavioural profiles are “a nice, neat way” of summarising which colleagues, clients and stakeholders a new hire might work best with.
Essentially, it’s a series of questions used to identify an individual’s preferences that translate into potential strengths and possible challenges they might face in the role or work environment. Armed with this information, managers and HR professionals can offer a more customised experience for the employee.
This can be particularly helpful when allocating work to a new starter or figuring out who to pair them with for support, mentoring or guidance.
“When there’s a new project or a work problem to work through, [after profiling a new hire] you’d know more about their thinking style, the approach they’d take and their coping style, in terms of how they might react in times of stress,” says Ozdemirci.
For example, if you were able to assess that someone doesn’t handle stress very well, you could pair them with a calm, level-headed colleague on projects that might be a little more high stress.
Essentially, you’re looking for information such as who is highly empathic? Who is most likely to take initiative? Who can produce strong work in uncertain environments? Once you understand these competencies, you can craft helpful strategies to work in both the business and individual’s favour.
“Think of an [emotional] scale where someone could be retiring to socially bold. There’s a common thought that socially bold employees are better with clients because they’re willing to speak up and they bring a lot of energy; they’re okay being the centre of attention. That can be true and might be exactly what you need. But retiring or introverted people can also be brilliant from a client perspective because they tend to be great listeners.”
If you’ve got a socially bold client and you pair them with a socially bold account manager, for example, it might not create the dynamic you’re looking for – the client might feel overshadowed by the employee’s dominant personality.
“Whereas it might be more strategic for you to pair the introverted individual with the socially bold client because the client might walk away from the interaction feeling great because they were listened to.”
Of course, this is all context dependent. It’s just offering a new lens to assess employee capabilities through.
What type of questions should you ask?
The questions you put to a candidate when assessing their behavioural profile will differ from person to person, and will likely be specific to your industry.
Ozdemirci usually creates personality profiles off the back of “valid and reliable questionnaires, such as 15FQ+ [the fifteen factor questionnaire] and OPQ32 [Occupational Personality Questionnaire]”. However, sometimes she will include additional questions.
Here are some questions she will often add in:
- When you start a new task or project, what do you do first? (You’re trying to gain insight into what they consider in their approach. Do they engage in a broad consultation with peers and managers before they get started, or are they self-sufficient?)
- When you feel stressed, how do you react? (What you’re looking for here is not so much how they handle stressful situations, but that they have insights into their own behaviours and a plan for managing them. Everyone is stressed from time to time, but do they have the right amount of self-awareness to manage it?)
- Do you make connections quickly when you meet new people? (What you’re assessing for here is how quickly they build rapport with others. This will give you insights into how you may integrate them with the team or their clients).
Knowing information such as who reverts to those in positions of power and who is more likely to come up with their own solutions to a challenge is incredibly important information when putting a team together.
When should you create a behavioural profile?
Ozdemirci believes behavioural profiles should be developed during the recruitment stage, before they even join the company.
By doing it at this point, she says you’re able to sit down with the candidate’s profile and assess it against the role they’re about to step into.
“I usually go through this with their [manager] to look at the data for the benefits and any potential risk factors that they should explore.”
The process shouldn’t stop there. Ozdemirci suggests checking in with the new hire six to eight weeks later to conduct a debrief and ensure what you identified in the profile assessment stages reflects the reality of their experiences. This is when you might share the outcomes of the behavioural profile with the employee.
“They’ve had time to figure out who’s who in the zoo, to understand other’s personalities and start finding their feet. Then I’d ask them what has been helping them in their role so far and what they’re finding challenging.
“A valid personality test means you can sit the same test 10 years apart, and it should provide a similar result – that’s what makes it reliable.” – Mehtap Ozdemirci CPHR
“That way, you can point to the profile and say, ‘Well, these are your default core behaviours, so we know when you’re stressed or uncertain you’re likely to feel like ‘X’ or you do ‘Y’.”
Importantly, make sure the feedback is delivered by an accredited/trained professional, says Ozdemirci, and make sure employees are happy to receive this information because some might not be comfortable learning about their specific drivers or emotional responses; it can be confronting. Receiving the feedback should always be an opt-in experience.
Our personalities are stable, but our responses evolve over time through learned experience and feedback. For example, as HRM has previously reported, times of uncertainty can lead us to become more neurotic and less agreeable and conscientious.
“A valid personality test means you can sit the same test 10 years apart, and it should provide a similar result – that’s what makes it reliable,” says Ozdemirci.
“But you may see some uncharacteristic shifts, based on specific circumstances, [in someone’s behavioural profile] overtime, such as our resilience levels because that’s impacted by our context,” says Ozdemirci.
So while this is something worth doing with new hires, you might find it useful to do it with all your employees in the wake of a large, disruptive event like, oh… I don’t know, a global pandemic.
Ozdemirci isn’t suggesting behavioural profiles are a fix-all solution, they’re just helpful tools for some organisations.
“Also, there’s no right or wrong profile. It’s just a tool to help better understand the new hire and to inform your team building.”
While you’re upping your onboarding game, why not improve your recruitment and selection processes too? AHRI members can access helpful information sheets, guidelines and templates here.