INFocus: The PI detective

Date: July, 2012 chess board pawn piece

Fall 2012

Every business needs a great product or service. However, a strong product offering is necessary but not sufficient to guarantee your business’ success. No matter the size of the company, effective human resource practices are key to sustainable success and growth.

Since human resource practices involve people, who can be unpredictable and difficult to analyze, HR is often regarded as a mysterious and frustrating art. There are many ways to infuse that art with science. Using behavioral analysis tools can assist in decoding some of the mysteries of what makes people tick in the workplace.

Industrial psychology observes people in the workplace, measuring their motivations and behaviors, in order to improve their effectiveness. Workplace psychology has been studied since the beginning of the 20th century, but gained prominence during World War II, when so many women were entering previously male dominated jobs. Psychologist Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers developed a check list that was used to determine the jobs to which women would be best suited. This checklist evolved into the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), which was first used in 1962 and remains one of the most popular psychometric tests today.

There are many other tools and indices that have been used with great success in workplaces. The Predictive Index (PI) has been in use since 1955, and has been validated by tens of thousands of individuals and businesses.

Individuals and companies can begin to derive benefit from the completion of a PI questionnaire relatively easily. The survey is “free choice” as opposed to “forced choice.” Several management indexes force individuals to choose between a set of words, selecting the one “most like” them. For example, I might be asked to choose which of the following words are “like me”:

a. Lazy
b. Condescending
c. Passive
d. Empathetic

But, what if I think none of these words describes me? Then I am forced to choose a less than ideal descriptor of myself.

The PI survey provides a list of words and asks the individual to select only those terms that describe him or her. The individual then considers the same words and selects those words that describe how he or she is expected to behave in the workplace.

The completion of the survey provides a trained PI analyst with data to determine the many factors concerning an individual’s preferences and strengths. These include: whether he or she is detail-oriented versus prefers to look at the big picture; whether he or she would naturally employ a consultative management style versus a more “command and control” style; and whether he or she’s current job is an ideal fit. There is also an application of the PI that enables recruiters to analyze the ideal strengths and traits for a particular position. This profile can be compared to the profiles of potential candidates, providing further insight for the hiring manager.

PI profiles are particularly useful when analyzing the composition of teams within a company. Constructing teams consisting of contrasting profiles are ideal for high functioning projects. However, a word of caution: if team members do not have a framework in which to understand their differences, conflict can develop and be detrimental. If one team member insists on moving deliberately through the analysis phase of a project, while another has a big picture orientation, their different work approaches could frustrate the pace of the project, one another, and other team members.

Another defining element of the PI is risk orientation; individuals have varying levels of tolerance to risk. Having team members who represent both ends of the risk tolerance spectrum is important, but unless those members understand the important and different perspectives that they provide, misunderstandings and disagreements can divide the group.

The Predictive Index, or any such management tool, provides a common language for business owners, managers and employees, and can assist in more effectiveness and efficiency at all stages of the HR cycle.

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