Recruiting the Right People: Smarter Staff Selection Using External Assessors and Behaviour Profiling
World Small Animal Veterinary Association World Congress Proceedings, 2007
John Paton, BVSc, GCM
Family Vet Centre
Albury, NSW, Australia

Regardless of our core business, the staff recruitment process is critical to our success. When the outcome is not satisfactory, the result can be costly and stressful to our organizations and potential employees.

Selecting the right personnel starts with knowing yourself. It is important that you understand your abilities and your limitations. Ask yourself, "Am I really doing the best for the practice and its employees by doing the selection myself or should I seek professional advice?" as we do from accountants, lawyers etc. Professional assistance is readily available & we should make use of it. We are not all born leaders but we can all be part of a team that leads.

Previously Vets in many situations have had to do things 'on the cheap' because historically we have been dictated to by the dollar- driven rural sector, and this approach does not give ideal results.

The most important selection decision you need to make is the first one--selecting your Human Resources or Employment Advisor. This person needs to understand your business and your philosophy because your advisor should become integrally involved as part of your extended team.

Knowing who you need is dictated by your company philosophy, as expressed in your Practice Statement or Practice Aims and you should always employ to further your Practice Aims.

Let me give you a quick overview of how that works for us before I go into detail of the four areas that we utilize to improve our chances of getting long-term happy employees.

After some false starts, our practice recognized, that we did not have all the skills to make the best staffing decisions so we investigated options for external advice in our region. We selected an advisor with a background in large company human resource management who also had experience in, and access to, behaviour profiling. We used behaviour profiling of all current staff to give us a base to help solve the existing internal problems then all future selections were made combining the ideal profile for the job to be filled with those profiles of our current staff.

Family Vet Centre's Practice Statement & Aims focus on 'high quality .. services', 'nurturing a team work environment which helps colleagues grow personally and professionally', life-long learning and being a 'respected provider of pet care services'.

We aim to achieve these goals by: leading by example, caring for our staff and making them feel like members of an inclusive happy family (even after they stop working with us), minimizing staff turnover and providing resources and encouragement for our staff.

Our Staff Selection Criteria

What type of person do we want? Do we want to simply fill an existing vacancy or can we use this opportunity to re-assess our overall needs?

Our general selection criteria include: a 'people-person' personality (comfortable and happy with clients, fellow staff and pets; bright & cheerful personality), a good communicator, a genuine person with positive attitudes, a commitment to life-long learning, a love of animals as shown through their own pets and a basic skills level in their field.

How does FVC get Happy Long-term Staff?

Our 4 step process involves use of

 A Human Resources / Employment Consultant;

 Behaviour Profiling using a system such as DISC;

 Assessment of Technical Skills Level by practice management; and

 Physiotherapist Employment Suitability Assessment.

1. Employment Consultant

Selection of this consultant is probably the most important decision of all. Do they need the same characteristics as our in-house staff? No, however the person must be a good communicator, be genuine and have a good insight into the operation of service industries.

Seek and find someone who you feel thinks, talks and breathes the way your business works.

Using an Employment Consultant in the selection process has many benefits.

If you are advertising in the public arena, it takes the pressure off the clinic staff and allows them to correctly say a third person is making the decisions. Our time is not wasted fielding calls from large numbers of 'hopefuls'. Professional assessments are supplied on a short list of applicants that can then be taken to the next stage of the process.

2. Behaviour Profiling

Behaviour profiling has been described as a scientific way to assess how someone will react in a specific situation.

There are numerous profiling systems currently available. All need careful interpretation to avoid misunderstandings. Most Human Resource consultants will have access to one of these.

In our case our consultant uses a system known as DISC as his preferred system.

For our practice, it has been very successful. It has given us: the tools to take emotion out of the selection process; better results from the point of view of longevity of staff employment and, most importantly, better harmony within the 'family'.

3. Assessment of Technical Skills

This is done by the practice principals. We require only a basic level of skills in the particular field. In our situation we prefer nurses who have completed 2 or more years of nursing with on-site part-time training. Higher skill levels are not essential as these skills can be acquired as part of our on-going training program.

4. Physiotherapist Employment Suitability Assessment

We aim to select staff that as best as possible will be able to physically carry out the duties required of them for the whole of their working life. Our practice is very conscious of workplace safety and aims to minimize injuries at work. This step is important in detecting known or unknown physical limitations and/or pre-dispositions to workplace injury. Experience has shown it is better for all if they do not even start with us.

Any testing must be based on the physical requirements of the job. This necessitates the requirements of each job being analysed and essential skills and attributes identified. Appropriate testing for assessing these attributes is then used in the testing protocol.

Care must be taken to ensure that the testing protocol is not used to discriminate indirectly. The medical requirements for a specific position must be reasonable in all circumstances.

Understanding Behaviour Profiling and DISC

Behaviour profiling is a means of documenting people's responses to different stimuli and situations. Throughout history, scientific researchers have observed groups of people with basic behavioural similarities. One of these early researchers was psychologist Dr William Marston. His work led to the development of the original DISC language and he was later also involved in the development of the polygraph machine. The DISC model and language is based on William Marston's book 'Emotions of Normal People'.

Different kinds of responses are grouped together into 'traits'. A trait is a tendency to act in a certain way when faced with a certain situation.

Behaviour profiling is not categorizing people by their personalities but more by their behaviour or responses in a specific situation. One's behaviour profile may be very different at work compared with at home because of the different environments involved. Responses are affected by many things including personality, environment and previous experiences.

Fundamentally, the aim of behaviour profiling is to ensure that you get the best person for a specific job. The right person in the right job with the right expectations and motivation is our aim. This combination engenders self-esteem and job satisfaction in the staff member as well greater productivity in the business.

DISC measures four behavioural characteristics and classifies and describes each individual by their responses in these four areas.

 D = Dominance (How you respond to problems & challenges)

 I = Influence (How you influence other people to your point of view)

 S = Steadiness (How you respond to the pace of the environment)

 C = Compliance (How you respond to rules & procedures set by others)

All people exhibit all four behavioural factors in varying degrees of intensity and no particular profile is right or wrong, good or bad. DISC is neutral.

DISC profiles describe and measure individual's behaviour in a specific situation or environment. For each person these criteria are displayed for their natural and adapted behaviour; their adapted behaviour being their response to working in their current environment.

It highlights the values and styles of an individual and offers insights and strategies to allow more effective communication with other behaviour styles.

Using DISC

Let me say at this point that my comments here are solely based on my experiences as an end-user of DISC assessments that have been professionally done by our employment consultant.

Behaviour profiling systems including DISC can be used in a number of ways:

A. Understanding Yourself

The key to understanding others is first to understand yourself. If you know your strengths, you can take full advantage of them. Knowing your shortcomings allows you to develop plans to specifically overcome those limitations.

B. Selection Using Desired Criteria /DISC Profile

The 'Selection Criteria' are translated into the ideal DISC profile for that role. They are then compared to the DISC profiles of the short-listed applicants who are then ranked according to these results.

C. Improving Communication & Relationship Building

Demonstrating how each behaviour type fits in to your organization and allowing staff to access all other staff's profiles leads to better understanding of each other.

A vibrant organisation will need a mix of behaviour styles to generate initiative & creativity and DISC assists in helping these varying styles work together.

D. Ongoing Management of Staff

Keys to motivating are utilized to make most efficient use of team members' abilities.

DISC has been used in conflict resolution and prevention. Problems can be diffused and solutions emerge naturally if staff honour & address each other's behavioural needs.

DISC can be used in team building by allowing us to better understand each other and how we work psychologically.

E. Improving Staff-Client Communications

Staff can improve their client communications by mentally assessing clients' behaviour types and adjusting their communications to make the client more comfortable in that situation.

In summary, I hope I have highlighted some options to use when choosing new staff. As I said earlier, we are not all leaders but we can all be part of a team that leads. It is my belief that input of extra resources and external opinion at this stage is repaid many times over when we recruit the best person first time round.

Acknowledgements

The assistance of Gary Voss of Knight Network Pty Ltd is gratefully appreciated.
Roby, B. Leveraging Behavioural Profiling to Effect Bold Change 2005 www.contactprofessional.com/issues
Marston, WM (1922) Emotions of Normal People (International Library of Psychology)
Target Training International Ltd, Managing for Success

Speaker Information
(click the speaker's name to view other papers and abstracts submitted by this speaker)

John Paton, BVSc, GCM
Family Vet Centre
New South Wales, Australia


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