Or why using good psychometrics (like Leading Brains Assessments) makes good business sense

So, you’ve probably heard the expression “culture eats strategy for breakfast!” Most likely you’ve heard it delivered with a smug expression by someone in the office who has managed – more by good luck than good guidance – to extricate themselves craftily from which ever catastrophe is currently raging rampant in the work place leaving behind it a trail of destruction.

While it may be a cliché and it may be justifiably tempting to wipe the self-satisfied smirk from said colleagues face with an angle grinder, this statement is undeniably true. It is also, however, undeniably unhelpful when delivered after the event, when the crisis is in full swing and your carefully crafted strategy is being washed down with a post breakfast espresso.

To illustrate the point, here is an, unfortunately completely true, tale of calamity, despair, wretchedness and (to those not directly involved) high entertainment. 

Once upon a time, in a land far far away was a large corporation who built some of the world’s most amazing buildings and owned and operated a string of luxury hospitality outlets. This company (let’s call them EgoCorp) was extremely successful and owed a large part of that success to deploying a very consistent recruitment and HR strategy relying heavily on the endless supply of affordable labour, predominantly from two markets. The reason both of these markets produced such affordable labour was that times were tough there, the currencies grossly devalued and all people really wanted was cold, hard cash to send home. These tireless workers didn’t care for the finer things in life – they wanted the basics provided for them, as many working hours as possible and as much disposable income as practical.

EgoCorp capitalized on these circumstances by providing basic, dormitory like accommodation (gender segregated to avoid any impropriety) outside of the city, buses to transport employees to work and back, meals cooked and served in a canteen and very little else. The workers had no desire to see the bright lights of Far Far Away or even go to the beach or the shopping malls in their free time. They didn’t want to spend their salaries at all, only to send the money home. This arrangement of course suited EgoCorp perfectly – they had very little expenditure and a quiet compliant workforce who made no demands and were easy to manage.

So, all was well in the kingdom of EgoCorp for many, many years. Until one day, the King decided to open a new kind of hospitality outlet. The king’s son, Prince Ego, had been pestering his father to open somewhere ‘cool’ where he could take his trendy and sophisticated friends and show off his legacy which would one day be his. His father agreed, thinking indeed, it was about time EgoCorp did something a bit different and put Prince Ego in charge of the project.

Years passed and the hip new place in town was taking shape, all without a hitch. Until one day, prince Ego went to his father with an idea. He told the king that the workers EgoCorp usually relied on were not even nearly cool enough to be in his fancy new hangout. They were quiet and compliant and nowhere near edgy enough to represent the prince’s vision. He wanted workers with spikey haircuts, piercings and tattoos who would lend a touch of style to the place. The king wanted his son to be happy, so he granted his request and they set sail for a foreign land where the people were cool, had tattoos and spikey hair and heard nothing of the land of Far Far away or EgoCorp.

When they arrived, the king and the prince showed the people photographs and videos of the kingdom. They showed them the miles and miles of white sandy beaches, the beautiful, shiny buildings that seemed to touch the sky and all the busy exciting bars and nightclubs. The people from the foreign land were excited to come to the kingdom and quickly made a deal with the king to come and work for him at EgoCorp.

On the way home, the king and the prince congratulated themselves on a mission well done and thought no more about the workers from the foreign land. In fact, they were so busy congratulating themselves, they had missed an important detail. They hadn’t noticed that the foreign land also had miles and miles of white sandy beaches, beautiful shiny buildings and busy exciting bars and nightclubs. If they had, perhaps they would have asked themselves why the people would be willing to make such a long journey to the kingdom when they already had these things right there at home. Perhaps if they had asked themselves this question, they could have avoided everything that was about to happen…

Many months later, the workers from the foreign land arrived in the kingdom, ready to start their work with EgoCorp. They were taken by bus to their housing which they would share with existing EgoCorp workforce who were waiting eagerly to show off their modest lodgings. The first sign of trouble arose when the people from the foreign land asked where the miles and miles of sandy beaches, shiny buildings and bars and nightclubs were. When the EgoCorp workers explained that these were far away in the city and there was no means to get there, the new arrivals were quite upset. They had left a place with all of these things right on their doorstep!

The second indication of problems became apparent when the people were told that they would not be able to share their lodgings with friends or partners of the opposite gender – the laws of the kingdom forbade it! Relationships and friendships were to be torn asunder and kept separate by high walls and security guards.

After all of this upsetting news, the people from the foreign land decided they needed a stiff drink. The final straw for them turned out to be that this was also strictly forbidden in the conservative kingdom – except in the bars and nightclubs frequented by guests of the king and prince where the people would only ever enter as servants.

All of this information was too much for the people and they demanded to be returned to their country at once, only hours after arriving in the kingdom. When the king got to hear about this he was incensed. He immediately issued a decree that nobody was to leave the kingdom and, used to his quiet, compliant workforce expected to hear no more of it and for the people to return to work. Unfortunately, this was not to be.

That night, the king was awoken from his slumber with very bad news – the people were revolting! They had taken over the lodgings and barricaded themselves on the roof where they were singing protest songs, drinking the forbidden drinks they had brought with them from home and publicly and noisily reuniting with their estranged partners. The king had never experienced behaviour like it! Afraid that the people from the foreign land would corrupt his quiet compliant workers, he relented and allowed the people to travel home.

The princes trendy meeting place was eventually opened far behind schedule and way over budget – the cost of both bringing and subsequently sending home the people from the foreign land had been huge. He had also had to spend extra money bringing more quiet and compliant workers to replace them. Not to mention the price paid by his pride.

So indeed, a tale of woe. But bringing this back to the present day, could the entire debacle have been avoided? Was there a way to have predicted how a new workforce would integrate with an existing organisational culture?

The simple answer is, of course, yes. Understanding the values, emotional needs and motivational drivers of employees will give a good indication of cultural fit, whether the organisation can provide what the workforce needs in order to be motivated and how to engage with their people. What’s the easiest way to get this information? Simply to ask them.

Good psychometric assessments ask people the right questions to accurately measure these things and can be deployed in organisations for a number of positive outcomes for both the organisation and the individuals who power it. Unquestionably they can prevent expensive mistakes on both sides of the psychological contract between an employee and their organisation. 

The moral of the story – don’t be an EgoCorp; understanding what it takes to engage your workforce will save both money and pride.