Why ‘Know-It-All’s’ Are Missing Out

If you’re not using tests to hire or promote, then you’re missing out.

We’ve all run into someone who thinks that they know more than they really do. Unfortunately people who are like that are usually fairly resistant to being corrected.

As Louis Armstrong once said, “There are some people who, if they don’t know, you can’t tell ‘em.”

The sad part is that they’re the ones who are often hurt the most by their own ignorance. What’s worse is when the individual in question is the owner of, or a decision maker for, an organization. We can’t all be experts in everything. If we could then we’d all be our own doctors, plumbers, lawyers, dentists and pilots.

Companies who think that they know it all, who don’t have anything new to learn and who don’t need any outside assistance are usually the ones who need it the very most. We have all encountered organizations that have dreadful service, whose employees don’t return phone calls or respond to emails quickly (or at all) or whose websites or order systems are broken or hopelessly inefficient. Everyone knows an employee or co-worker who is so rude or incompetent that it makes one wonder how they’ve stayed employed, let alone gotten hired in the first place. Amazingly, many organizations do nothing about it, even when the deficits are brought to their attention.

Recently, a organization providing in-home care for seniors made the national news when one of its long-term employees was charged with fraud, breach of trust and embezzlement after it was found that she’d stolen over $90,000 from one of her elderly patients. The woman was in her mid-fifties and had no prior criminal convictions; however, it’s highly unlikely that she’d only recently become a thief. It’s more likely that she was inherently dishonest, had been stealing for years and had simply never been caught.

When her employer was offered pre-screening assessments to screen for honesty, integrity and anti-theft they asserted that they were doing a fine job of hiring as it was and that they did criminal background checks on applicants, which was all that was necessary.

Apparently it wasn’t, but they didn’t want to hear it and they couldn’t see a problem that was staring them in the face. They also didn’t believe that there was more that they could be doing to prevent it from happening. There are lots of thieves out there who’ve never been caught and who have no criminal records. After all, being an accomplish thief is a skill, like any other. Employee theft costs employers $50 Billion a year in the USA. Small and midsize businesses accounted for 68 percent of cases, and their median loss in 2017 was $289,864. This employer is probably still hiring some dishonest people to send into their clients’ homes and they couldn’t be more pleased about what a great job they think they’re doing of vetting them. Their clients are probably a whole lot less thrilled.

In an equally disturbing incident, two senior executives in their mid-forties, from a billion-dollar-earning firm in Canada’s technology sector got so drunk and became so unruly during a transpacific flight that they forced an unscheduled landing in order to remove them. It cost the executives over $70,000 in restitution. It made national headlines, sparked civil suits and cost the parent company untold thousands in fuel costs, fines and other charges, to say nothing of national embarrassment. Not surprisingly, they were both fired.

One might reasonably presume that their bad behaviour hinted at a general company culture but it was undeniable that these individuals had demonstrated a gross lack of professionalism, critical thinking skills and good judgement. There’s no doubt that they were poor examples to their subordinates and it’s highly unlikely that this was the first time that their behaviour had been questionable. When the company was contacted and offered a variety of assessments designed to identify good management candidates, identify leadership development needs and assess toxic cultural traits. Their response was a polite “go away”. They were confident that they were doing everything right and didn’t need any help to address problems that they didn’t believe existed in the first place – negative national press and fired VPs notwithstanding. Coincidentally, the Principals resigned a year later and handed the entire company over to someone else. You do the math.

So what’s the moral of the story? It’s that human stupidity and arrogance are equal-opportunity character flaws. They can occur at the local convenience store just as easily as at companies whose brands are household names. However, both can take steps to minimize employee risks, negative press, legal and financial exposure and save themselves a lot of time, money, headaches and embarrassment just by being a little less cocksure about their own infallibility.

It’s no secret that employee theft is and has been a huge, longstanding problem for employers for years. Just because someone’s an exceptional salesperson doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be an effective regional sales manager. The friendliest, most efficient cashier you’ve ever met may also be the most morally corrupt pilferer in the building. Why would any employer intentionally refuse to even consider proven ways to identify such people (and thus neither hire nor promote them) when the solutions are readily available and inexpensive as well? Would you rather spend $25 to screen out unreliable, lazy, incompetent, dishonest, applicants or spend tens of thousands in lost revenue and severance packages after you finally identify them?

One would think that it’s a no brainer. Unfortunately there are lots of “can’t tell ‘em” CEOs and HR managers out there who are doing their companies a disservice and who are content with the status quo – no matter how rife with problems it may be.

For the others who aren’t quite as sure that they know everything there is a cornucopia of ready-made, time tested solutions available that can make your life easier, your screening and processes more effective and efficient and which can save you thousands of dollars in lost productivity, and dismissal and re-hiring costs.

There are hundreds of skills, aptitude and personality assessments on the market for good reason – because they work! If you’re not using any when hiring or promoting people then you should probably be wondering if you’re missing out on something good (because you probably are).

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