Why personnel selection matters in workplace health and safety!
According to Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, every year work-related injuries and diseases cause nearly 1000 deaths in Canadian companies and organizations under federal or provincial jurisdiction. In the United States, the National Safety Council presented statistics that demonstrated that industrial accidents may cost industry $123 billion dollars in quantifiable losses in one year alone! However, the most stunning aspect of these statistics is that year after year, employers identify that safeguarding the physical, mental and social well-being of their employees is paramount. This commitment translates into the continuous investment of millions of dollars into training and prevention programs, health and safety plans and the establishment of occupational health committees. And yet, why do workplace accidents still occur in such large numbers?
In the last few years, we have observed a shift in turning towards personnel selection as a means in which to lower the number of accidents and their related costs by researchers and personnel selection experts. In fact, researchers have begun looking at whether there is a significant relationship between personality traits and industrial accidents, and whether valid and reliable standardized psychometric tests are capable of predicting certain workplace accidents. What is clear is that these studies have demonstrated that personnel selection can play a decided role in combating workplace accidents.
In keeping with this edition's theme, we will provide you with a brief but fascinating article written by Larry Coutts, Ph.D., on Personality and Workplace Safety, as well as an article providing you information on with why the manufacturing industry should integrate a human resources competency-based approach in their members' organizations. We have also included the expert advice of our president André Durivage, Ph.D., a highly respected author and HR specialist in regard to a question we received on methods in which to implement bias-free selection processes in an organization. In addition, our "EPSI Expert" talks about the evolution of health and safety in the workplace and which best practices should be adopted by all organizations.
As in every edition, we would like to thank you for your continued readership and the loyalty you have demonstrated in EPSI and our Compmetrica assessment products.
Director, Consulting Services and Business Development
Safety, a personality issue?
Personality and Workplace Safety
All Canadians are entitled to work in a healthy and safe environment, yet every year work-related injuries and diseases cause nearly 1,000 deaths in companies and organizations under federal or provincial jurisdiction (Human Resources and Skills Development Canada).
In the U.S., National Safety Council figures for the year 1999 showed that industrial accidents cost industry $123 billion dollars in quantifiable losses. These figures do not take in to account such factors as lowered moral and the cost of re-training individuals to take the place of absent workers due to accidents. More importantly, workers killed on the job leave behind families, friends, and co-workers.
Other negative outcomes attend workplace accidents as well. According to Barling, Kelloway, and Iverson (2003), workplace accidents result in a perceived lack of influence and a distrust of management, with the former also affecting the distrust of management. Both of these factors predicted job dissatisfaction which, in turn, was negatively related to turnover intentions and voice (perceptions of union instrumentality).
By all accounts, the single most common cause of workplace accidents is complacency, an attitude that It won't happen to me. In fact, a considerable amount of research shows that human error underlies a full 80% of all industrial accidents and injuries. Too often, employees are not attentive to their work environments. They become convinced that management is not concerned about safety and begin to think that they are not responsible for their own safety. The result is that employees begin to get in a hurry and take shortcuts on the job. They are more focused on production and getting the job done than getting it done safely.
Selecting and developing employees is critical in sustaining occupational safety excellence. Once a new employee enters the workplace, most organizations deploy mechanisms to ensure they are assimilated into the cultural norms and performance expectations in an efficient and effective manner. However, too often this process of acculturation for new hires does not promote a complimentary safety mentality.
Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, organizations have continued to enhance their pre-employment practices. Recent additions have included background checks (personal, professional, criminal, credit), reviewing driving history, assessments of competency (demonstrable knowledge, behaviours, and skills required to perform specific tasks) and personality profiling (tests to determine character, patterns of Behaviour, thoughts and attitudes).
Individual personality drives behaviour, but this is often the forgotten component in safety programs. Research shows that some employees tend to engage in unsafe behaviour at work due to carelessness, recklessness, rebelliousness, and other reasons. Needless to say, these behaviours increase the possibility of on-the-job accidents. For example, in an early review of the research relating personality traits to industrial accidents, Hansen (1988) concluded that personality traits such as extroversion, impulsivity, aggression, social maladjustment, and some aspects of neurosis are related to the occurrence of accidents. Similarly, Hansen (1989) found that social maladjustment and distractibility were found to be significant causes of accidents.
In 2001, Cellar reported significant relationships between workplace accidents and personality variables such as the lack of agreeability and a tendency to oversee rules and regulations. In all these cases, the results on standardized valid and reliable psychometric tests were capable of predicting certain types of workplace accidents. These results were confirmed in a latter study also done by Cellar (2004).
Overall, it is thus possible to identify some personality factors that will have an influence on health and safety in the workplace. One of the tests we are using, better known as the TACT (French acronym for the Test d'approche et de Comportement au Travail or the Work Approach and Behaviour Test), measures many of the variables identified in the professional and scientific literature on the subject. In our opinion, it is thus possible to conduct a preliminary study which would lead to a better identification of people (potential workers) presenting a higher health and safety risk.
Of course, unsafe work behaviour is not a unitary concept; several distinct themes underlie this behaviour. However, it is possible to use a valid personality measure to decrease the risks.
Director, Research and Development
Barling, J., Kelloway, E. K., & Iverson, R. D. (2003). Accidental outcomes: Attitudinal consequences of workplace injuries. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 8(1), 74-85.
Cellar, D. F., Nelson, Z. C., Yorke, C. M., & Bauer, C. (2001). The five-factor model and safety in the workplace: Investigating the relationships between personality and accident involvement. Journal of Prevention & Intervention in the Community, 22 (1), 43-52.
Cellar, D.F., Yorke, C.M., Nelson, Z.C., & Carroll, K.A. (2004). Relationships between five factor personality variables, workplace accidents, and self-efficacy. Psychological Reports, 94(3), 1437-1441
Hansen, C.P. (1988). Personality characteristics of the accident involved employee. Journal of Business and Psychology, 2(4), 346-365.
Hansen, C. P. (1989). A causal model of the relationship among accidents, biodata, personality, and cognitive factors. Journal of Applied Psychology, 74(1), 81-90.
WHAT WOULD THE DR. DO?
Dispensing expert HR advice from EPSI's President, the highly respected author André Durivage, Ph.D.
Q: I attended the EPSI forum in October and particularly found the presentation on cultural diversity to be of interest. During the presentation you provided a lot of information concerning cultural factors that need to be taken into consideration in the workplace. Can you provide some recommendations as to how we can ensure that from the start our selection processes are equitable for everyone regardless of our applicants' ethnicity or backgrounds?
A: Statistic Canada's 2006 census identified that 19.8% of the Canadian population is foreign-born. This is an important statistic to keep in mind when planning and implementing a selection process, as we can conclude that candidates taking part in selection processes may be foreign-born, and may have differing values, beliefs and customs than those of selection committee members.
Those differences however, can be extremely beneficial to an organization, and it is important to ensure that selection processes do not discriminate either overtly or inherently. To remind us of the considerable weight of this aim we can refer to Article 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which pertains to equality and Article 10 of the Human Rights Act which states the following:
It is a discriminatory practice for an employer, employee organization or employer organization
(a) to establish or pursue a policy or practice, or
(b) to enter into an agreement affecting recruitment, referral, hiring, promotion, training, apprenticeship, transfer or any other matter relating to employment or prospective employment,
that deprives or tends to deprive an individual or class of individuals of any employment opportunities on a prohibited ground of discrimination.
When examining this article from the Human Rights Act, we should also take into consideration that it is not only important to ensure that selection processes do not discriminate against candidates based on ethnicity or cultural factors, but also based on disabilities.
A number of elements can be examined in order to ensure that the selection process is fair and non-discriminatory, including choosing an appropriate environment , accommodating candidates, ensuring that evaluators are aware of potential biases and cultural differences, as well as utilizing assessment tools that are reliable, valid, and do not create adverse impact.
In choosing an appropriate environment the selection committee or hiring manager should attempt to provide a fair and standardized environment for all candidates. For example, in most cases all candidates at the interview stage should equally have the opportunity to participate in their interview in a private local with a minimum of interruptions. If the candidate has any disabilities these should be taken into consideration and accommodated; such as providing a preparation room that is close to the interview room, or interview room and washroom on the same floor for candidates with mobility issues. Accommodations may also include providing documentation in large text for candidates with vision challenges, or even providing candidates with additional time to prepare or answer questions if they have other disabilities, including dyslexia, ADHD or speech impediments.
In order to ensure the assessment process is equitable for candidates with various cultural backgrounds or disabilities it is also important that all evaluators are aware of potential biases. For example, a bias known as a similarity error can occur during the interview process, whereby the scorer provides higher rating for candidates who are most similar to them in terms of values, economic status, birthplace, interests, hobbies etc., and lower ratings to those with whom they have more trouble relating to. The most effective manner in which to ensure that this does not happen is to educate those involved in the process through means such as interview/assessment guides, diversity training and coaching or information sessions. The key is that those involved in the process be aware of possible evaluation errors and biases so that steps can be taken to avoid them. In addition, diversity training can help evaluators within the process understand the many interesting variations of meaning that traditional North American gestures and customs can have throughout the world. A smile doesn't always have the same meaning in all cultures, nor does a handshake. Being aware of these differences can make your selection process all the more effective and inclusive, for the benefit of your organization and your potential employees.
Valid Reliable Tools
Finally, the actual assessment tools or tests that are used within the selection process can drastically reduce the possibility that specific groups are discriminated against. All assessment tools should be valid, reliable and psychometrically sound. Members of different target groups should review the content of the test in order to make sure that there is no cultural bias which may adversely impact the way candidates respond to the test. Moreover, during the pre-test stage the normative groups should include people of varying cultural backgrounds in order to ensure that the tool does not discriminate based on that factor. Analyses should be done in order to ascertain that any observed differences will not cause adverse impact. If a test adheres to the Standards for Psychological Testing, then it can play a decisive part in ensuring an equitable selection process for all candidates.
New talent takes many shapes and comes in many different packages, taking advantage of the diversity of potential employees in the global market both nationally and internationally can open doors for your organization and ensures that you chose the right person for the right job.
To submit a question to be answered by EPSI's president André Durivage, Ph.D., please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with 'Question for the Doctor' clearly marked in the subject line.
Competency-based management: a competitive avantage for manufacturing companies
Although recent economic data confirms the recovery of the global economy, manufacturing firms in industrialized countries such as Canada, the United States and France are facing increasingly tough competition. Indeed, the need for productivity, effectiveness and efficiency are increasing, not only due to the growing presence of emerging superpowers in markets, but also from changes in workers' competencies in these countries. Moreover, a recent study by the U.S. Council on Competitiveness1 foresees, at best, stagnation, and at worst, significant declines in most industrialized countries' competitiveness indexes in comparison to those of China, India, Korea and Brazil. Thus, it is simple and logical to predict that the manufacturing companies who emerge as champions in this new reality will also be those who win the "war for talent"2 that began in the early 2000s. In practice, this means that managers should lead their organizations to overcome the challenges of attracting a competent workforce and creative leaders who will promote innovation, both in terms of processes and products, and the challenges of planning for dynamic and highly competent staff retention and succession. However, there is a proven approach to human resources management that is particularly suited to transform the company into a successful, flexible and innovative model and that will contribute to solving recruitment and staffing problems: The competency-based approach.
For the past thirty years, the notion of competencies has attracted the attention of a growing number of professionals, researchers and managers3. Some authors have even gone so far as to suggest that competencies have become the common language of the human resources system and they represent "the material that holds an organization together, giving a holistic perspective to people, goals, processes and performance"4. Thus, HR's competency-based approach to management seeks to align the organization's goals and strategies with its operations, through individuals, in order to multiply efficiency and productivity. Moreover, it is interesting to recall that many authors5 place people at the heart of organizational models since they play a significant role in terms of organizational effectiveness, performance, and the ultimate success (or failure) of changes, and more. In the case of this management approach, these are the competencies that dynamically structure HR activities. In addition, this creates a conduit at the corporate level to influence the daily performance of employees according to the overarching strategic objectives. Specifically, human resources planning is done by considering organizational objectives and provides for the needs, in terms of competencies, in order to achieve them. Subsequently, the recruitment, screening and hiring of talent follows these needs. Training programs and career management always are designed to take organizational needs into account, as well as competencies available within the organization and individual needs. Finally, ongoing performance evaluation objectives are established based on the organizational reality and ensure that the remuneration matches them.
In short, this approach not only facilitates the recruitment of top talent and competency development for existing staff, but its application also gives all employees a sense of direction and organizational objectives to achieve. Nevertheless, its integration always brings challenges. On the one hand, introducing changes to standardize HRM practices could meet resistance from managers who fear losing their discretion in hiring new employees. On the other hand, since this is a complex organizational change, it is important to manage it carefully, being attentive to employee concerns and incorporating it in a gradual and planned manner. The benefits of this approach to HR management nevertheless far outweigh the disadvantages and offer an excellent way to improve the competitiveness of organizations in an era that will very likely prove merciless to businesses that fail to stand out.
Consultant-Organizational development and evaluation
1U.S. Council on competitiveness & Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu. 2010. Global Manufacturing Competitiveness Index.
2Michaels, E., Handfield-Jones, H. & Axelrod, B. 2001. The War for Talent. Harvard Press Business.
3To learn more about skills, see, among others:
- Cooper, K.C. 2002. Effective competency modeling and reporting, AMACOM.
- Sanchez, J.I. & Levine, E.L. 2009. What is (or should be) the difference between competency modeling and traditional job analysis? Human Resource Management Review, 19, 53-63.
- Spencer, L.M. & Spencer, S.M. 1993. Competence at work: Models for superior performance. John Wiley & Sons.
4Wynne, B and Stringer D. 1997. A competency based approach to training and development. Pittman Publishing.
5To learn more about skills, see, among others:
- Bareil, C. 2004. Gérer le volet humain du changement. éditions Transcontinental.
- Morgan, G. 1989. Images de l'organisation. Presses de l'université Laval.
- Morin, E., Savoie, A., Beaudin, G. 1994. L'efficacité de l'organisation. Théories, représentations et mesures. Gaétan Morin.
Read about what is new at EPSI and our experiences participating in various conferences across North America and in Europe.
EPSI diversifies its portfolio of conferences and exhibitions!
While we usually attend conferences and exhibitions more closely related to human resources, now we are working in sports! We had the unique opportunity to promote our new psychometric tool, the General Profiler for Sports (GPS) at the recent NCAA Convention Trade Show, which was held January 12th and 13th in San Antonio Texas. There, we were able to speak with the most influential leaders in American college and university athletics in order to demonstrate the benefits of using our test as part of their individual athlete evaluations and recruitment campaigns.
Seminar for our European clients
We have returned to Paris and Switzerland! EPSI President Andre Durivage, Ph.D., was invited to lead an interactive seminar for members of ANDRH (National Association of Human Resources Directors), the largest community of human resources professionals in France, serving over 5,000 members.
On November 24th, the Canadian Cultural Center welcomed ANDRH members interested in learning more about new trends in skills assessment and the practices of Quebec organizations. We were able to contribute our knowledge and share our expertise with these influential professionals.
In addition, we also collaborated with the Swiss company Optentiel through a similar interactive seminar for some twenty HR professionals from various sectors. Participants warmly welcomed EPSI representatives, and appreciate the innovative competency-based solutions we presented as well as the new trends in employee evaluation that were discussed.
We are confident that these meetings will allow us to position ourselves as European leaders in the field of employee evaluation and selection. We look forward to continuing to explore these new markets as we consolidate our position as HRM leaders on an international scale.
Consultant - Marketing Support
What's Happening in HR!
Succession planning and talent management is coming to the forefront of HR strategic planning as employers recognize the need to identify, develop and promote the talent that exists internal to an organization.
When implementing a form of talent management the overall aim is to assist organizations in managing their current and future talent pool. It's very possible that the next CEO, Chief of Staff or CIO of your organization is already a part of it, maybe even sits beside you at lunch. These strategic planning exercises and leadership programs are implemented in order to ensure a certain number of qualified, capable leaders will be able to meet current and future organizational needs. Essentially, special efforts are applied in order to invest in the most talented, highest performing or highest potential individuals. The added benefit of this special effort is that it provides employees with incentive to remain with the organization that is investing in them.
Although the term succession planning has been a buzz word for the past few years, the statistics regarding meaningful implementation are quite astounding, especially considering the exodus of baby boomers that everyone knows is on the horizon. A survey undertaken by the National Academy of Public Administration of 54 public sector organizations indicated that only 28% of American government respondents had implemented or planned to implement a succession management program. In Canada it seems public organizations are slowly coming to realize the very real benefits that can be achieved through formalized succession planning and directed professional development for employees.
The question to ask yourself is this "If a person who is integral to your organization suddenly leaves (your Director, CEO, President, etc.) during a difficult time, does your organization already know who will take charge of the ship?" If the answer is no, then it might be time to get on board with succession planning.
In other HR news...
The first of its kind for Canada's mining industry; led by Mining Industry Human Resources Council, the Worker Certification System assesses the skills of mining industry workers and provides these workers with portable credentials based on their experience and skill levels. Credentials earned through the system provide employers with a valuable ability to verify the skills of workers coming from different regions of Canada. Equally important, the certification enables mining workers to access employment opportunities across the country by providing them with an industry-based portable credential. They also help ensure all key industry players-employers, workers and educators-understand and consistently use the same terms when discussing and considering specific job requirements and worker abilities.
Assessment and Evaluation Consultant
EPSI experts provide valuable, informative perspectives on various aspects of HR.
Employee health and workplace safety are of primary importance to organizations and are at the center of managers' and employees' concerns. Regardless of the industry in which we work, this issue always impacts the business environment. However, through increased leadership and sharing responsibility at all levels of the hierarchy, it becomes easier to reduce the number of work-related injuries and associated costs. Occupational health and safety is a winning value to be introduced into the corporate culture.
This edition of our newsletter features an interview with Ms. Julie Thibault, EPSI Vice-President, who is in charge of promoting health and safety practices within the company. As an original founder of the firm, she has shaped policies on occupational health and safety, in addition to having shown tremendous interest in these issues.
Thus, it is with great enthusiasm that Ms. Thibault has agreed to share with us her outlook on the many health and safety challenges facing business managers and their employees.
What are the main concerns facing business leaders today in terms of occupational heath and safety?
Every company, regardless of its sector of activity and the risk factors associated with it, is looking first and foremost to the welfare of its employees and how to provide a safe workplace. However, in recent years new risks have emerged. One needs only to think of nanotechnology, which involves manipulating semi atomic substances. What are the risks to workers' health associated with handling these ultrafine particles? Can we determine their toxicity? What preventive measures can be taken? The technology is still too new to provide an answer. This is also true for musculoskeletal disorders. The population has become more sedentary and a lack of physical activity is partly due to the increased use of computer workstations and automated office systems. As a consequence of this phenomenon, we have witnessed longer periods of sitting or standing with a resultant increase in well-known musculoskeletal problems. Furthermore, psychosocial risks are also greatly increasing. In fact, we are seeing more and more complexity to tasks, causing greater mental fatigue, the pressure of tight schedules and resulting stress from a lack of accommodation at work. Finally, the aging of the working population brings a new reality. Thus, there are more occupational illnesses in this population than workplace injuries. The result is that older workers' absences are longer and the associated costs are greater.
How has the role of employers changed in recent years to promote prevention measures?
We are witnessing a globalization of trade, intensifying competition and the continuing evolution of new technologies. Companies must continually adapt to these changes. By the same token, we see that employers must more frequently review their organization of work, there are often a decreased number of employees, work overload and time constraints. This results in unclear roles and a lack of communication and recognition.
Business leaders must therefore take the lead by adopting integrated approaches, particularly in terms of absence management and productivity. Employee wellbeing will become a criterion of efficiency and business performance. Remember that an employee spends almost half of his life at work! Therefore, it is to be expected that his or her health and safety are major issues and that employers are increasingly willing to offer programs that promote healthy lifestyles and work habits. Measures such as workplace health campaigns, training, health fairs and screening clinics are all solutions emerging in companies.
What are the future challenges for companies and what are the possible solutions, in your opinion?
The biggest challenge for a company will be to ensure that its employees are constantly aware of their health and safety at work. There is a real willingness to work on human behavior issues. We can certainly make all kinds of modifications to workstations, using ergonomics and manipulating the work environment, but even under optimal conditions, individuals can always choose risky behavior. Leaders must therefore work together with employees to change these unsafe behaviors. To do this, they will have to show real leadership and integrate it into their management practices, as well as their marketing activities and sound financial management.
Consultant - Marketing Support
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