Ask an employer to name one characteristic that makes one employee stand out above all others and he’ll likely say attitude, work ethic, or team player. Unfortunately up until now, few of these employers could really prove what traits and attitude differentiated employees that positively impacted the bottom line from those that didn’t.
But an article in this month’s issue of HR Magazine cited how Bon-Ton, a department store chain, helped identify specific traits of candidates that could sell more per hour and reduce turnover. Most importantly, the result allowed them to do both. Up to this point, many HR managers and subsequently their employers were satisfied to accomplish one or the other. In today’s world, a top performing salesperson must be able to do both – sell more and stay longer.
According to the article, once Bon-Ton’s cosmetic sales group developed and implemented pre-employment assessment tests in their hiring process, the company was able to increase tenure by 12 percent and accomplished a 3 percent more sales-per-hour with the first year.
What was most surprising though was that it wasn’t customer service, communication style, or attitude that correlated most closely with lower turnover and higher sales. The single most important trait was cognitive ability. While good customer service and sales experience were important, the ability to take information from the customer and immediately solve their problem was the key differentiator and competitive edge. One of the consultants interviewed for the article explained that cognitive ability predicts the capacity to alter the selling style to suit the customers and capitalize on each sales opportunity. In other words, cognitive ability, sometimes called general reasoning and general mental ability, help people connect the dots and learn on their feet.
Like Bon-Ton, many employers are learning the value of pre-employment assessment tests in helping improve performance, productivity, and retention. In fact, spending on assessments of job candidates and existing employees rose about 20 percent last year, according to Workforce Magazine.
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This article originally appeared in The Total View, a weekly online newsletter that focuses on hiring, management and retention strategies. The Total View is written and published by Ira S. Wolfe, president of Success Performance Solutions and is distributed with permission by The Chrysalis Corporation. Subscribe for FREE to The Total View by typing your e-mail address in the newsletter sign-up box on the right side of this page.