Cashier in mask and gloves working at the register

When the Workplace Now Involves Risk, How Do We Hire the Right People?

Rachel Stewart Johnson

Psychologist | Driven by communications about human behavior in Work

The job of today isn’t the job of yesterday. Here’s guidance on how to staff accordingly in 2020.

With the global economy changing in profound ways, business leaders have been busy battling revenue loss, adjusting to shifting consumer values, and tending to the needs of a workforce displaced from offices and routines. As the summer months approach and the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic dawns, discussion of how to reopen sectors of the economy is ramping up. With that, employers must consider how their staffing needs will follow suit.

This includes the important issue of whether the job descriptions that may have worked for your organization for years remain relevant. Is the job of July 2020 the same job it was in January 2020? An important factor has begun to change job roles across a wide swath: risk. The concept of risk -- assessing it, mitigating its impact, being able to tolerate its constant presence, and devising strategies to work alongside it -- has swiftly become part of the employment playbook.

Consider three ways in which risk is changing the jobs of the near future -- and with it, the emerging frontier of hiring as we move further into 2020.

1. Redefining top performers

For jobs that cannot be conducted from home, the reality of coexisting with the SARS-CoV-2 virus will affect every workday. Point-of-sale plexiglass barriers and face coverings have become the norm, and these safety protocols are likely to remain in place for an extended period. Individuals in public-facing roles that were long considered routine and low-risk now face the daily possibility of viral exposure. Shoe salespersons, fast-casual restaurant cashiers, and sporting goods merchandisers are all examples of roles that entail some risk to personal health. An important question therefore becomes: who can tolerate this risk? Who can assume the risks inherent in every shift while still performing at a high level?

Moreover, the need to adhere to safety regulations is a higher-stakes proposition than ever before. An employee who had a habit of bending the rules by delaying the return of inventory to shelves may have been valued because of top sales results on the retail floor. But that same employee now bending the rules by coming into work despite exposure to a sick family member? A far more serious concern. What your company looks for in a “top performer” most likely needs to be redefined rapidly.

As industries come back online and hiring needs re-emerge, managers can no longer afford to take what has essentially been a “warm bodies” approach to hiring. Onboarding has heightened importance across roles, as training in safety protocols is of maximum value. How do we build efficiency around this unmovable piece? HR leaders must be thinking about what “raw materials,” so to speak, an individual will bring to the job on day one. Personality data becomes vital to answer this key question. High conscientiousness, with its accompanying high standards and attention to detail, may well be a prioritized personality trait. Similarly, high Emotional Stability may be key to ensure that an employee walks through the doors for every shift, calm and ready.

2. Reassuring jittery consumers

Author and consultant Joseph Grenny encourages business leaders to be ready to operate in what he calls the “danger gap” -- the several months-long period of time between the relaxing of widespread shelter-in-place mandates and the wide availability of effective therapies and a vaccine for COVID-19. “As strict isolation measures are relaxed, every organization in the world will have to invent its own ‘Be Safe. Feel Safe’ plan,” Grenny explains. He emphasizes that not only must safety protocols be comprehensive and customized for the setting, they must be clearly demonstrated to the public. An example: not merely sanitizing treadmills between uses, but using a scented cleaner to make it clear to patrons that the equipment is clean.

Coffee shop owner working with a face mask and protective gloves

This too changes the parameters of how to define desirable performance in a workforce. Organizations will be wise to pin down the personality traits that will fare the best in the changed landscape. Skepticism, lax attitudes, or poor communication will all be serious liabilities. Consider an example. Furniture sales manager Sergio is unconvinced of the safety value a face covering brings on the retail floor. As a result, he routinely lowers his mask below his chin while speaking to customers -- utterly defeating the purpose of the measure, and creating the potential for anxiety among the customer base. Sergio might perform the rest of his duties well, but if he lacks sensitivity to the safety messages he is sending during the “danger gap,” he could undermine the business.

Hiring managers must therefore be mindful of finding the right one-two combination: the ability to be uncompromising about safety procedures while also effectively communicating that vigilance to the public. Organizations that lack a tool to guide hiring and onboarding with personality insights will be flying blind here and essentially “hoping for the best” -- a concerning proposition all around.

3. Innovating creative solutions

As well-known entrepreneur Mark Cuban was quoted not long ago, the coming era will not be business as usual.

It will instead be “America 2.0” as Cuban put it, or “the greatest opportunity ever for entrepreneurs.” This upbeat assessment of the business potential in navigating the post-shutdown world points to another newly prioritized need for many businesses: creativity. Whether it’s sensing the gaps of greatest consequence, anticipating future needs, or identifying products and features that can enhance quality of life, individuals who drive innovation during this difficult span will be sought after for many roles.

How do you find the workers with the right mindset? Personality assessments again emerge as a powerful resource. But what about high-volume hiring environments? Risk tolerance, effective safety communication, and creative, future-focused thinking are all likely to bring as much value to entry-level hourly roles as they do to salaried positions. When staffing needs are high and time is limited, quick data capture is essential.

Hiring by personality is as important as ever

That’s what Traitify’s personality assessment brings to the table -- a lot of data in not a lot of time. The safety needs of the coming months have diminished the value of old hiring practices. Requirements have changed, with little room for error. Doing business effectively across the “danger gap” means having the right personnel in place for this moment in time. It’s a different world, but it’s a world of opportunity as well. Get in the lead and maintain your advantage with the power of personality-guided hiring on your side.

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