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Jamie Lawrence


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“Organisations could do a lot more to give candidates a better chance to ‘self select’ themselves into the role.”


Lucy Standing is a chartered business psychologist and vice chair of the Association for Business Psychology. She is the founder of ViewVo, a shadowing service that connects those who want to learn what it's like to do a job with experts in that field. Lucy will be speaking at Learning Live on September 6th and 7th on the social aspect of learning.

Jamie Lawrence, Managing Editor, TrainingZone: People talk about the need to make the workplace more human, but organisational structures are by definition artificial. What action do you think we should be taking?

Lucy Standing, Chartered Business Psychologist and Social Entrepreneur: I was chatting to a friend who is head of HR for a large investment bank.

She recently came back from New York where she’d invited the female MDs in the area she supports out for a drink. Seven turned up and out of those seven, none of them had met each other before.

Think about it – working somewhere five days a week with colleagues in the same line of business who in some cases had been there for several years never actually meeting? In one night, more was achieved in terms of facilitating relationships and removing barriers than any other form of ‘technology’ could hope to deliver.

I’d like to see organisations putting more emphasis on social.

Not social learning, not social enterprise, not social media – not social ‘insert qualification’ anything. Simply social. Humans are inherently sociable – our drive to bond is one of the four main drivers of human behaviour.

Technology and the increasing digitalisation around us isolates rather than brings us together.

All the wonders of efficiency: working from home, dialling into meetings, hot desking, e-learning vs face to face learning, reduced need for off sites – whilst all driven to reduce bottom lines, it isn’t great for fostering feelings of loyalty, work identity or a sense of team cohesion and engagement.

If these costs were easy to calculate, I wonder what the bottom line would really look like?

Jamie Lawrence, Managing Editor, TrainingZone: Are there any key truths or ideas about human behaviour and psychology that you think organisations consistently, over decades, fail to grasp?

Lucy Standing, Chartered Business Psychologist and Social Entrepreneur: That would be long list! I’ll start with three but this is by no means exhaustive:

The way organisations recruit, is in my view poor.

The best method of assessment (an assessment centre) predicts how well someone will do in a job around 36% of the time. (This is a measure of ‘predictive validity’).

That means over 60% of the time, we’re not doing a great job! I think the reason for this is largely because the candidate being assessed is the one who actually knows whether or not the job will suit them.

Candidates are, however, rarely given the chance to assess for themselves if this potential job would be right for them. No one wants to do a job they’ll struggle at and won’t care about.

It isn’t rocket science: those who have a better idea of the job before they go into it are more productive and satisfied (engaged) compared to those who don’t have a good idea. Research from internship programmes, realistic job previews and job shadowing all concur on this point.

Quite simply, organisations could do a lot more to give candidates a better chance to ‘self select’ themselves into the role.

I see a lot of bandwagon jumping.

Neuromindfulness is bound to be a ‘thing’ but what bothers me more than people doing it is the fact people buy into this into the first place.

Conferences are awash with case studies which are lovely stories but which don’t produce findings which are generalizable.

Organisations plough into spending money on programmes which make no difference and have little impact – or worse, make things worse! I’d love to see a greater use of a more evidence-based approach and using actual data and research to inform practise as opposed to ‘company x are doing it, so we should’.

Overestimating the importance of qualifications.

Research shows the greatest factor predicting whether or not people get promoted at work is the presence of an L&D department.

In other words, the knowledge we develop on the job is more important than anything we may bring to the table either academically or though ‘qualifications’.

The short-termism view of cutting back on L&D or not giving it enough priority – when this is a department that not only drives those who are successful but which is also significant in predicting levels of satisfaction of employees - is short-sighted and irritating.

Jamie Lawrence, Managing Editor, TrainingZone: You do a lot of executive assessments. Has the type of profile organisations look for changed over the last 10 or so years?

Lucy Standing, Chartered Business Psychologist and Social Entrepreneur: The language may change and the nuances and context in which this is applied do change of course, but in essence, what makes a good leader now is what made a good leader 10 years ago.

The ability to analyse, act upon opportunities, build great capability, develop relationships, to influence, evaluate and continuously learn is relevant now as it was then.

Jamie Lawrence, Managing Editor, TrainingZone: Can you give us a quick summary of the easiest and most effective ways for people to improve their own emotional intelligence? As an aside, how can you help someone realise they may need to work on their emotional intelligence when they can't see it themselves?

Lucy Standing, Chartered Business Psychologist and Social Entrepreneur: Improving anything requires that you know what to improve and that you are motivated to do it.

You therefore need to start with buying into the process which assesses this. If for example someone for whom you have little or no respect informs you of your poor levels of emotional intelligence, it doesn’t take a psychologist to predict your reaction!

There are plenty of tools on the market that will help develop this awareness, but it makes sense that tools which incorporate the feedback of others offer more credibility.

Assuming someone is bought into the idea of needing to develop their emotional intelligence, the best methods for changing it are the same as they are for any skill-based learning.

Emotional intelligence is a skill – much like tennism, which I’ll use as an analogy. A tennis player doesn’t improve by reading a book/watching a video.

Yes, it can give ideas, but practise offers the chance to improve through the feedback mechanism. With tennis, feedback is immediate (the ball was in/out) and adjustments are made accordingly.

The wow factor comes when a tennis player works with a third party (a coach) who observes, offers guidance known to produce effective results and pushes them to improve.

Developing emotional intelligence requires the same approach: a safe environment to practise, working on techniques which elicit feedback and ideally having a third party that can offer suggestions and guidance.

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Jamie Lawrence

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Read more from Jamie Lawrence

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