Psychological assessment not only uncovered an ideal financial adviser’s traits but also how to get employees to let you survey their brains.
by Kate Everson
May 28, 2015
Disney Pixar’s newest film, “Inside Out,” is about the little voices in our heads, including Anger, Disgust, Joy, Fear and Sadness. (Image Courtesy of Disney Pixar Studios)
On June 19, Disney Pixar’s “Inside Out” hits theaters with the promise to take viewers into the head of a little girl as her emotions — joy, sadness, fear, anger and disgust — create chaos.
This newfound interest in mapping out the personality of an animated kid — and voicing it with Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling and Lewis Black, among others — echoes what’s already going on in the live-action professional world. But as easy as it is for most of us to commit to a 90-minute Pixar movie, it’s a lot tougher to get people in the workforce on board with psychological assessments.
Jennie Hollman, director of organizational research at hiring assessment firm Caliper Corporation, worked with The Bank of New York Mellon Corp. to understand what drives wealth managers in today’s world. After the 2008 economic crash, clients became more cautious and wanted to invest money with “conscientious advisers” who were more thorough and empathetic to their wishes and fears.
But what personality traits create a conscientious financial adviser? Using psychological assessments, Hollman’s team identified six key personality traits — abstract reasoning, thoroughness, cautiousness, skepticism, structure and attention to detail — that help an adviser get inside his or her clients’ heads.
Getting into the heads of financial advisers takes an equal amount of savvy. Hollman said even though BNY Mellon’s workforce wasn’t tricky, skepticism creates a barrier to getting others to buy into psychological assessments.
“Sometimes it’s a matter of education and telling them what we’re measuring,” she said. “Have people take it, and once you’ve gone through the process and understand what it’s about, we always give people feedback to understand what the feedback means.”
Get those in the corner office in your corner by talking about how doing research on what’s making high performers successful will affect recruiting and talent development, which later effects productivity and the bottom line.
In BNY Mellon’s case, “We know we need a more conscientious approach,” Hollman said. “What does that mean for development and helping wealth managers get there in terms of their development and learning opportunities?”
The six traits might seem innate and unteachable — how do you develop reasoning through a professional learning program? — but there are strategies to help employees along. For example, learning leaders can create a checklist for advisers before they get on the phone, or to help them think of the big picture of where client is coming from. “Whatever it is they need to do to make sure they’re up to speed instead of just winging it,” Hollman said.
Here’s a final thought from the little voices in my own head. Articulate to employees that an assessment is going to give not only the organization better insight into its top players but also employees a glance into their own strengths and weaknesses.
If we’re all about to line up to see Pixar dissect a 12-year-old’s brain, why are we scared of turning our own heads inside out?