Ever heard of the Peter Principle? Well, it’s “the promotion of someone to their level of incompetence” and it’s happening too frequently in Jamaican companies. In 1968 Dr. Laurence J. Peter suggested that as long as workers were competent in their current role it would lead to promotion. The trouble is, somewhere along the promotion ladder, employees get shunted onto a rung that is way beyond their capabilities.

It’s not that persons suddenly become incompetent; it’s just that the new job may require skills that the employee does not possess. For example, companies take their best technical person (financial analyst or sales person) and reward them by promoting them to a management position. Now these technical experts are expected to manage people and other resources for which they have no experience or training and sometimes no talent or inclination! Senior positions demand technical acumen and experience, but more importantly these roles also require a high degree of soft skills or emotional intelligence (EQ) as the psychologist Daniel Goleman calls them.

As far back as 1995, Goleman, a visiting faculty member at Harvard, argued that there was a direct link between emotional intelligence and measurable business results. In fact, when comparing technical skills, IQ and emotional intelligence, his research found that emotional intelligence proved to be twice as important and useful as the others for jobs at all levels. Incidentally, EQ is also said to decrease antisocial behavior, and boost academic achievement in children, but let’s not digress.

If we are to believe Peter and Goleman, the problem in Jamaican workplaces does not lie with employees. Instead, it rests with decision-makers and recruiters who are not selecting senior managers with the right skillset. That is not to say that companies must not promote from within, but successful companies understand that key personnel must be chosen for their leadership qualities and not for their years of service.

According to Bill Leisy, Global Talent Management Market Leader, Ernst & Young, “the idea of simply having a very strong subject-matter expert in the senior ranks of the company just isn’t a viable model anymore”. He goes on to say that while subject-matter expertise must be present, it is the ‘softer’ skills that are now critical to business leadership.

So let’s put our [Jamaican] recruitment and selection processes under the microscope. A close look at recent advertisements shows that employers are now listing competencies as well as qualifications and experience for many jobs. This is a highly commendable first step. But it begs the question “how are these competencies assessed?”

In 2012 resumes, interviews and references remain the most popular tools for selection of all employees in Jamaica. Although they are adequate to match technical experience, they are virtually useless at evaluating competencies. Psychometric tests can give some insight into personality, ability, aptitude and interest. But similar to interviews, responses can be skewed to what the candidates believe is the ‘right’ answer.

On the other hand, ability tests which are used more often for technical jobs than managerial ones have only one right answer to each question. Results cannot be faked, except through the unlikely event of a series of lucky guesses. These tests are great for measuring a candidate’s general mental or specific job-related abilities through verbal, numerical, abstract, mechanical, clerical and spatial reasoning.

Rummaging through the smorgasbord of tests and assessment to select the most appropriate one is not for the uninitiated. One solution is to utilise Assessment Centres where a number of methods are used by skilled practitioners to triangulate or cross-verify candidate responses and observable behaviours.

Whichever method is employed, the process must start with an understanding of the hard and soft skills that are needed for success in your sector and industry, followed by a competency framework that is designed specifically for your organisation.

As complicated as it might seem (or far-fetched some might say), if Jamaica is really serious about being compete-tive in the global marketplace, we need to explore alterna-tives to the status quo and find a formula for selecting the ‘best’ employees. Our global competitors have been using these techniques for years to dominate our marketplace and ‘bax bread outa wi mout’ 2013 is time for a change – mek wi fire Peter!

JACE Assessment Centres offers a variety of modern selection tools to differentiate the star performers from the average ones. Call us on 876-754-5223 or email jmc@jaceltd.com.


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