With today's shrinking labor pool, high turnover, and troubling employee behavior, human resourcemanagers are under pressure to hire star employees. One key to snagging these stars is improving thehiring process by using axiology.

Formal axiology is a deductive science developed by Nobel Prize nominee Dr. Robert Hartman thatmeasures how people think. He called the different ways that people know things the "dimensions ofvalue." He determined that while people think in all three dimensions (intrinsic, extrinsic, and systemicvalue), we have preferred "recipes" for our own thinking. Our own thinking biases and abilitiesdetermine our personalities, guide our interpretations and reactions, and direct our decision making.

  • People who predominantly favor the intrinsic dimension use their intuition, do business by building personal relationships, and need confirmation from their gut reactions before making a decision.
  • Extrinsic thinkers compare choices, look at things and people in practical ways, and think in comparative terms. They examine different properties and characteristics and compare the choices to make the "best" decision.
  • Systemic thinkers have mental images of people and things and measure what they see against those preset images. They make decisions based on preset standards and constructs, think in terms of right or wrong, and want things to make sense or be reasonable before they make a decision.

By knowing the basics of these dimensions, you can probably identify some of the predominantthinking biases of your coworkers, friends, or even yourself. A fuller knowledge of axiology and thetools that have stemmed from this science can help HR professionals reduce the risks in the hiringprocess.

A Mathematical System

Hartman applied the dimensions of thinking to a mathematical system. Now the subjective comparing ofpersonalities or preferences can be removed from the hiring regimen. I developed the Zerorisk HiringSystem using axiology to help employers objectively measure areas that are critical for success in specificjob positions, generate individual thinking profiles of the candidates, and provide individually tailored,behavior-based questions to improve the interview process.

Using an axiology-based instrument, an interviewer is able to discern the true nature of the candidate'smanagement style and ability to exercise sound judgment when in stressful situations.

If you have determined that the candidate has what it takes to do the job, that does not necessarily mean he orshe will do the job. A person may be perfectly capable of great success, but if drive, determination, and workethic are not there, the job will not get done. We have tested people who had the skills, abilities, andjudgment to be effective managers, only to find that they had no interest in managing people. It was better forour clients to learn that before those people were placed in management positions.

Assess Company Culture

Once you have determined that the candidate has the talent and drive to get the job done, don't make thatoffer yet. Assess your company culture and the environment within which this person will be working. Areyou placing a person who thrives on human contact in a dog-eat-dog environment where no one leaves thecubicle? Are you hiring a person who needs structure and throwing him into a position with no jobdescription? If you place people in an environment that conflicts with their internal needs and values, theywill have a hard time successfully performing in the job they have been hired to do. Don't assume thatpeople who can work effectively for a Milquetoast manager can also be effective for a direct, in-your-facemanager, because in most cases they can't.

Axiology can reduce risks inherent in hiring. It can aid in uncovering the motivations behind differentbehaviors, in sorting through the facades created by résumés, and in keeping the issues and matters clear asyou assess candidates, jobs, and your company.

Dr. Robert K. Smith, an industrial psychologist, is chairman of Kinsel Enterprises, a Dallas-based company that specializes inprofessional development, team building, and executive advisory services. For more information e-mail Smith at kinsel@dallas.net or check out www.zeroriskhr.com/authors.htm.

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