local media insider

Testing for "hunters" and how employee assessments are making a comeback

Alisa Cromer
Mumbo jumbo or best practice?

With companies realigning job positions and growing sales forces in a sometimes highly competitive markets, the need to hire well has never been more important. But even top managers often have unspectacular success rates - there is usually more to the new hires than meets the eye. 

At a recent media conference, several successful media executives vouched so passionately for personality testing all employees, we decided to investigate the field for LMI members. There are about 500 companies who provide testing, so we are reviewing the top choices here. While most companies are interested strictly in identifying sales "hunters," a number are using a variety of additional services that go deeper into the organization.

Executives at Gatehouse Media, for example,  are sold on Culture Index, cindexinc.com, and have made it a standard practice companywide (see this overview of Gatehouse's people strategies).

"We were using it sporadically, but the places that were using it had great success" in terms of staff harmony, and revenues, " said Wally Burchett, Director of Revenue Development for the Midwest Division.

So Gatehouse began testing in more places  with immediate results, and eventually engaged the company to test employees in all markets.

"Why try to swim up stream. We know this works."

Culture Index is more of a true personality test, with consulting thrown in. Like most testing companies,  the service fulfills  three main objectives:

1. Improve communications through better understanding of the differences between people.

A simple eight minute test, similar to DISC, and others like it, identifies tendencies towards four main personality traits. A consultant then leads a session on how these types process information and communicate, educating management on how to work with eachother better in a team.

2. Identifying the best talent for the job
Media companies use this tests to identify "hunters" and sales people who are better for cold-calling, so they have a "ready made" profile. But the company can also "benchmark your stars" and test for similar profiles.

3. Re-alligning talent within the workplace
Testing all employees can help in repositioning existing talent to positions where they will do best as job descriptions continue to evolve. "Why try to force it?" Burchett says.

Culture Index charges an annual retainer that includes unlimited surveys and consultation once the customer signs up. The price ranges from $5000 a year to $20,000 a year depending on the number of employees.

Here's how Tony Traven, president, describes the value proposition:

"One good sales person in the right job will drive $50,000 in revenue. I only need one semi-success story in any business to pay for it. If I put three people in the right jobs I change the entire environment in a company."

A few success stories from  Burchett's experience at h include a newspaper in Pittsburgh, Louisiana, with a strong, "type A" publisher, who was not a sales manager type, but who had identified a potential sales manager, who was also "type A, driven, hard-charging."

Testing identified some red flag areas in which the two would be prone to clash, but the consultant advised the publisher to make the hire and on how to handle potential conflicts.

"If he had not done that, he wouldn't have lasted a month," Burchett says. Not only did the sales manager flourish, but he also eventually became a group publisher.

Testing has also been used in markets where there is a lot of internal squabbling, with harmonious results.

Traven has made the initial eight minute survey to assess personality styles available for free to companies who are LMI members Contact him at 310-683-3607.

We also have member recommendations for three other companies:

1. HR Chally, chally.com, 937.259.1200

Chally provides one test, matched against a variety of predictive profiles for various job positions.  Unlike personality profiling, which they consider "descriptive," Howard Stevens, president, says the tests are more accurately "predictive," based on actuarial science from thousands of results.  The process seems to rely less on the consultant's guidance, and more on the predictive results, especially for positions that require more sophisticated skill sets than sales.

Like Culture Index, they frequently assess the sales staff for hunters and farmers, but are especially adept at "restructuring" and "reallignment," ie the kinds of things large  media companies will be doing as they grow digital businesses. 

 Individual tests are $245 per year,  more for management, with discounts that go down to $210 for 25 to 50 tests, conducted via a testing portal. Chally is one of the largest testing companies in the U.S.

2. Strategic Leadership Group, Inc, Andover, Ma, (978)697-2186, (603)373-0039. 

A small company that also specializes in executive alignment, is Strategic Leadership Group, run by Claude Marchesskult, CEO.  He provides executive coaching and gets personally involved with each of the clients, which also has included Newsbank. As a differentiator, "a lot of what we do is facilitate boards and executive teams in developing strategies and a thinking group that is able to work collaboratively together." 

Assessments are taken online, and may include a battery of four to five tests, from emotional intelligence to the Disc behavioral style. Profiling sales people is a common usage. The company charges $100 a test,and $75 for bulk testing, plus Marchesskult's time which is billed at $3200 a day, or less if he trains via webinar. Newsbank's HR department, for example, is now fully trained to deploy and use and interpret  these tests.

3. Caliper (609) 524-1200
Finally, for testing sales people another company in the $200 per test range is Caliper.  Times Shamrock has used this company to test sales people in its alternatively newsweekly division while this author was publisher. One example included  a quiet, and seemingly non-assertive man, who worked in the paste-up department, putting together ads. He scored off the chart in areas such as "ego-drive," "resilience" and "persuasiveness" that are key predictors for sales success. The test allowed sales management to overcome a bias for more overt extroversion, and the rep went on to become a top producer and later sales manager.

But testing employees was mostly cut somewhere along the line. With the new models in play, it's time to bring testing back. The value proposition for testing is too great to ignore. The across-the-board results at Gatehouse are convincing, and smaller companies can learn from their broader experiment. Managers consistently complain about quality of sales candidates and turn over in new hires, but can't actually answer the question: Are we hiring the right people in the right positions?

Many thanks to Wally Burchett, Director of Revenue Development,  MidWestern Division at Gatehouse for sharing his expertise, and to Robert Granfeldt, Vice President of Digital Medai, Southern Community Newspapers, for sharing recommendations from his experience at Newsbank.

Alisa Cromer

The author, Alisa Cromer is publisher of a variety of online media, including LocalMediaInsider and  MediaExecsTech,  developed while on a fellowship with the Reynolds Journalism Institute and which has evolved into a leading marketing company for media technology start-ups. In 2017 she founded Worldstir.com, an online magazine,  to showcases perspectives from around the  world on new topic each month, translated from and to the top five languages in the world.

culture index, review, gatehouse media, cindexinc, wally burchette, tony trAVEN, hr chally, chally.com, howard stevens, claude marchesskult, strategic leadership group, newsbank, caliper, times shamrock, robert granfelt, southern community newspapers