Trainee Consultant Position

Background

This case study was undertaken in order to help determine the characteristics that are related to good performance for at one the 'big four' accounting and management consulting firms for the positions of trainee consultant. A job analysis was undertaken in cooperation with the human resource department, Harrison Assessments' consultants and individuals who are currently in that position. The job analysis provided the following results:

The following traits were determined to be essential traits (in order of importance):

Takes Initiative (the tendency to take initiative)

Analytical (the enjoyment of analytical tasks)

Wants Challenge (being motivated by a challenge)

Enthusiastic (being enthusiastic about one's goals

Self-Improving (having the desire to improve oneself)

The following traits were determined to be very important, but not as important as the above traits (in order of importance):

Warmth/Empathy (the tendency to express warmth or empathy)

Helpful (the tendency to be helpful)

Tolerance of bluntness (the tolerance of other people who are blunt)

Pressure Tolerance (tolerance of the pressure of deadlines)

Team oriented (a desire to work as part of a team)

Diplomatic (the tendency to be tactful)

The following traits were determined to interfere with performance:

Being authoritarian (wanting to make decisions without collaborating with others)

Defensive (having the attitude I'm OK and I don't need to improve)

Being pessimistic (a lack of optimism)

Being blindly optimistic (being optimistic without looking at the 'downside')

Being blunt (being frank but lacking tactfulness)

Being impulsive (taking risks without sufficient analysis)

Being dogmatic (being self-certain and not reflecting on different viewpoints)

Being harsh (enforcing rules without sufficient warmth or empathy)

A lack of interest in business or finance

A lack of interest in computers

Being imprecise

Having a lack of self-acceptance

Having difficulty to manage stress

Having the tendency to be uncollaborative in decision-making

Having the tendency to have difficulty handling conflict

A lack of creativity or lack of thinking of new ways to do things

Being inflexible or having difficulty adapting to new circumstances

A tendency to prefer working at a slow pace

Twenty-eight current employees completed the Harrison Assessments' questionnaire. Performance ratings were then provided for each of those employees. All the employees in the sample were rated according to their job performance by supervisors using the performance rating model below.

A
Excellent to Best
90%
B1
Very Good
85%
B2
Good
80%
B
Good to very good
84%

(These employees had not been in the job as long and thus the rating was not as clear. It was rated separately in order to provide and opportunity for a separate analysis.)

C
Under performance
70%

Grades were supplied by the human resource department in cooperation with the supervisors. The percentages were designated by the Harrison Assessments' consultants in order to reflect the score system in the Harrison Assessments' system.

This case study compares the performance of the employees with the results of the Harrison Assessments' template. The profiles of the employees were analyzed in relationship to performance in order to determine the factors that relate to success. The previous job analysis was used as a guideline for this performance analysis, however, each of 130 traits in the Harrison Assessments' system was analyzed in relationship to performance.

The Harrison Assessments' template methodology

The template methodology formulates the traits that correlate with success for a particular position into 'traits to have' as well as 'traits to avoid'. The template is then used to measure future applicants and serve as a developmental guide for current employees. The template is shown by a table that indicates how a group of people (current employees in this case) score against each of the required traits. The table includes a 'bottom line' job suitability score between zero and one hundred which represents the individual's level of 'total suitability' for a particular position. (It can also be shown as a graph indicating how well an individual person meets each of the job requirements.) A score of one hundred represents a person who is completely suitable for that position. Assuming the person is eligible for a position (has the education, experience and technical skills), a suitability score of 75 or greater represents a person who has a good probability of performing effectively in that position. A score of 74 or less represents a person who is considered to be unlikely to perform well in that position.

Accuracy level of results

The results showed a high predictive accuracy and a strong correlation between the suitability score and the actual job performance. This indicates that the template includes a fairly comprehensive set of traits related to suitability for this position.

On average, the suitability score was within 4 points of the performance score and 87% of the suitability scores were within 6 points of the performance score. This is considered to be very accurate.

The result of the research analysis had many similarities to the original job analysis. Most of the traits that were thought to be related to success were shown to have a correlation. However, some of the traits were given different weightings in order to adjust the importance levels of different amounts of those traits. The column on the left indicates the original analysis and the column on the right indicates the research analysis.

Essential traits (in order of importance):

Original job analysis
Research analysis
Takes Initiative
Takes Initiative
Analytical
Analytical
Wants Challenge
Wants Challenge
Enthusiastic
Enthusiastic
Self-Improving
 

Comments:

The research sample showed that the desire to improve oneself was only a factor if such a desire was significantly lacking. Thus, this trait was removed from this category and included in the traits to avoid category.

Very important traits (in order of importance):

Original job analysis
Research analysis
Warmth/Empathy
Warmth/Empathy
Helpful
Helpful
Tolerance of bluntness
Authoritative (taking responsibility for decisions)
Pressure Tolerance
 
Team oriented
 
Diplomatic
Diplomatic

Comments:

The research sample showed that a tolerance of other people who are blunt was only a factor if the person significantly lacked such tolerance. Thus, this trait was included in the traits to avoid. It is also worth noting that although Helpful was included in the original analysis and showed a relationship with success, a lack of helpfulness was particularly an interference with success and thus low scores in Helpfulness were particularly weighted with negative points).

There was no correlation determined with the Tolerance of Pressure and thus it was not included in the template.

The research sample showed that the desire to work as part of a team was only a factor if the person significantly lacked such a desire. Thus, this trait was included in the traits to avoid. However it is worth noting that traits such as Warmth or Helpfulness play a stronger role in one's team effectiveness than the desire to work in a team. Thus, the researched template is emphasizing the ability to work in a team rather than merely the desire to work in a team.

Traits that interfere with performance:

Original job analysis
Research analysis
Being authoritarian
 
Being blindly optimistic
 
Defensive
Defensive
Being pessimistic
(lower in importance than thought - see below)
Being blindly optimistic
(higher in importance than thought - see above)
Being blunt
Being blunt
Being impulsive
Being impulsive
Being dogmatic
Being dogmatic
Being harsh
Being harsh
Self-Improving(M)
 
A lack of interest in business or finance
A lack of interest in business or finance
A lack of assertiveness
 
A lack of desire to influence others
 
 
 
 
Being inflexible (higher in importance than thought)
A lack of interest in computers
 
Being imprecise
(lower in importance than thought - see below)
Having a lack of self-acceptance
(lower in importance than thought - see below)
Having difficulty managing stress
 
Being uncollaborative in decision-making
 
Having difficulty handling conflict
Having difficulty handling conflict
Being imprecise (moved from above)
 
A lack of tolerance of bluntness (from essential)
 
A lack of creativity
 
Being inflexible
(A little more important than thought -see above)
Preferring a slow pace
 
Being pessimistic (moved from above)
 
A lack of desire to work in teams (from very important)
 
Having a lack of self-acceptance
 

Comments:

Although many of the traits from the original job analysis proved to have a relationship to performance, subtle differences were noted in the research sample that would allow this template to be more accurate than the original analysis. The traits with a '*' in the researched analysis column indicate traits that correlated with lower performance. These traits were not a part of the original job analysis. These traits include Assertiveness, the desire to influence others and Self-Acceptance. Some traits were thought to be essential or very important, but were proven to show only a negative relationship to performance if the trait was significantly lacking. Thus, these traits were moved to the 'Traits that interfere with performance' category. These traits include: Self-Improving, the lack of tolerance of bluntness, and the lack of desire to work in teams. Some traits from the original job analysis did not show an interference with performance when the sample was analyzed and thus were removed from the template. These traits include: Authoritarian, difficulty managing stress, a lack of interest in computers, uncollaborative, a lack of creativity and preferring a slow pace.

Next Steps

This template is now a relatively accurate reflection of the traits required for success for this position. It can be used to screen new employees using the Harrison Assessments' software. Such screening would provide a wealth of information about the individual in relationship to this position before hiring. In addition, it would provide detailed and invaluable information related to how an individual might develop in order to perform more effectively in this position. Therefore it is recommended that this template be used to screen new candidates for this position.

After a larger sample is obtained (an additional 70 profiles), I recommend repeating this study by analyzing the profiles of those additional employees in relationship to their performance. This will further refine the template and provide a greater level of accuracy in the future.