Turning the hiring world upside down

Turning the hiring world upside down Charles Pribyl, CEO of J-PMC Consulting

TOKYO —

When Charles Pribyl was an economics student at the University of Colorado, he wondered why people buy Ferraris instead of cheaper cars. In economic terms, it made no sense. All economic theories failed to explain why a $100,000 car sells, and without a discount. A psychology professor told him that when you buy a Ferrari, you’re paying for ego, and you can tell how big a person’s ego is by the price of their car. That’s when Pribyl decided to switch to psychology.

Today, Pribyl leads J-PMC and the PMI Consulting Group with a background in communibiology and psychology from the University of Colorado. He is a permanent board member of the Japan Society for the Research on Emotions, and was the 2010 Japan Representative for the International Applied Psychology Association. Before founding J-PMC in 2003, he was Managing Consultant at the Gallup Organization, specializing in HR and employee development. He received the highest client feedback scores of all consultants in Asia and was in ranked in the top 5% worldwide.

Pribyl led the first research team to ever map the brain of highly engaged consumers with an fMRI machine in a groundbreaking research project called “The Neuroanatomy of Brand Addiction.” He used the insights gained from that research to develop a profiling system that can choose high performers based on Emotional Intelligence (EQ). Pribyl’s research has been featured on the front page of the New York Times, and in the bestselling book “Human Sigma: Managing the Employee-Customer Encounter.” He has written two books in Japanese and authored more than 25 published research papers in the areas of communication and psychology, including EQ, emotion and motivation, communication competence, email and sms communication strategies, and psychometric employee hiring system effectiveness.

J-PMC’s clients include Fortune 500 clients in the areas of finance/insurance, airlines, heavy machinery, high tech manufacturing, multinational communication firms, pharmaceuticals, call centers and the food and beverage industry.

When you mention “brain research” to people for the first time, what sort of reaction do you get?

We don’t use that term a lot with clients, but in general, the first two questions I get are usually: “Are you going to look at my brain?” and “Can I see what my brain looks like?”

What are your main services?

We help clients find the right place and right job for each employee. We take a look at the top performers and find out psychologically what they are doing and how they think. We talk to the top salespeople who are already there and we interview or do a test on the low performers to compare the differences. 

We have worked with some of the biggest American, Japanese and worldwide conglomerates to develop custom hiring and training programs based on the results of our tests. So instead of forcing companies to use a pre-made training program (how to be more empathetic, for example), we use the results of each organization, determine the traits of success in that organization/division or team, and then use those traits to develop the structure and programs to recruit, develop and reward high potential employees.

Does any other company do this?

Not in Japan. We are unique. We have turned the hiring and training world upside down. Instead of relying on guessing what makes a great employee (10 years experience, cooperation, outside-the-box thinking for example), we have a team of dedicated Ivy League statisticians to analyze what is the best combination of traits for each division for success. 

In comparison to using a resume, interview and looking at experience which only predicts superior performance at 33%, our system can predict between 78% and 96% of the time. This makes our system a little bit scary for some, but companies who have used it rarely, if ever, quit using our systems. Our EQS is the only EQ test is the in the world to have been approved by an independent accrediting body. In our case, we applied and were approved by the Japanese Association of Psychological Testing.

Can you give us an example of how you rate applicants?

Our EQ test is designed so that each item has two questions selected randomly for each item, and the applicant can choose only one of the two. For example, a traditional test might ask you to rate the sentence “I enjoy working with others” on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being “Strongly Disagree” and 5 being “Strongly Agree.” Now if you are applying for a job, you’re going to answer in the middle or at the high end. So the answer to this question will tell you—the employer – nothing, and you’re going to have to try and dig out the candidate’s real attitude during the interview, which is basically wasting time.

We ask candidates to respond to statements like “Every day is a new day” and “Practice makes perfect.” Applicants can only choose one of the two and rate the strength they think that question applies to them, thus the results are high in predictive ability. Because we have already asked all the high performers how they think, we already know what answer is a high performer’s answer. Applicants don’t. This is useful because sometimes companies will have low productivity and they don’t know why. So we’ll find the high and low performers in each organization. For example, someone might be in accounting but that person might really be better in sales. 

Why is EQ important to a company?

EQ is your ability to feel, manage and read others’ emotions. Up to 96% of the time, we can predict your EQ from the results of the questionnaire. The reason why EQ is of critical importance in business is that when employees are faced with situations ranging from the basic to the complex, EQ is how employees make sense of situations. EQ as a basic emotional response system leads employees to respond in predictable ways. These “predictable” responses can be helpful to the situation if they are appropriate and improve the business, and detrimental if not. 

How is the test actually administered?

The test is an online test that can be taken on any computer with an Internet connection, and even works on an iPad tablet as well. Each client has a log-in page, so after an applicant takes the test, the client can log in and see the answers in real time. In comparison with other companies that take 2 to 3 days to return results on a candidate, we can provide results immediately, helping the client make faster decisions, and also helps candidates who don’t have to wait to find out if they will get the job.

Is top management receptive to your techniques?

Yes they are. After all, they don’t want to get average performers who might quit after six months. As companies hire fewer numbers, our service becomes more important because if they hire the wrong person, they’ll blow it. So they need to know which applicants will do better. But one thing we don’t do – and clients understand this—is to recommend that anyone gets fired. That is not what we are about. Ours is a productive tool.

How do you market your services?

I’ve never had to advertise. It’s mainly word of mouth. I’ve gotten calls from people who have heard what we have done, some from as far away as Malaysia. 

Are you techniques successful in different cultures?

I think so. We have used our methods with great success in South Korea and Singapore, for example. The key feelings and emotions don’t change among cultures. How a person displays them may be different. 

Tell us about your team.

We are 16 in total worldwide. We have seven consultants in Japan and four in America. They all have PhDs in psychology. I use my own tests to hire people. When we were opening an office in Los Angeles, I tested 180 and three passed. 

How do you keep up with the latest developments in your field?

I belong to nine professional associations and subscribe to all their magazines and related books. I also attend conferences.

How do you spend your time?

I am on site about 70% of my time, talking with CEOs or with the operations department. I work 7 days a week, but when I have spare time, I love to drive and travel. I used to practice Nihon-den Kenpo and earned a black belt. I started psychology as a hobby and then it became my profession. That’s why I enjoy my job so much.

  • 0

    jonobugs

    Sounds fascinating. I wonder if it would even be affordable for small companies though.

  • -1

    HowardStern

    He is a permanent board member of the Japan Society for the Research on Emotions

    No shortage of data to be sure. Yikes!!

  • 0

    oikawa

    Not in Japan. We are unique

    He knows how to sell to the Japanese!

  • 0

    Meta4

    While this EQ approach to managing human performance may be heavenly for J-PMC & PMI Consulting's bottom line, (+ music to the ears of many robotic Japanese manufacturing and mega clone Japanese banks), the devil is in the details!

    It is one thing to encourage societal welfare by giving EQ/IQ tests to airline pilots or astronauts (provided that those so tested actively and voluntarily seek those jobs) and quite another to give tests to all company employees in every industry for every job description and for every purported objective of "improving" company performance.

    There's also Catch 22s when job applicants are told they can opt out of a psychological test for hiring but if they do so they won't be considered!

    And then there is the sad case when someone is already in the job and is virtually forced to take the EQ test by his/her employer to assess, evaluate and/or "guide" employees into new lines of work or possibly into the gomi bin.

    Here are my 3 areas of concern: 1) is Mr. Pribyl's stated academic background in Communibiology studies, & theory sacrosanct?

    Is communibiology so well accepted to the gold standard of relativity theory or is his fundamental psychological framework that he has used to develop his intellectual property still up for grabs?

    2) is psychological testing of employees and prospective hires an unfettered company right or do "we" as employees have a right to the privacy our own mind (with all its contradictions and idiosyncracies) ? and

    3) are we to allow someone with Mr. Pribyl's employment history be in the position to control our working lives and fortunes?

    Taking # 3 first: I note that Mr. Pribyl was employed by the Gallup Organization. There is no way to know for sure but it is worth considering, whether the right wing political agenda of the Gallup has or had any influence on how Mr.Pribyl "frames" the world of work . This is a subtle point and sure to be challenged but I would want to have many hours of on the record interviews with Mr. Pribyl before I knowingly took any EQ test with is company name on it.

    Regarding point 1: Communibiology has its naysayers, although it appears that Mr. Pribyl's foundations in psychological training owes allegiance to it. For more on communibiology see Wikipedia.>>>> "Comminubiologists argue that people are born with specific temperaments based on their genetics." and this direct quote: "

    There exist many opponents to the communibiological paradigm. First are the “nurture” and social learning paradigm supporters that believe learning has more to do with communication behavior than genetics. Then there are others who believe the whole argument is pointless. Condit calls for a multi-causal model that would incorporate both nature and nurture. Condit also claims that the 80% genetic influence found by Beatty and McCroskey lacks solid evidence and a number in the 40-60% range is more likely, helping to support her view of incorporating both nature and nurture."[7]

    Finally, back to Point 2, aside from the Orwellian spirit inhabiting this kind of consulting we have to recognize that it is unlikely to be rolled back.

    So what can we do:

    1) recognize that our data is our data and we have a right to control it and even profit from it. Join a personal data bank and claim your right to your mind's data.

    2) Realize and recognize that employers will be benchmarking us psychologically against "best performers" in your category so do the research to find out what a best performer is (traits, personality, eq and so on) before applying for the position.

    3) If possible escape from dinosaur corporations altogether

    4) study Daniel Pink and find your intrinsic motivation. Take psychological tests yourself to know as much as possible before going up against these psychologists/HR mind gurus

    5) good luck if you are already in a company and forced to deal with "performance enhancement".

    .

  • 0

    kcjapan

    "We ask candidates to respond to statements like “Every day is a new day” (A) and “Practice makes perfect.” (B) Applicants can only choose one of the two and rate the strength (1-5?) they think that question applies to them, thus the results are high in predictive ability (78%+ matching). Because we have already asked all the high performers how they think, we already know what answer is a high performer’s answer."

    The method seems fairly simple. Choose A or B, as above, rate your strength of belief, 1-5? or 1-10? then compare high performer standards to applicant or employee test results.

    If uniformity is a valuable asset this design delivers just that. If adaptive behavior is valuable the claim is the same, 78% to 96% accuracy in predicting of emotional response (EQ).

    "EQ as a basic emotional response system leads employees to respond in predictable ways. (Up to 96% of the time) These “predictable” responses can be helpful to the situation if they are appropriate and improve the business, and detrimental if not."

    An improvement of actual job performance matching from a 33% (application & interview) to 78%(EQS) and the near perfect 98% should make EQS the gold standard for all evaluations in every field and activity.

    Mr. Pribyl is not asked what, if any, limitations may affect his findings and no evaluation is made of the hiring organization's ability to train and manage these now benchmarked personalities. No predictive component is presented for those who may improve performance by experience.

    One concern may be the creation of a non-adaptive organization in that numerical matching gains superiority to initiative, experiment and inspiration; qualities that supposedly humans are noted for even as little evidence exists to prove this claim.

    Testing accuracy is the natural goal of all scientific study. Implementation of valuable assets is a daily challenge humans consistently struggle with.

  • 0

    kcjapan

    comment: Meta4 Nov. 20, 2012 - 11:59AM JST

    Maybe you are already stating this concern; Is EQS a closed system of evaluation, the inner workings and statistical analysis is in a 'black box', or is the design available for independent evaluation?

    The black box design makes your suggestion for the Orwellian and politically motivated concerns more compelling. It is also possible that a company may not want certain elements and trouble makers. Sorting out independent or non-conformist traits may be desirable.

  • 0

    as_the_crow_flies

    Meta4 - thank you for your compelling and incisive critique of this. Whenever I start to read articles that speak glowingly of these kind of "consultants", my toes instinctively curl. You've put your finger on this. To me it smacks of old-school behaviourism in new bottles. With the added kicker of evading responsibility for the logical outcome of these tests - using them to weed out undesirables, sorry, poor performers, and throw them on the scrapheap.

  • 0

    johnnyG

    In spite of the criticism in other comments, I do think what he's offering has at least reasonable validity. Companies use meyers-briggs all the time, and this seems to be an extension of that.

    So, Chuck, good luck!

  • -1

    statsguy

    As a statitician, I am aftraid many of you do not really understand the process. Study up: Plomin and Daniels twin and genetic studies, and volumes of peer-reviewed articles support the methodology Pribyl uses. Read his article again carefully. (johnnyG,and jonobugs certainly get it.)

    @Meta4:
    You may have been here too long, are unemployed as it seems you have a chip on your shoulder, and do not really understand what Pribyl is saying. You also have a poor understanding of genetics, and I bet your EQ is low too.

    Seems like Pribyl has a successful business helping predict superior performers 70% to 90% of the time compared with a resume at 30%. When I open a business or need help, I am calling Pribyl. If he can get me 7 or 9 of 10 winners instead of 3 in 10, it makes sense to use his system!

    [The purpose is to] guide" employees into new lines of work or possibly into the gomi bin." You are not reading carefully again. If you read carefully, Pribyl said "But one thing we don't do -- and clients understand this-- is to recommend that anyone gets fired. That is not what we are about. *Ours is a productive tool." Pribyl also seems to be helping people's lives: "someone might be in accounting but that person might really be better in sales. " *People are more productive when they can do a job effectively and enjoy it. Sounds like Pribyl is trying to help people enjoy a more happy and productive career.

    @KCJapan: I like this: An improvement of actual job performance matching from a 33% (application & interview) to 78% to a the near perfect 98% should make EQS the gold standard for all evaluations in every field and activity.

    asthecrow_flies: It is clear you did not read carefully either. Most of the negative comments are from people who have not read the article and are shooting from the hip. You wrote: To me it smacks of old-school behaviourism in new bottles. With the added kicker of evading responsibility for the logical outcome of these tests - using them to weed out undesirables, sorry, poor performers, and throw them on the scrapheap. No where has Pribyl suggested weedin [sic] out undesirables, sorry, poor performers, and throw them on the scrapheap. In fact, Pribyl recommends that every person in a company has a chance to do what they do well. As a statitican, I have never heard any credible source link EQ link to old-school behaviourism.
    And, if you were a company owner, I assume you will be hiring "undesirables, sorry, poor performers." Good luck in making a profit, or even a sale.

  • 0

    warnerbro

    This is an interesting article on what seems to be an innovative approach. New ideas frequently attract objections but firms should by all means be open to them where and when they might gain an advantage. This method deserves further attention.

    "Because we have already asked all the high performers how they think, we already know what answer is a high performer’s answer. Applicants don’t."

    My question would be with what criteria and by whom is "high performer" defined? Further, has this firm actually devised a means to ask "all of the high performers" how they think? Or might we assume it has instead gained data from a statistically significant sample of people defined by someone's criteria (or it's own) as high performers in certain fields of employment?

    I would also advise "statsguy" that his argument might elicit greater support were he correctly to spell the name of his profession, statistician.

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