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.