Crises affect the best run companies and organizations. They also spring-up with great frequency in less well run companies and organizations. Generally crises are the result of smart people doing dumb things. Sometimes they are the result of poor quality, greed, corruption or worse. Regardless of the reason for crises, it must be handled with the utmost care, speed and professionalism. Corporate India doesn’t require dummies at work. Companies have learnt the lesson for slowdown and realized the need for people who can handle shocks and manage teams in a crisis on the board. Let’s take an example, Sanjay Bose, a customer care executive who was called for the final recruitment interview at a telecom company, discovered this first-hand. He was asked to participate in role play exercises involving managing an angry customer and different types of colleagues. In psychological terms, what the company was doing was measure Bose’s emotional intelligence, or his responses to various situations. Post-slowdown, many corporate have begun to use psychometric and personality tests, case study sessions, simulation exercises and behavioral-intensive interviews to evaluate potential recruits at middle-and senior-management levels. “Companies are now looking at hiring talent with a long-term view, necessitating their looking at more than functional competence,” says Ernst & Young head (human capital advisory) NS Rajan. The ‘qualitative data’ these tests throw up, he explains, give a fair idea of how an employee handles himself, his confidence and interest levels, his ability to work with teams and his functioning during a crisis. Ernst & Young (E&Y) says nearly 40 of its Indian clients, including state-owned companies, use a behavioral evaluation process. To measure emotional intelligence, companies use specialized tests and modules developed by external agencies. MeritTrac, for instance, has an ‘interest inventory’ model that its clients in sectors like retail, banking, financial services and insurance have started to use.
The model is based on the principle that if an employee inherently likes something, he will probably enjoy his work and deliver his best. “Before the economy took a beating, there was a mad rush for recruits. But with the slowdown, several companies realized that recruits are not as versatile as they were expected to be. Hence, understanding their behavioral mechanism before recruitment helps,” says Madan Padaki, CEO at MeritTrac, an employee assessment firm. Auto major Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) has started using psychological instruments and behavioral interviews in its recruitment process. The company is also using them during senior employees’ appraisal.“A person with the right attitude can connect more with an organization’s culture and people,” says M&M executive VP (human capital — automotive & farm division) Augustin Prince. Advertising and communication major Rediffusion Y&R has been going a step further, using interviews to delve into the person’s past behavior. “In our industry, building relationships, collaborative working and conflict resolution skills are vital, and hence behavior matters,” says HR head Rupa Badrinath. Using specialised techniques is not restricted to senior-level recruitments. “We plan to use it even in campus recruitment since we have already experienced significant benefits of using such techniques,” says FMCG major Dabur’s HR head A Sudhakar. Most companies, however, are not taking the next logical step, which is to work on existing employees’ coping skills or adaptability. “In almost 80% of cases, companies are not taking corrective action. Unless this happens, they will achieve little,” says E&Y’s Rajan.