Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Selection in the TQM Environment: What's Needed and How Do We Know Who's Got It?

Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Selection in the TQM Environment: What's Needed and How Do We Know Who's Got It?

Article excerpt

Allow me to begin with a healthy dose of skepticism. In the 17 years in which I have had the privilege to function as an industrial/organizational psychologist, I have seen a variety of "movements" come (and go) - all of which were designed to help organizations produce goods and services more effectively and efficiently. These initiatives have garnered a wide variety of labels employee involvement, quality circles, and total quality management (TQM). A more recent label is re-engineering.

Each has its different emphasis, methodologies, and measurement strategies. All are seeking to accomplish the same thing. All are based on a number of fundamental premises:

* The "old ways" of doing business need to be changed;

* These changes will require different behaviors and skills of all individuals in the workplace, both individual contributors and supervisors\managers;

* Some of our fundamental assumptions about workplace relationships, customers, processes, etc. need to be critically examined and, perhaps, altered;

* While many of the skills and behaviors can be taught, supported, and reinforced with an existing workforce, it is likely that selection decisions will continue to be made.

This paper will examine some theory and practice regarding the selection of individuals in a "TQM environment." The issue will be examined with two groups of individuals - individual contributors and supervisors/managers - and addressed from the perspectives of required competencies and what selection methodologies might measure these competencies. The premise here is that performance in a TQM environment (or any other environment) is a function of both selection and "care and feeding." The better job we do in selection, the more likely it is that we will achieve desired outcomes. The question now becomes, "what skills are required and how do we know if someone has them?" So whether or not you share my skepticism, it's hard to argue that more capable employees will help our organizations and that better selection is a good place to start in our quest for better individual and organizational performance.

The Conceptual Shifts

The first major change for selection assessment in a TQM environment is conceptual. Three major conceptual leaps are required:

* What is required for success;

* Who are the stakeholders in a hiring decision;

* Only some of what's important can be learned.

The first conceptual shift enlarges the requirements of any position, both individual contributor and supervisor\manager. A TQM environment simply requires more of all its employees. Having sufficient technical skills in one's discipline no longer equips one with sufficient capability to contribute. Supervisors and managers must, in addition to their usual functions, take on a whole new set of responsibilities designed to promote culture change and a more innovative, agile, and responsive organization.

In order to accomplish this, we need to decrease our overwhelming focus on technical skills as the primary, and sometimes sole, assessment criteria. Possessing sufficient technical skills, while certainly desirable and in many cases critical, simply is not enough. Many of our selection assessment procedures, however, have not been sufficiently refocused to measure the additional requirements. Thus, the adage "if you don't know what you're looking for, you're not likely to find it" applies here.

One of the major problems, particularly in a merit system environment, is that many of the TQM skills are "soft," as opposed to more objective technical skill measurements. Many of our assessment systems are set up to measure competence by training and experience ratings or objective scores on measures of relevant job knowledge. While these may be necessary, they clearly are insufficient to assess additional requirements.

The second conceptual shift involves examining our premises regarding power, input, and decision making. …

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