"Getting information about a candidate’s knowledge is generally no problem. Diplomas provide insights into that among other matters. But we also want to know a bit more about someone’s personality. A candidate can be very competent but must be able to collaborate with a team."
Up till four years ago Cauberg, who is also responsible for HR at Nunhems in the Netherlands, would send an applicant from the US or from another country to a local office for assessment. ‘That is expensive and moreover, it took days before you got your hands on the report. That’s why we went looking for a method that could be used worldwide and which is faster and cheaper.’
In his search, Cauberg ran into TMA and has been using this assessment since then for the recruitment of scientists and other employees for the R&D division of Nunhems where 1,700 people work worldwide, of which there are 500 in the Netherlands.
"We ask the two or three candidates who remain after the first round, to fill in the TMA questionnaire online," indicates Cauberg. "The advantage is that it can be done rapidly and we can have a report in our hands within a very short time. During the second interview with the applicant, we use that report. It gives sufficient starting points for questions concerning the candidate’s personality." According to Cauberg, the candidates recognize themselves to a large extent in the report.
Cauberg has the impression that TMA reports are easy to use for this sort of purpose. He regards the price/quality ratio as more in balance than the traditional descriptions given after an assessment.
"With this instrument, we are able to test more applicants with respect to their personality. TMA reports are more standardized than assessment findings, but we are able to make a good use of them in application procedures. If it is necessary, we can always have an assessment done for the more senior job positions," notes the HR manager.
Other divisions of Nunhems, which is part of Bayer Bioscience, are also using TMA more and more often. "I have told HR managers from other divisions about my experiences with TMA. They found it interesting and nowadays they are using it." The other divisions do not need to do that. Nunhems does not prescribe which instruments the HR departments have to use. TMA method sells itself apparently, according to Cauberg.
Because Nunhems is active in a rapidly growing sector, the assessment is being used frequently. "The demand for food and therefore for vegetable seeds is growing enormously because the world population is increasing and the level of prosperity in such countries as China and India is rising," comments the HR manager. Annually Nunhems is taking on about 170 people. In part, this is staff expansion and in part replacement.
In addition to the TMA, Nunhems uses the 360-degree feedback. "This method is not particularly intended for assessing our managers. We want to help them in their development. Insight into how your behavior comes across is a very important aspect of this,’ comments Cauberg. ‘For the company, it is important that good managers stimulate their employees to perform better."
With the 360-degrees method, approximately ten people have to answer some questions about a manager. The people answering the questions can be employees of the team or other managers from other teams that collaborate a lot with the person concerned. The questions ask about values that Bayer regards as important, such as Leadership, Integrity, Flexibility, and Efficiency (LIFE). For each subject, five questions are asked.
"At first. some managers were uncomfortable with the 360-degree method," Cauberg recalls. ‘The introduction stands or falls without good communication. Since the feedback method has been applied, the responses have been positive.’ The findings from the 360-degrees method are used when a personal development plan is drawn up (PDP). "Managers have to write it themselves and present the plan to their superior. We as HR managers help the employee to formulate the goals as concretely as possible," says Cauberg.
As an example, Cauberg gives a passive attitude of certain members of the management team at meetings. "When it turns out that someone is introverted, he gets the advice to ask at least three questions at each meeting. That is a clear goal. If you simply say that someone has to adopt a more positive attitude, it’s much more difficult to put that into action."
Another example from the world of researchers is the way how leadership is applied. "Leadership coaching is still for some people at a very early stage. Added to that, scientists are used to giving orders and trusting the qualities of their colleagues. If there is no result at the agreed moment, they just ask why the task is not completed. It’s much better to inform others in between how the process is going and offer help," says Cauberg.
From the 360-degree method, it appears that giving leadership coaching requires the attention of many managers. "Because nearly everyone has something to learn in this field, we are soon going to be doing role plays with managers about providing leadership coaching." Cauberg’s role in the whole process of the 360-degrees feedback is mainly to keep the process going. "I try to keep people motivated when tackling their points for development. I regularly ask them about their progress on the action points from their PDP."