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Ethical Challenges | The Enneagram’s Use in Organizations | Hiring

In this second blog, the controversial use of the Enneagram in organizations – that is, hiring – is covered. It is anther example of the importance of how something is used, not whether or not it is used.

Why we shouldn’t use the Enneagram in hiring | First, there is no correlation between skills and enneagram type. Because people should be hired for the skills they possess relevant to the job, there is no place for the Enneagram. Second, while certain organizations or functions may have more of one type than the others, this doesn’t necessarily make people of this type better at the job. It can actually be cloning, where like draws like, with the benefit of comfort drawn from similarity but the liability of uniform thinking and lack of innovation and possibility. Third, using type as a basis for hiring can create two problems for the organization. A low functioning person of any type can cause organizational havoc, suck energy from a team and time from a manager, and be a source of dysfunction on teams. In addition, there is a legal issue. To hire or not hire a person based on type can easily be grounds for a lawsuit. No one needs this!

How we can use the Enneagram in hiring | In a prior blog, I’ve mentioned an innovative hiring process we use at Salesforce that uses the Enneagram. Salesforce is growing and expanding at enormous rates and with this comes a demand to hire great talent very quickly who can be up and running on high functioning teams almost immediately. With this challenge in mind, we created a process that has numbers of candidates for multiple job openings (the last event had almost 100 candidates) that allows us to observe team behavior, technical problem solving skills, and yes, uses the Enneagram. In this approach, it is not type we are considering, for all the reasons mentioned above. It is candidate engagement with their own development and then their self-mastery capabilities that can be observed when they learn the Enneagram, engage in self-typing, and participate in type group discussions.

In this use of the Enneagram, the consultants (all Enneagram professionals who must also have large group facilitation skills) do not make selections for hire. To do so would be an ethical misuse of our capabilities since we can be wrong about type and self-mastery and certainly are not equipped to assess technical skills. What we do is very different. We facilitate the day-long process through which organizational staff whom we trained in observation skills assess candidates all day long. We do act as secondary observers, providing a double check for team dynamics behavior and interpersonal skills when needed.

In the evening, we facilitate a process by which the organizational staff (hiring managers, internal recruiters, senior managers, and highly skilled technical staff) do the observations of what candidates do in real time, not what they say they can do in interviews or what interviewers might infer about candidate capability through the traditional interviewing process. We never suggest that the organization should or should not hire anyone, provide Enneagram context when asked (for example, we might get asked what it would take to get an apparently low functioning but highly technically competent candidate to increase his or her self-mastery).

What have been the results? Thus far, this process has helped the organization consider and hire candidates they may have overlooked in a traditional hiring process, simply because this person performed extraordinarily well in all activities throughout the day. It has also assisted the hiring managers to not hire candidates who might have looked quite viable through interviewing, but seen all day by organizational personnel exhibit personal and interpersonal behaviors that indicate problems are likely to occur. Salesforce, like many contemporary organizations, is fast-paced, team-based, and requires employees with extremely strong technical skills and equally strong interpersonal and team skills. The one-day hiring process represents a very close approximation to real-time work, and this is a far better predictor of success than the traditional hiring process, which reflects how candidates want to present themselves, not how they actually are. In addition, some candidates are better interviewers than others, and this process levels the playing field.

Thus far, Salesforce has been more than pleased with the results of this process, although we are learning and making process improvements or customizing it as we go. They report that not only have they met their hiring goals (and it appears at a far lower hiring cost than the traditional process), but those hired display as one senior manager described it, “more mojo.” This means they are excited and engaged from the start, team together beautifully, and are excellent hires in every way observed to this point. It is too early to know the retention rates using this process as compared to alternative methods, but this will be known over time. Salesforce is working with Deloitte Touche to create a white paper on the metrics and results of this innovative hiring process. It may be obvious, but this process is best used when there are multiple job openings to fill.

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