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Salesforce.com | How to Use the Enneagram in Hiring Without Using a Candidate’s Enneatype

I am always the first and the last Enneagram teacher and business consultant to be adamant about not using the Enneagram as the way (or one of the ways) to hire candidates for jobs. The reason – as Catherine Bell so aptly describes in the blog prior to this one – is simply that enneaytpe is not a predictor of job success and/or associated with particular skills. In addition, using a candidate’s enneagram style as a hiring tool can create cloning, and the research is very clear that diverse teams (diversity in all ways) are much more productive in the medium and long run than non-diverse teams. In the very short run, non-diverse teams gel faster and work better, but how many teams in organizations are only for the short run?

But amazingly, I just completed a hiring process project where we did use the Enneagram (but not enneatype per se), and it was sensational. With the permission of my client (much needed, because consultations are always confidential unless permission is granted), here is what we did:

Client | Salesforce.com, based in San Francisco, premier provider of “cloud” technology, and recipient of numerous awards, including #1 Most Innovative Company 2012 Forbes | #1 Most Innovative Company 2012 Insead (a major European business school) | #27 World’s Best Places to Work 2012 Fortune.

Project Purpose | To hire up to 20 new hires (preferably hired in team configurations); hired candidates would be (1) highly technically competent; (2) emotionally/socially intelligent and committed to their own development; (3) highly functional on a team; and (4) could produce and present company-related technical solutions in a rapid time period.

How we used the Enneagram, while maintaining the integrity of the system
This project could appropriately be titled “The Enneagram Meets the Assessment Center,” but in fact it is called “Dream Teams,” so named because candidates were able to select their own “dream teams” for the final technical product solutions, and Salesforce was attempting to hire “dream teams” that could be up and running quickly.

In Assessment Centers, candidates participate in activities that are replicas or simulations of the types of situations that would be required of them should they be hired. Candidates are then observed by trained “assessors” as they participate in these simulated activities, and the top candidate or candidates are then hired. The challenge, however, is for the hiring organization to define their hiring criteria (what they actually want to observe) and then to develop activities in which these traits, skills, and abilities can be observed. In the case of Salesforce, we came up with these areas: development, teaming, technical competency, and technical solutions. In each case, these four areas were further defined in behavioral terms that could be readily observed.

While the ways in which technical competency, technical solutions, and teaming were measured was extremely important, these will be described in future case studies, including a “white paper” that Deloitte is planning to publish, along with metrics of success.

For the purpose of this blog, I want to describe how we used, as well as how we didn’t use, the Enneagram. There were three main uses:

Use 1 | Candidate interest in self-development
We taught the Enneagram using introductory slides, Enneagram Typing Cards (a rank ordering of nine cards), the Enneagram Workbook (that has more detailed information about each type), and seven people (four outside consultants and three Salesforce employees who already knew the Enneagram well) to help answer participant questions about type. With 42 participants, each of the seven  “Enneagram guides” assisted about six people.

The result was that (surprisingly) almost all candidates were able to identify their type accurately in a relatively short period of time, but even more, it was obvious from candidate comments and observed level of engagement with the process who was interested and who was not. There were three to four people not interested; two left the Assessment Day (which was fine; they received a $25 Starbucks gift card for doing so), and two others eventually became big Enneagram advocates by the day’s end.

It is important to add that it wasn’t the candidate’s opinion of the Enneagram that mattered, it was their attitude toward self-development. The key leader had made a case early on in the Assessment Day for the importance of self-development and its relationship to the organization’s success, with the Enneagram being only one of many vehicles for self-development. In addition, I told all candidates multiple times that their Enneagram type was not going to be a factor in selection, just the level to which they engaged in self-development. Essentially, I said this: Because there is no correlation between Enneagram type and skills, it would be impossible to use for selection.

Use 2 | Candidate self-awareness and willingness to be self-disclosing
During the typing process, “Enneagram guides” – who were also assessors – were able to discern self-aware candidates from those who were not. Self-aware did not mean that they found their type quickly or even accurately; it meant that they were self-reflective and could discern between whether they are more like this or like that (this relates to questions that helped candidates discern between two or more types).

After the typing process, participants went into type group discussions and were provided with this discussion question: How are you really easy to work with on teams and how can you be challenging for others? These type group discussions were observed by assessors to note whether or not candidates were willing to be self-reflective and self-disclosing with others.

Use 3 | Selecting out low-functioning individuals and identifying the high-functioning ones
The assessor’s task was to note the very high and the very low potential hires in terms of engagement with self development, self-awareness and self-disclosure. Our primary interest was really in the low-functioning candidates who, even if technically competent, could create havoc wherever they went. Low-functioning behavior may not be apparent during traditional job interviews due to “interviewing good behavior,” but it will in a series of Assessment Center activities that require engagement with others under moderate stress conditions. And it did!

But the Enneagram was very helpful in discerning whether a person’s behavior was actually low-functioning, even throughout the rest of the day, which involved intensive team work via multiple activities. For example, there was a Five (accurately self-typed) who was very quiet most of the time, but highly responsive (and engendered respect from his teammates) when solicited. To a non-Five who didn’t know the Enneagram, this could have appeared to be low-functioning, non-participating behavior. But knowing the Enneagram, it was behavior highly consistent with a Five, especially a more introverted Five. And when the assessors recognized that this candidate had spent seven hours in high engagement activities from which there was no escape and was likely severely depleted, the perception of his engagement went from questionable to admirable.

This project is still in progress, but here are some early results. Of the 42 candidates, 60% were made offers. They are figuring out their cost-per-hire using a traditional hiring method, but in general (not Salesforce specific), it is often $100,000+ for a strong technical person. That would be $2.5 million+ to hire these 25 candidates; the Assessment Day (and all its planning and personnel costs) was a fraction of that. In addition, hiring managers saw candidates in action, received input from their peers, and the 15+ assessors involved in the event were thrilled about how well they teamed together. It was, in its own way, a team building event for the leaders of Salesforce!

There are plans in the works to replicate this multiple times, and each time, it will include process improvements and the cost of doing it will decrease! Could this have been done without the Enneagram? Of course! But with the same success? Absolutely not!

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Bruce Halliday
11 years ago

Love those Enneagram typing cards! Thank you

11 years ago

This is a great application Ginger, very exciting. While using the Enneagram to help individuals and existing teams overcome the ties that hold them back from doing their best work is awesome work, this takes the application to a whole new, even more proactive level. Congratulations, can’t wait to see more!

Christine West
Christine West
4 years ago

Fascinating! I think you are really on to something here. I would love to see some long term stats on the candidates hired. What a great project!


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