Natural selection at work

The Life: Human resource experts discuss how the "Prism" profiling tool can help companies, and how it's making major inroads into the Emirates.

As the manager of a call centre, Hani Chanouha says he has encountered plenty of challenges in recruiting the right types of employees to speak with consumers about hotel loyalty cards. In the past, he used to post "vague" job openings, he says, which ultimately led to frustration when ill-suited workers wound up manning the phones.

Then he tried a different approach.

Mr Chanouha says he paid for a coaching session, as an investment into his personal development, that taught him how to tailor his advertisements more successfully. Rather than just announcing his company is hiring more outbound call centre agents, Mr Chanouha now specifies he is seeking result-oriented individuals who are aggressive on the phone. "It has helped me in targeting the profiles for the types of candidates that we want," he says.

Mr Chanouha's professional development session relied on a profiling instrument called Prism, which uses a job benchmarking feature to help organisations pinpoint key characteristics they are looking for in a new employee - and the ideal scores a candidate should amass to determine if they would be suitable for that particular role.

Prism also involves answering a 20-minute computer questionnaire that produces a report and maps out how a person tends to behave, which Mr Chanouha says he found useful in providing an insight into how he responds to different situations.

Although Prism is better known in other parts of the world, where the tool has been used by companies such as HSBC, Procter & Gamble, Siemens and Barclays Capital, it is now available in Arabic and making inroads into the Emirates. More than a dozen people in the UAE are already certified Prism practitioners, and this month the Abu Dhabi International Centre for Organisational Excellence (Adicoe) started offering a training programme to help keep them updated with their certification.

Prism relies on research from neuroscience and technology such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI) brain scans that have identified how certain behavioural preferences directly relate to work performance. In other words, proponents say, Prism can both guide employees through career development and then help select the positions to which they will be best suited. "The thing is they say that when people leave a company the reason is you can relate it right back to their initial interview in the HR process," says Annettee Burke, the director for executive education at Adicoe. "They're probably an excellent person, but wrong for that particular role and they're never going to be happy."

Nicola Ablett, one of the certified Prism practitioners in the UAE, recently conducted a presentation about the tool at a Tamakkan seminar for entrepreneurs in Abu Dhabi. She says Prism can be helpful for career counselling and training in both customer service and conflict resolution management. Ms Ablett says that because it is based on neuroscience, it goes further than commonly used psychometric tests, which typically include a battery of questions or statements with a graded answer for each. "Neuroscience has also shown us that people tend to be most motivated and successful when they use and are rewarded for using their own natural, preferred behaviour," she told the seminar. "In simple terms: the better the fit between the person and the job, the better the performance."