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Testing for Team Engagement

Tuesday, June 16, 2009
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At many companies, cutbacks have led to fewer people doing the same amount of work -- so employees are increasingly working in teams to collaborate and share resources. Can pre-employment assessments identify applicants who have that quality? Gallup thinks so.

The Washington-based polling and consulting firm recently studied thousands of teams at 10 companies and found that certain job applicants, once hired, can raise the engagement levels of their eventual team members.

According to Jim Harter, Gallup's chief scientist for workplace management, those job applicants had these four traits:

* "Mobilization:" The ability to mobilize people with decisiveness and genuine inclusiveness. "They're forceful but not pushy," says Harter. "Their approach is, 'Let's do this together.' "

* "Clarity:" They reduce team members' uncertainty by helping make clear the goal of the team and of each team member. Both managers and co-workers can achieve this on a team.

* "Relationship:" They are more likely to help team members get things done, because their relationship with them is important. "When people feel they won't be let down, and other people have their back, they are more likely to become engaged," says Harter.

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* "Affirmation:" These are people who have an optimism and enthusiasm that give others a positive attitude.

Gallup identified these traits by first examining the individual employee-engagement scores of each team member and figuring the average for each team. The next step was to see how that average went up or down when various team members were removed from the equation.

Finally, Gallup looked at the pre-employment assessments of those who had the most positive impact on their teams, to see what they had in common. The four abilities listed above were embedded in the assessment questions, and the Gallup study was able to pull them out, says Harter.

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