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Behavioral Competencies   | 4 Min Read

5 Experts Weigh On the Top Behavioral Competencies to Succeed At Work

Written By Harsh Tripathy

When hiring people for your organization, hiring managers and HR professionals give due consideration to their domain skills and seal the offer, only to watch them being part of conflicts or worse, part ways. Ever wondered what goes wrong in your hiring decisions, even after assessing the candidate against the core skills to succeed in the role? What can you do differently? Given the fact that the hires will be working with teams and sometimes as individual contributors, certain behavioral competencies also come into play that defines how the candidate is going to fare as an individual contributor and a team player, behavior they exhibit is going to play an instrumental role in deciding how your organization is going to perform on a whole. While people with the right behavioral competencies can take your organization to new heights, the ones lacking can be potential derailers for your organization. We asked experts and here’s their take on the most crucial behavioral competencies without which no organization can do.

1. Active Listening

As the Dalai Lama says, “When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.” Active listening is the cornerstone for any organization, and considering the competency is quite essential to maintain a healthy workplace. A person who isn’t a great listener would also face difficulties in collaboration with peers, is most likely to shy away from teamwork and indulge in conflicts. On top of that, such candidates are also bad at handling constructive feedback and go defensive in no time. So, HR professionals can take a cue from the interview session, and if a candidate consistently cuts you off and argues not to listen at all, it’s certainly a red flag. Reflecting the importance of listening at the workplace, Armand Cucciniello, Vice President, at Blue Force Communications” says that:

“I cannot stress how important this when I look for high-performing candidates. All other traits listed below flow from this one. If an employee is not an active listener, the other traits don't matter. An employee’s ability to discern what clients, supervisors, and senior leaders mean when they speak and give direction or guidance depends on active listening. “

2. Empathy

If you have ever dialed customer care, you know how frustrating it is to wait for a resolution even after describing the problem in detail. In a client facing roles such as customer service and consulting, a candidate can’t survive without empathy. And empathy means feeling the gravity of the problem as your customer does and not only saying, “I understand your concern.” When hiring for roles where a candidate has to handle a lot of agitated customers, having empathy is going to be the armor. Even if it’s not a client facing role, effective collaboration at the workplace also requires a great deal of empathy. It’s essential to step into the other person's’ shoes and understand what challenges they face and what all keeps them from achieving their potential if you are to help them genuinely. Ryan Coll, Founder at TidyCasa, suggests a surefire question to spot an empathetic candidate. Here it is:

Question: Before the interview, we pull a few real customer requests. Have them do some homework by writing a reply to the email. The email is a real customer complaint without an obvious yes or no answer.

Actual Intent to Ask: We want to know if they empathize with the upset customer.

Expected  Answer: Empathizing could be as simple as saying I totally understand what you're going through. I'd be disappointed too. This simple bit of text is the first step in turning an upset customer around. It sounds easy, but we weed out about 90% of applicants with this test. The people that make it through have consistently been great customer service experts.

3. Grit

No workplace is immune to rainy days and requires perseverance and an indomitable spirit to hold the ground and deliver the optimum potential. It’s about sticking to the plan and the goal, no matter how much adverse the situation gets. Therefore, every HR must factor Grit as an essential ingredient when it comes to assessing the resilience of an individual. Any person who possesses grit will be able to handle disappointments with ease and won’t break down under unfavorable circumstances at work. You can also call them the “sailors” of the “storm.” Not only for tough times, grit is also required to show up every day at work and stay on track without losing motivation. Ryan Knoll, the founder at Tidycasa, suggests that “It's hard to get up every day and go to work. Doing that takes Grit,  especially in a labor-intensive job.” He also suggests a failsafe way to assess grit:

Question: What motivates you to work hard?

Intention Of Asking: Are they motivated by something other than money.

Expected Answer: My kids, helping people, making others happy

Concluding the argument, Ryan emphasizes that you must see whether the candidate has other interests apart from making money. He adds, “They need to be motivated by something other than themselves and making as much money as possible.”

To understand whether a person can handle disappointments at the workplace, Ryan further suggests asking these questions:

Question We Use to Test: What has been your greatest disappointment?
Intent to Ask: Are they a naturally optimistic person. 
Expected Answer:  I don't think in terms of disappointment. If something 
goes wrong I just look at what I could have done better and move on or look for the opportunity. 
Why: You want to work with people in a growth mindset. Always moving forward and always growing. It's a sign of grit.

4. Work Ethics

Every workplace thrives on people who not only take 100 percent ownership of their work but are also willing to take up additional responsibilities for mutual professional and organizational growth. If you want your organization to grow at a pace you desire, you must be assessed for work ethics straightaway. Any candidate who has a strong work ethic will show a great deal of enthusiasm, and you won’t have to chase them for deadlines. You will never find them sugar coating, and they always make a point to deliver what they promise and only promise what they can deliver.

They value time and ensure that it’s not going down the drain on unproductive activities such as watercooler breaks, toxic gossip, and daydreaming. Once you delegate your work, you can rest assured. A firm believer of work ethics, Linda M Caste, Director of Client Success at Conscioussuccess, discusses a few questions to gauge the work ethic of an individual. She recommends asking candidates these questions during the interview,

“Do they exceed your expectations? If something does not go right, do they step up with options and ideas for improvement? Or do they come up with excuses and blame others? 

Any candidate who indulges in a blame game and not willing to take ownership is certainly closed to feedback and incapable of improving for good.

5. Pride in their Work

Every HR professional has asked this question at some point in their life before closing an interview session, “Why do you want the job.” If you are hiring people who see the position as yet another job and not as a responsibility or passion; their motivation is going to fade sooner or later. Even Jon Brodsky, one of the key business leaders at personal finance website Finder, also agrees that taking a sense of pride in work is quite an essential behavioral competency to excel at work. He says,

“Most people are in their jobs because, well, they need a job. This means
that they work just hard enough so that they skirt under the radar -- they
don’t want to be the best or the worst performer. They want to be
Invisible, go home at night and never think about work in the shower. While I’d never expected everyone to care as much as a founder or senior executive, the most successful people I’ve seen the care that the work that comes off their desk reflects the best possible thinking and effort that they could muster at the time. And then push a little bit past that. “

On similar lines, Robin Salter, Chief Marketing Officer at Kwipped, says that he looks for people who choose meaning over money in the pursuit for excellence. He further comments, “We’re not looking for people that need a job and come to work out of a sense of obligation - we are looking for people that thrive on goal achievement and come to work out of a sense of passion, fulfillment, and determination. “

The Way Forward

While these are some of the essential competencies to excel at work, organizations are now going for more specific behavioral frameworks to assess suitability for a role. A behavioral competency framework for a particular role can predict how a future candidate is going to perform, factoring the complexity and other crucial aspects of the role. For that, you can run a set of psychometric assessments to measure candidates against the particular competencies and predict job performance beforehand with detailed scores of different competencies. Or, you can also go for role-based behavioral assessments that can help you save time in your hiring decisions while allowing you to get a peek into the actual personality of the candidate.

Topics: Hiring

Originally published June 19 2019,updated August 24 2019

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