SOSIE, a tool from Pearson being piloted in the Indian market, suggests that Indian managers are far from independent; they like to conform.

Most Indian managers prefer to conform to the set agenda and also like to be given clear goals; they are also less inclined than their counterparts in countries such as France to exercise ‘independence' at work, according to Pearson, which is introducing its personality test SOSIE in the Indian market. The test, based on the work of psychologist Leonard Gordon, maps personality traits and values, and by linking the two arrives at factors affecting motivation in the workplace.

SOSIE tracks eight traits and 12 values, and is customised for each country, and for each level of employee. It comprises a set of 98 customised questions with choices. The personality traits mapped are: Ascendancy, Responsibility, Stress Tolerance, Sociability, Cautiousness, Original Thinking, Personal Relations and Vigour. Values are split as — Interpersonal: Support, Conformity, Recognition, Independence, Benevolence and Leadership; and Personal: Practical, Achievement, Variety, Decisiveness, Orderliness and Goal Orientation.

Pearson, which is into developing and distributing assessment tools for recruitment, selection and development of the workforce, commenced a pilot for SOSIE in India over two months ago, and the ‘norming' process has been completed for ‘managerial' employees. The exercise is on for ‘supervisory' and ‘leadership' cadres, says Saurabh Singh, Head of Talent Assessment at Pearson.

Speaking to The New Manager, he said, “The test has been implemented in its origin market of France and other markets such as the US for decades now. The findings in India show that even though people say they like to work in entrepreneurial environments, they score very high on parameters such as conformity and goal orientation; and very low on traits like independence.”

This contrasts with findings in markets such as France, where managers are found to be more ‘independent'. For the study (in India) managers are defined as those with four to six years of experience in a managerial function, with at least a two-person team reporting to them.

“In France, managers score high on traits such as ascendancy (verbal dominance) and sociability, something that we don't see in India. These trends can be attributed to the cultural differences between countries. In India, managers tend to be process-oriented and relatively risk averse, while in some other markets independence is a big motivator,” explained Singh. The findings of the India norming study of SOSIE — across managerial, supervisory and leadership staff — will be published in November. Pearson is in talks with companies for implementing the tool. SOSIE is administered online, and is likely to be priced in India at Rs 1,500 per employee (for around 100 employees), with the cost reducing with scale.

Different Strokes for Different Folks

HR practitioners are alive to the idea, though many have their own methods to map factors affecting motivation. At Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL), employee motivation is measured through a bi-annual Global People Survey (GPS). GPS is based on the premise that ‘engagement is a combination of perceptions that have a positive impact on behaviour'. The results from a GPS feed into the development of employee engagement action plans.

“There is a policy impact on a case-to-case basis. For example, if we get a relatively low score on a dimension that measures recognition, this would lead to a review of our existing recognition mechanisms and modification where required,” explains Leena Nair, Executive Director, HR, HUL.

An HR official with a tech company, who is acquainted with SOSIE, notes that findings from tools such as this can help identify the right candidates for certain well-defined positions, and also help push up candidates with leadership qualities.

Singh says the tool can help organisations understand how each employee reacts to certain work factors on an ongoing basis.

“While the personality traits are unlikely to change in the short term, there will be variance in the long term, aided by changes in job profile and responsibilities. The sources of motivation, based on learnings from SOSIE in other markets and our pilot here, are likely to change more frequently given the dynamic work conditions,” he adds.

Product development on SOSIE is a continuous process at Pearson's facility in Bangalore, where country norms for India are being established. Learnings from a global sample size of over 22,000 guides the modulation, and the initial managerial sample in India has touched 600, and is growing.

Differences in factors affecting/ motivating employees and their personality traits does vary by geography, as companies such as Silicon Valley firm Zedo have learnt. According to Roy de Souza, co-founder and CEO of Zedo, his team in Russia, which questions ‘almost everything that is given to them', plays a key role in projects where alternative thinking is the need of the hour, like new product development.

“There are teams which execute things as instructed, on time, and projects suited for them are routed to those facilities. Some of our India teams fall under this category. In Russia, if we ask them to make X, they will ask us why,” says de Souza.

Within India too, companies are likely to insist on company-specific norms for implementing SOSIE, notes Singh, given the diverse nature of businesses and profiles.

“The tool itself is only 20 per cent of the exercise. Over 70 per cent of the time is spent on training HR managers to interpret accurately the take-outs from the test,” surmises Singh, underlining the need for education of HR professionals on motivational tools.

gokul.k@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on September 4, 2011)
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