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A Pig In A Poke: Pre-Employment Assessment Can Prevent Expensive Mistakes

by Kevin Daw
Posted On: 6/28/2011

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OCS, office coffee service, vending, vending machine business, Heritage Coffee, Kevin Daw, Omnia

Our company, Heritage Coffee, has been in business for almost 30 years. In any company of this age or older, just about every employee position will have rolled over from a founding employee to the next generation. In our case, I believe we still have one or two employees who have been with us since the beginning, as they were quite young when they started with us. (Yours truly excluded).

We have been very fortunate in replacing personnel who have left, finding equally good or better employees for each position left empty over the years. It cannot be attributed entirely to good luck, however.

Many years ago, Stuart Daw, my father and company founder, happened upon an employment candidate assessment company, Omnia Group (Tampa, FL), which we have continued to use for each of our key hires, to sort out the "wheat from the chaff."

In our first encounter with Omnia, they were gracious enough to allow us a free trial. I was selected as the guinea pig for the profiling. The results were quite accurate -- to the point of embarrassment: personality traits were exposed that I would not have articulated, even if asked. They were laid bare in the report we were given after my questionnaire answers were put through Omnia's "benchmarking" process.

I came across that old profile while digging through some ancient files; and although my role in the company has changed over the years, Omnia's assessment, pinpointing what motivates me, where my strengths lie and what my shortcomings are is still quite accurate some 20-odd years later.

What is the cost of a bad hire? This question can have many answers. No two employees seem to sour at the same rate, in the same way, nor leave the same degree of damage in their wake. One thing is certain: the minimum cost of hiring, training and firing an unsuccessful employee (aside from lost revenue and effect on clients) can easily be quantified. We have pegged that figure reliably in the four-digit range, and so every means we have at our disposal to mitigate these costs is very welcome indeed.

Omnia uses a questionnaire, organized into several sections, that asks prospective hires to select, from among a number of answers, the one most accurately describing how they perceive themselves and how they feel others might perceive them. On the basis of years of collecting data on what constitutes the ideal employee in any company position, from salesperson through route driver to administrator (a concept that the company calls "benchmarking"), Omnia prepares and returns a detailed report on the prospect, outlining how close that person comes to filling the position in question at an optimum level.

Omnia can establish a custom benchmark for each position, based on the traits of your top performers. They analyze the characteristics of your star employees to find out what makes them successful, and then determine whether your candidates have the same attributes. Your supervisor can also undergo an evaluation to determine how he or she can best work with this particular candidate.

This concept can come in handy when looking to promote from within. Although a current employee may shine in his or her current position, they may not have the tools necessary to move into a more critical management slot. We have, in the past, taken star route drivers off the street and advanced them to supervisory roles, only to find out they did not have the necessary personality to be "a boss."

The toughest hires may well be for sales positions. A person needs a certain tenacity, self-motivation and capability to close the sale that many folks who fancy themselves as sales candidates do not possess. Just because they were able to sell you on hiring them does not mean they can sell your service.

In the most interesting case we ever experienced in using candidate profiling, we had narrowed down sales applicants to three really solid individuals. We had each of them take the test and, although we were fairly sure of the results in advance, the report came back indicating that our front­runner for the job would not be able to close sales as effectively as we desired. My dad stewed over the decision for a day or two, and then decided to go against the Omnia recommendation and hire the frontrunner, regardless.

I don't think the new salesperson lasted three months before we realized the error we had made. The other two candidates being long gone, we found ourselves back at square one with a whole new hiring process necessary. We never made that mistake again.

Gut instinct can often result in a good hire, but having a tool at your disposal that helps identify great individuals and shows where they best fit into your organization will save you heartache and hard cash in the long run.

I have called Omnia, and the company is  willing to offer anyone who mentions my name, or Heritage Coffee, a free profile so you can see the concept for yourself. It would be wise to use it on your best employee (or yourself, if you feel you are the best), so you'll have a personalized benchmark to go by. You also might just get a good chuckle at the results!

It is all done online these days, simplifying the process. Just go to the Omnia website,, and tell Carletta that Kevin Daw sent you.

KEVIN DAW is president of Heritage Coffee Co. (London, ON, Canada), a leading private-label roaster serving the breaktime management industries in North America. He is in charge of coffee buying for Heritage. A 30-year veteran of the workplace service business, Daw has served as a commission coffee service salesman, a principal of a vending operation and president of a bottled water company. Since 1990, he has concentrated on coffee roasting. Active in industry affairs, Daw is a Specialty Coffee Association of America Certified Brewing Technician, a member of the National Beverage and Products Association Hall of Fame, a recipient of the National Automatic Merchandising Association Supplier of the Year Award and a NAMA Coffee Ser­vice Committee member.