Behavioral DNA: The science behind job performance

Written by Larry Cash PhD - 2020 | 08 | 12

Predicting career success from behavioral DNA

In the age of the quantified self, technology is helping deliver insights on what we are doing and how well we are doing it. Fitbits and health and fitness apps help motivate us and track our progress. DNA kits report on what makes us uniquely who we are and how our chromosomal pairings may impact our future health and lifestyle options.

What if, like your chromosomal DNA can predict your future health, you could analyze your unique behavioral make-up and career interests right from the beginning of your career. Let’s call this your behavioral DNA. It allows us to predict your potential success across 500 of the most sought-after job roles.

Mapping an individual’s behavioral DNA was my vision, my professional motivation. I’ve pursued this objective vigorously for most of my career. And the short answer is: yes, your career success can be predicted. And it can be done with up to 85% accuracy.

Human behavior is as unique as fingerprints

In graduate school, I was struck by the vast imbalance between what we knew about chemical behaviors via the periodic table of 115 natural elements and the paltry little we knew about human behaviors, captured with just five personality factors:

Conscientiousness -impulsive, disorganized vs. disciplined, careful
Agreeableness – suspicious, uncooperative vs. trusting, helpful
Neuroticism – calm, confident vs. anxious, pessimistic
Openness to Experience – prefers routine, practical vs. imaginative, spontaneous
Extraversion – reserved, thoughtful vs. sociable, fun-loving
Certainly, much business has been made from looking at the inter-relations of those five human factors, including well-known personality assessments like Hogan and Myers-Briggs that can aid in team awareness and collaboration by grouping people into personality types.,

But for nearly 100 years, behavioral psychologists and business people alike have pondered how such human factors could be used to predict job success or failure. Indeed, if we could crack the DNA code for predicting career success and passion for work, it would have a broad impact on not just individuals or businesses, but, over time, could radically change the global Gross Domestic Product.

Here’s the challenge: like chemical elements, people’s behaviors are complex, diverse,  and individualized. With just five characteristics, we only have 120 different variations of personality types. A true gauge of human behavior requires much more granularity, teasing out true distinctions. If no one else in the world has the same thumbprint as you, what are the odds that there only 120 types of personalities in the world?

The power of 85 traits

So I set out to round out the picture of human behaviors. After close analysis of all the variants identified across every psychological assessment I could find, I netted out a list of 85 statistically distinct behavioral traits. To become meaningful in terms of predicting career success, I then grouped behaviors by:

  • problem-solving
  • work habits
  • self traits
  • lifestyle priorities
  • coping strategies

The number of combinations of these is astronomical—even more so than DNA.

The foundations of SuccessFinder

I designed the SuccessFinder solution to measure—in one test— the full 85 behavioral propensities and 35 career themes. An individual’s answers across the 125 scales, presented in multiple combinations can predict success against 500 job roles currently benchmarked by SuccessFinder. Benchmarks are created from the behaviors of the leading professionals worldwide in each role. Over the years, we’ve actually developed 2,000 job role benchmarks, but changing business needs have required adapting, adding, or obsoleting roles over time.

What about the resume?

I don’t discount skills, knowledge, and experience. I will never go under the knife of a surgeon who doesn’t have board certification credentials.

But skills and experience alone cannot accurately predict which person will be better than the other in a given job.

Rather than trying to type people or put them in boxes like Myers-Briggs type personality tests do, we look to find how each one is unique. And, we look more precisely at what separates the exceptional performer in each role. These are our benchmarks that we then weight against exceptional, average, and marginal performers.

Proven Success

Our scientifically proven accuracy: 65-85%. We continually endeavor to maintain the highest level of psychometric standards as defined by the American Psychological Association’s standards for educational and psychological testing.

That power is resonating.

We launched a new standalone company in 2017 to develop, market, and sell our methodology. SuccessFinder is now available as a self-serve cloud platform and is already in use by CEOs, Board of Directors, HR leaders and Organizational Development counselors. The mission of the solution is to lend science to high impact hiring and talent development.

I am incredibly proud of the broad application of our talent assessment and career prediction system by global mid- and large-sized companies. Even more fulfilling is understanding the impact on individuals to find and pursue more meaningful, rewarding careers.

Self-efficacy is the foundation for SuccessFinder. Its thesis is: whatever human beings can imagine is what they are capable of doing. If you can imagine it, then you know you can do it.

We love being able to help open up the imagination about what is possible through our work with behavioral DNA.

Written by
Dr. Larry Cash

Are Canadian happy at work?

It depends on how old you are. Monster's International View Of Happiness At Work research find out that only 23% of 18 – 24-year-olds enjoyed what they did for a living, but this figure rose to 45% in 50 – 64-year-olds.

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