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Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on March 29, 2000. All rights reserved.

From Welfare to Wall Street: Herb Greenberg

E-mail: MelindaSherwood@princetoninfo.com

In 1968 one New York stockbrokerage company broke Wall

Street’s wall of discrimination by seeking to hire Afro-American and

Hispanic workers. Since minority applicants were not banging down

their doors, however, the firm sought applicants from the neighborhood

welfare office. To aid the screening process, the company hired a

young firm called Personality Dynamics, which specialized in psychological

testing for hiring. Based on the test results, the brokerage hired

15 out of 50 job applicants. Two of those employees recently retired

— millionaires both, having risen to the highest ranks of the

company.

Herb Greenberg, president of Caliper, formerly Personality Dynamics,

likes to tell this story to illustrate two points about hiring. First,

non-traditional labor pools, such as unemployed or older workers,

have tremendous talent and value. "In our experience, the same

range of abilities exist between the inexperienced, the unemployed,

the displaced worker, and the woman in transition," says Greenberg,

whose firm has been involved in Welfare-to-Work programs since the

mid-1960s.

Secondly, despite the fact that turnover is endemic in many industries,

employee retention is both possible and desirable. The key is hiring

the right people for the right jobs, says Greenberg, who speaks on

"Motivating the Inexperienced to Become Stars," at the Princeton

Chamber meeting at the Doral Forrestal on Thursday, April 6, at 11:30

a.m. Joining him is Calvin Iszard, chairman of the Mercer County

Workforce Investment Board. Cost: $30. Call 609-520-1776.

Established by Greenberg in 1961, Caliper’s personality testing provides

profiles of job applicants to match job descriptions with innate and

measurable abilities. The company now has over 23,000 corporate clients

worldwide, including Citicorp, Merrill Lynch, and Avis (609-924-3800,

www.caliperonline.com).

The Caliper Profile is the company’s longest-running, most successful

"product," a test consisting of 185 multiple choice questions.

While small sections measure mathematical and logical aptitude, most

of the questions present a series of traits or situations, asking

the test taker to choose which trait is most like her and which the

least.

Between 1965 and 1971, during the early Welfare-to-Work program, the

Caliper Profile was instrumental in placing 3,500 "hardcore"

unemployed people in jobs at 72 companies. Most of these workers were

talented and able, but had been overlooked by businesses. "If

you looked at their resumes there was no reason to hire them,"

says Greenberg. "They were the `wrong’ sex, race, education, or

handicap. Yet again, we matched them to a job. What’s exciting is

that not only did we place people, we lost less than 3 percent due

to inability to do the job."

The primary purpose of Caliper’s tests is not to test a person’s credentials

or intellect, but their aptitude for learning a particular subject

and performing specific kinds of tasks. Greenberg has written numerous

articles and books on what makes salespeople tick, for example: empathy

and ego-drive. "The key is finding out what the core strengths

of an individual are, not what they’ve done," he says. "That’s

irrelevant, that could be luck. Skills, product knowledge, technique

— that’s all trainable. Gut motivation cannot be taught. Our view

is we’re going to place someone in a job where we have a reasons to

believe they’ll make it. Otherwise, you’re heaping failure upon failure."

Greenberg practices what he preaches in several different arenas.

He is the majority owner of the Trenton Shooting Stars, the minor

league basketball team that plays at the Sovereign Bank Arena. The

Caliper test helps the team management with draft picks and player

selection.

In fact, psychological assessments of athletes has become a burgeoning

niche for Caliper over the past several years; the company advises

professional and college teams, and now has nine NBA teams, eight

baseball teams, and several football, hockey, and softball teams as

clients. There’s an uncanny similarity between the skills required

to be an athlete and a businessperson. "The catcher, the quarterback,

the point guard in basketball — they are the ones who create strategy

and run the show," Greenberg said in an earlier interview with

U.S. 1 Newspaper (October 29, 1997). "If you look at the profile

of a sales or marketing manager, their profiles are awfully close

to those sports positions."

Blind since childhood, Greenberg had to struggle early

on to convince people to judge him by what he could do, not what he

couldn’t. He went to the City College of New York, where he received

both bachelors and masters degrees. He started teaching at Rutgers

in 1957, and it was there, with a colleague, that he first started

researching personnel tests and hiring practices. Together, they started

Personality Dynamics Inc. in 1960, and one of the first clients was

General Motors. The firm relocated to Mount Lucas Road in 1970. With

nearly 150 employees, Caliper now offers training and management consulting,

and a new test — the Caliper ThreeSixty — which incorporates

a self-evaluation, as well as peer, boss, and subordinate evaluation.

In a full-employment economy, says Greenberg, it’s necessary for employers

to re-evaluate their hiring process and seek talent in different places.

"You can no longer find employees by stealing from your competitor,"

he says. "You’ve got to tap sources — the woman who was a

secretary or teacher and left to raise a family and is now coming

back into the workforce. She’s got a heck of a lot of talent. Never

mind what she did 15 years ago, let’s look at what she could do now."

Greenberg suggests a pyramid hiring process that starts with "tapping

the whole world — experience not necessary." Among some important

sources: the Department of Labor, the Employment Service for Displaced,

the Over 40 Club, the United Cerebral Palsy and Easter Seals, the

Work Investment Board, and the Urban League. The motto of your recruiters

should be: "We don’t care what you’ve done, we care what you are."

Once the applicants are in, screen out people with a short phone interview,

says Greenberg. The rest should come in for a short — 10 minute

— interview, just for the sake of making an impression. Then,

check references. When you’ve weeded out enough people that your candidate

pool is reasonable, administer a psychological tests to see if it’s

a good match.

Most firms have nothing to lose — and everything to gain —

by trying a new approach, says Greenberg. "The hiring decision

is one of the toughest and most important decisions that a company

can make," he says. "I guess my greatest surprise is the unwillingness

of people to change their way of doing things even though they’d be

the first ones to tell you it hasn’t worked. Managers say my toughest

problem is not hiring the right people, but the minute you tell them

to try it a different way, they say no, I think experience is important

and so on. They’ll reiterate the same platitudes and stereotypes that

was part of the failure. Some of them you can’t sell."

— Melinda Sherwood


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