Monday, February 16, 2004

Caliper measures workers for success

Daily Grind

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Forty-one companies in Greater Cincinnati, including Wal-Mart, the Cincinnati Reds, Bobcat Enterprises, Caterpillar, United Rentals and Federal Express have at least one thing in common.

They contract with Caliper, a Princeton, N.J.-based consulting firm, to check out prospective hires for compatibility, diligence and motivation.

And for Herb Greenberg, Caliper president and chief executive, selecting the right person is never an easy task. But it's vital for success at small companies and global corporations alike.

It is more critical for small businesses than big ones, Greenberg said last week in a telephone conversation from Los Angeles, where he was making a sales pitch to a multinational company.

Greenberg believes consumers react more to personnel than product, and hopes to woo a national company to pay for the survey that will prove it.

Finding sales reps

After 25,000 assessments, Greenberg can easily sum up what managers need to do to boost the top line: focus on the top 20 percent of the sales force - people who bring in 80 percent of the jingle.

"We've done 10,000 surveys of sales forces, and each time, almost to the exact percent, what you've got is 55 percent of sales people who have no dynamics that indicate they should be selling," Greenberg said.

Those people can't take rejection and have no heart for the chase.

"God strike me dead if that's not true," Greenberg said. "The sad thing is that many of them could do a very good job - just not in sales."

Managers, who usually were the ones who hired that bottom tier of producers in the first place, won't give up on them, either.

They don't want to have to go through the trauma of firing them, hiring somebody else and training the new hire, only to wonder if the new staffer will end up a non-producer, too. It's a lot of expense and effort.

"So what managers try to do is they go, please, try to do it, please let me show you how to do it," Greenberg said.

A pat on the back

In the meantime, the 20 percent of the sales staff that actually produces is left to beg for some attention, an occasional atta-boy. When the praise is not forthcoming, many producer employees head for the door.

"The people who quit jobs say it's because of money," Greenberg said.

"Nine times out of 10, when we've done studies, we find people leave because of a lack of psychic reward."

Though large companies regularly avail themselves of the testing, Greenberg said smaller companies face greater risk from bad hires:

A bad hire with a bad attitude can cost a small business market share, turn away otherwise loyal customers and wreak havoc on revenue.


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