Monday, December 22, 2008

The Science of a Behavioral Survey

Here is the answer to the question you've wanted to ask (How does a behavioral survey work?)


As a vendor of behavioral screening services, we are frequently asked how a behavioral survey works. It is an interesting question and one that deserves answering. Typically, this question comes from a prospective customer, but a few new customers have also asked for a deeper explanation.

It is rare than an existing customer asks how the system works. They are sufficiently pleased that it works so well that they have stopped asking how it works and instead focus on getting more of the candidates screened using the survey process. The dramatic drops in workplace violence, employee theft, on the job substance abuse and their associated consequences are all of the evidence they need (they love the results).

How to Explain
Giving an indepth explanation of the science is a dangerous thing as it is very easy to lose an audience. Behavioral Psychology uses a difference vocabulary and can easily become overly complicated and technical quickly. What seems to work best is to use an analogy. When we relate something from the world of the physical sciences to be an analog of something from the behavioral sciences, the explanation tends to go much better.

Our illustration by analogy will be a community that wants to keep children safe on residential streets by enforcing a speed limit of 25 MPH on all residential streets.

In order to encourage motorists to observe the residential speed limit, communities provide a negative stimulus to those exceeding the speed limit (a traffic citation). In order to effectively reinforce the desired behavior, the community needs to first have some means of reliably measuring the behavior. In our example, this would the be the traffic cop with a radar gun to measure the speed of passing motorists.

Most people don't know how the radar gun works but have come to accept that it is reliable for the purpose of determining the speed of a passing motorist. It is the explanation of how a radar gun works that is most useful in explaining how a behavioral survey works.

Analogy: The Doppler Effect (Shift)
There are numerous Internet sites, of varying technical depth, that explain the workings of a radar gun. Here is one I found interesting. You'll notice that the radar gun depends on the Doppler Effect to determine the speed of a moving target. If you haven't read the referenced article, you can simply perform the following thought experiment:

  1. Imagine yourself standing on a freeway overpass. There is only one car on the road and it is approaching you, travelling at a constant 65 MPH.
  2. Since you are in no danger of being hit by the car (you're standing on the overpass above the freeway) you close your eyes and listen closely to the sound of the approaching car.
  3. As the car draws closer, you memorize the sound (the pitch or frequency) of the engine and tires.
  4. As the car passes beneath the overpass where you stand and travels away from you (again at a constant speed of 65 MPH), you notice that the sound that car makes is different (lower pitch or frequency).

The car maintained a constant speed throughout, but the sound it made as it approached (higher pitch) was different from the sound it made as it moved away (lower pitch). This shift in the pitch or frequency is known as the doppler effect or doppler shift.

Most of us have experienced the doppler effect many times, just never knew the name. Many have also noticed that the greater the speed of the vehicle, the greater the shift in pitch. This is especially notable a some motorsports events (Indy car where speeds reach 200mph for example) where fans in the grandstands experience the doppler effect hundreds of times in a single race (each time a car passes their location). Since the Indy car is travelling fastest on the straightaway (usually in front of the grandstand), the doppler shift is quite large (much larger than a passenger sedan travelling at 25 mph).
moving object
A radar gun measures the speed of a vehicle by measuring the size of the doppler shift. It does so by using radio waves instead of sound but the principle is the same as our thought experiment.

Behavioral Parallel
Having completed the analogy, let us next draw the parallel so that we can compare how a radar gun works (measures size of the doppler shift) to how a behavioral survey works (measures the size of size of shift in attitude and behavior from norms).

In a survey, we establish certain norms. For example, employers do not want, expect, or desire for employees to steal from them. The normal behavior is for employees to act with integrity and refrain from stealing from their employer. A behavior survey targeting employee theft will solicit responses from the candidate to reveal past acts involving theft from employers as well as attitudes regarding stealing from one's employers.

The survey, once completed, can be scored and evaluated to produce a measurement of the candidate's propensity to steal from their employer. Again we draw a parallel to the radar gun measuring the size of the doppler shift to show the speed of the vehicle on a residential street.

Answers to Important Questions
Nearly all employers would love to know if a job candidate would steal from them if presented with the opportunity. It is unfortunate that too many employers are simply unaware that behavioral survey's like our very own Tescor Survey, can provide the information they seek.

Curriculum vitae, records of past employment, educational background, professional certifications, credit reports, and even professional references are all exceptionally poor at providing meaningful insight into a candidate's propensity for theft from an employer. There are better tools available.

Take Action
So, if you are tired of getting ripped off by employees you believed were trustworthy; do something about it. There are tools available.


Anonymous said...

Curious. I don't suppose you could provide references (didn't see any on your site). It might be useful to get your customers take on the value of your service.

MGM said...

You might not have seen any on the main Merchants site. However, if you examine the product site American Tescor, you'll see several testimonials from customers who have used the system.

They (the testimonials) include:
- Auto-Chlor, Mountain View, California
- Texas Industries, Inc., Dallas, Texas
- Golden Bell Management, Pinehurst, North Carolina
- Alsco, Salt Lake City, Utah
- Mercury Air Group, Inc. Los Angeles, California
- California State Automobile Association, San Francisco, California

You can also give one of the sales team a call and they can provide some additional references if you like.

MGM said...

You can reach the sales team at 1.800.422.6659