Eric Frazer is a psychologist with 20 years of experience in psychological assessment. He recently published his first book, “The Psychology of Top Talent,” that focuses on identifying psychological factors that can be used in the recruitment and development of a workforce.
Frazer, who maintains his practice in Stamford and New Haven, recently spoke with Business Journal Senior Enterprise Editor Phil Hall about his book and his approach to bringing psychological strategies into the corporate setting.
What inspired you to write this book?
“Need. Companies were approaching me and asking how to identify top talent. They wanted to know where psychology fits in the identification of high performers.”
Do companies normally approach psychologists to help them identify workforce talent?
“It’s certainly trending in that direction. There is a realization about work-life balance and a real demand by employees for professional development and personal development in the workplace. A lot of that development is not just skill-based, but evolves around themes of emotional intelligence which is the domain of psychology.”
How do you work with companies to achieve their desired goals?
“In the hiring side, it involves coming up with a very structured methodology to identify legitimate candidates who have the type of psychological competencies that the organization is looking for. The first step is helping them identify the competencies they are looking for. We have a number of sessions to discuss that and see how those competencies match with the company’s overall strategy and core values.
“Then, it is a process of generating questions that can be used within structured interviews that can be quantified to give them a formula to be able to make a more precise determination about who possesses those top talent skills. The next step is bridging over into the next realm of professional development, then coming up with a personal and professional development plan for those people who are on the top talent track, and helping the company identify the type of resources those individuals will need and then putting in a budget for that.”
It sounds complex. Is it?
“It is certainly more complex than going on hunches. Is it methodological? Yes. Is it complex? No. I think it requires a leadership agreement about the importance of this, and then doing an analysis and audit of the procedures in place and finding the shortcomings of that, and then tightening it up.”
What is your definition of top talent?
“Top talent is more of a jargon word that is going around the media. What we’re really talking about are psychological competencies, which are behaviors, thought patterns, personality facets and methodologies that one can reflect about themselves, learn about themselves and then improve themselves using these various areas of psychological development that have a high impact on the workplace in terms of effectiveness, efficiencies, creativity – things that drive innovation in the economy.”
Is it fair to believe that these psychological concepts may be relatively new to many human resources (HR) professionals?
“That might be one of the reasons why I am presenting at the Society of Human Resources Management conference in September at the UConn Stamford campus on the psychology of top talent. I think HR has significant and competing demands of time, and nobody can be the best at everything, but I think there is a general acceptance among HR officers that these are important things to be paying attention to and promoting in the organization.”
How can an HR officer identify the proverbial diamond in the rough – the person who could be a prime example of top talent but may not have a degree of confidence or communications savvy to make themselves more attractive for getting hired?
“It all boils down to asking the right questions. This is where psychologists can be helpful and give precise questions to help unravel that mystery and extract from someone what I would call ‘behavioral markers’ that would demonstrate that person has the psychological competencies.
“In the real world, there are a lot of companies that privately tell me, ‘Yes, we still have these structured interviews, and what we do is go on hunches without using those methodologies to their fullest capacities.’ Companies are switching around what I would call the status quo and are augmenting these processes and realizing they need to have a structured and standardized methodology so they can rate candidates appropriately and make a better, more precise and more scientific determination about who can present these abilities and who doesn’t.”
But, on the flip side, how can HR officers look through candidates whose charisma successfully camouflages their shaky skill set?
“There are always going to be black swans out there who have charisma-driven careers. But if you look at leaders of top companies, those are individuals who have a lot of humility. Is charisma important? It could be, but that is one of many factors found in modern leaders today.
“Can an HR officer – or anyone for that matter – be fooled by charisma and charm? To some extent. But I think the part of the solution that psychology offers is within those structured questions – asking for specific examples and following through to make sure those examples are valid.”
HR officers, not unlike the rest of us, have biases, and some might feel more comfortable with certain individuals and not with others. Does your book address this?
“I didn’t really get into stereotypes, biases or prejudices. I think sophisticated companies evolved beyond that kind of thinking and mentality and are really looking at the whole person.”
What kind of reaction have you received for the book?
“I’ve had orders from Japan and people have gotten in touch with me from Germany. I’ve had some very personalized responses back from people on how it has been very helpful to them.”
Will there be a second book from you?
“Certainly. There will definitely be a follow through. I’m studying a couple of ideas right now that may be the next version of ‘The Psychology of Top Talent.’ To be continued!