Applied Mathematics and HR? Yeah Right. | HR Fishbowl

Written on June 29, 2010 by Charlie in #TrenchHR, Performance Management applied-mathematics-7037695

Korn Ferry celebrated its 40th anniversary in the executive search space last year and since acquiring Lominger in 2006, they’ve been in the research based leadership development business too.  Ken De Meuse, Ph.D, associate vice president of Intellectual Property Research, and J. Evelyn Orr, M.A., intellectual property development consultant, spoke to a packed house of HR professionals who were anxious to learn whether Managers’ and Executives’ Leadership skills are actually improving in areas that are increasingly important. The answer: kind of, maybe, sort of, not really.

I’m not even going to try and explain their methodology. While proven to be statistically significant, it will lull you to sleep (believe me, I watched heads nod during Dr. De Meuse’s lecture on correlation coefficients and the squaring thereof.) Here are the nuggets I pulled from this presentation.


  • Our leaders – globally – appear to be most skilled in Integrity and Trust. This brought a few skeptics to the floor; but I’m buying it. It’s just too bad we end up hearing about the unethical ones more often.
  • Our leaders – globally – are least skilled in developing direct reports and others. This didn’t seem to surprise any one. In fact, cries of “amen” reverberated like a Southern Baptist Sunday.
  • Six of the ten management skills rated abysmally by the workforce related directly to people. Categorically, people management is the least developed set of skills for managers across geographies, levels, and time. Now this gave the HR people in the room – and they were all HR people – both a sense of validation and panic…“ohhhh shit, maybe I’m part of the problem here.”


  • It’s one thing to be good at some thing, it’s another thing entirely to be good at the right thing. That’s why Korn Ferry’s study factors in an important element of how much each of these measured competencies impact organizational success.
  • The good news for business: seven of the top ten in terms of impact and importance were also rated in the top third of skills our leaders successfully demonstrate.
  • The bad news for business (and HR): two of the top ten in terms of impact were rated in the bottom third of skills that our leaders fall apart on – building effective teams and motivating others. High Importance, Low Skill…uh oh.
  • To get the biggest bang for the buck, to build the skills our workforce needs to help us successfully usher in the new economy, Human Resource Professionals should really focus on only 7 of the 67 widely recognize leadership/management competencies (and here’s the golden ticket): building effective teams, motivating others, command skills, conflict management, decision quality, developing direct reports, and managing vision and purpose.

I’ll boil this down to one very simple takeaway: your business will suck less if you can help your managers spend just a few more quality minutes every day – let’s say 30 of them – asking for, listening to, and responding to what’s important to members of their team. That’s it – and you shouldn’t need a PhD in applied mathematics to figure that out.

*You can learn more about Korn Ferry’s study and findings –HERE–

Photo Credit: Free Science

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