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Can you select on integrity?

Yes, a blog about integrity. Or the lack of it. Complex subject with high impact. With many victims, much damage, many pitfalls. But also a lot of profit for those who get away with it, or those who handle it well. We asked ourselves: can assessment psychology contribute positively to this topic. We think so.

Yes, a blog about integrity. Complex and extensive subject. With many victims, a lot of damage. But also a lot of profit for those who get away with it. We asked ourselves: can our profession contribute positively to this topic. We think so.

Integrity damage can be caused by anyone

The newspapers were full of it: corporate espionage and the stealing of IP by criminals. They work for you (permanent or flex) with the aim of enriching themselves with fraudulent behavior. That is their agenda. To exclude this target group, you can think of antecedent research and screening. Scientifically, connections have been demonstrated between micro expressions and lying. AI and expert applications are also available in this area. But these solutions do not offer certainty. To be clear: even a psychological assessment offers no certainty here.

But it’s not just the criminals who pose integrity risks.

People like you and me can also cause integrity damage under certain circumstances. Often small damage (being improperly ill), but if they occur frequently, they add up to a considerable amount of damage. Sometimes major damage such as the well-known diesel scandal, Tibor interest, money laundering, data scandals etc. Extensive orchestrated activities in which many employees were involved.

Integrity damage can be caused by anyone in any organization. But here is the good news: there are solutions to reduce integrity damage. I will tell you more in this blog.

Integrity damage can be caused by anyone

People like you and me can also cause integrity damage under certain circumstances. Often small damage (being improperly ill), but if they occur frequently, they add up to a considerable amount of damage. Sometimes major damage such as the well-known diesel scandal, Tibor interest, money laundering, data scandals etc. Extensive orchestrated activities in which many employees were involved.

Integrity damage can be caused by anyone in any organization. But there is good news: there are solutions to reduce integrity damage. I will tell you more in this blog.

What is integrity?

Integrity is often seen as a personality trait. This implies that integrity is more or less a fixed thing: you are honest or you are not. But that’s too limited. Also from an HR perspective: it will not bring you anything.

From the perspective of compliance, integrity is seen as the risk that an organization runs from the inside out due to the behavior of its employees. It’s about the internal behavioral norms and values that an organization imposes on itself to reduce the risks – which we have often seen in recent years.

From the individual’s point of view, ethical behavior is always about weighing up interests. For example short term vs. long-term or a personal interest versus the organizational interest. Integrity or non-integrity related behavior manifests itself when people experience dillemas in this balancing of interests. Moreover, over time, dillemas can become larger, for example because circumstances change or the individual changes.

What is integrity?

You can approach integrity from 2 perspectives:

From the perspective of compliance, integrity is seen as the risk that an organization runs from the inside out due to the behavior of its employees. It’s about the internal behavioral norms and values that an organization imposes on itself to reduce the risks – which we have often seen in recent years.

From the individual’s point of view, ethical behavior is always about weighing up interests. For example short term vs. long-term or a personal interest versus the organizational interest. Integrity or non-integrity manifests itself when people experience dillemas in this balancing of interests. Moreover, over time, dillemas can become larger, for example because circumstances change or the individual changes.

Evaluating integrity

Integrity is a complex topic with considerable impact. If you judge an employee as not being honest, this will heavily impact on motivation. That is why it is important to keep the judgement as close as possible to the situation.

So not: “we don’t think you are honest”, but: “in this specific situation you have shown …. behavior, but what we would like to see according to our integrity compass is ……. behaviour.

Not easy, but doable. You must be able to fall back on specific examples. When evaluating, systematic observation and recording of behavior is a permission to play. If you cannot refer to specific situations, then you judge on character and your employee will quickly frame that as a personal attack.

Integriteits kompas

In short: evaluating integrity is about specific context-based behavior, not about character.

Evaluating integrity

When evaluating integrity, it is important to keep the judgement as close as possible to the situation.

So not: “we don’t think you are honest”, but: “in this specific situation you have shown …. behavior, but what we would like to see according to our integrity compass is ……. behaviour.

You must therefore be able to fall back on specific examples. When evaluating, systematic observation and recording of behavior is a permission to play. Otherwise you judge on character and your employee will quickly frame that as a personal attack.

Integriteits kompas

In short: evaluating integrity is about specific behavior, not about character.

Predicting integrity

You can predict (job) performance. That is our profession. But can you also make predictions about ethical behavior? In our profession, predicting is about risk assessment. The chance of certain behavior occurring under certain circumstances. The question is therefore: what causes risks of non-ethical behavior? I mention 5 risks and the way in which you can assess those risks:

1. Beliefs and attitudes

These are tested with classical integrity tests. The questionnaire is directly about integrity. We call this overt testing. The first question is how a candidate views certain integrity issues. Then the question is asked to what extent the candidate himself has been involved and has acted on the various integrity issues. This form of testing is hardly used in the Netherlands. However, it is common practise in the US. These tests are mainly used as a pre-screening tool, particularly for large volumes in operational positions.

2. Personality

With personality questionnaires, the assumption is made that certain traits are linked to an increased risk of non-integrity. This means that integrity is not the mean subject, but is predicted on the basis of certain characteristics. For example, low conscientiousness and high risk taking are associated with an increased integrity risk.

3. Motivation

At Starcheck we map out 18 drivers. As a result, we know what motivates and drives a candidate, what he strives for and what he needs in his work. It provides insight into the match between the needs of a candidate and the organizational culture or context. More match is more intrinsic motivation. Less match is less intrinsic motivation. Little match leads to demotivation. Demotivation leads to an increase in integrity risks.

Example 1: A candidate has a strong need for security, harmony, cooperation, justice and absence of stress. The organizational culture is strongly focused on results and output. Employees are assessed on individual performance and encouraged to do better than colleagues. Match? Not really! There is a good chance that the intrinsic motivation of this candidate will decrease and integrity risks will increase (for example improper sickness absence).

4. Hardiness

Another aspect that we can identify is counterproductive behavior. When the match between people and organization is limited, does it immediately go wrong? That’s not necessary. For this, we measure how well a candidate is resistant to frustration on 6 psychometric characteristics. Low frustration tolerance increases the chance of counterproductive behavior. A high frustration tolerance, a more hardened candidate, reduces the chance of counterproductive behavior.

Giving a candidate a stamp of integrity or non-integrity makes no sense. It makes sense to outline to what extent there is a match between candidate and organizational culture. And how sensitive a candidate is to the lack of that match. Both in terms of motivation and for the type of risk or counterproductive behavior that he or she is going to exhibit.

Example 2: The candidate from example 1 has nevertheless been hired, and becomes less motivated after a while. He starts showing counter productive behavior. The candidate doesn’t experience the save environment and he doesn’t feel treated fairly either. He has the feeling that he does a lot for his colleagues and that they claim the credits. From the assessment we have information on two main areas: impulse control and ethical awareness. The assessment indicates that ethical awareness suffers the most from a decrease in motivation. This candidate will react less openly and honestly, becomes less transparent (because he quickly gets the feeling that others are using him) and does not always keep his promises.

5. Organizational culture

The working environment also has a major impact on integrity. If the organization itself struggles with values and norms, for example by rewarding non-honest behavior if it does come up with results. Or the organization has major differences between the explicit and the implicit organizational culture. Values, norms, rules and culture: they must fit together, or better: reinforce each other. If they are diffuse, you can no longer hold anyone accountable for non-ethical behavior. And it becomes predictable that sooner or later integrity damage will occur.

So, integrity risks can be reduced?

Yes. On one hand you can evaluate integrity (to learn and to correct). On the other hand you can predict the risks of non-integrity related behavior. By doing that structurally, the risks and the associated damage are reduced.

And it may sound boring, but as an organization it is especially important to be consistent. The culture must stand! Not in attractive one-liners at the reception or in the annual report. But in doing things. People don’t do what their bosses tell them to do. People do what their bosses do.

Summary

  • Between employer and employee, integrity is about behavior, not about character. Non-integrity must be specified on behavior and situation.
  • Drivers indicate whether there is a match between people, work and organization. This match has a direct influence on motivation and motivation has an impact on integrity risk.
  • In case of a mismatch, it is possible to predict what kind of counterproductive behavior a candidate will show. Risks can also be mapped.
  • Organizations where values, norms, rules and culture reinforce each other have fewer integrity risks.

Do you have a question?

If you want to know more, please contact us.

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