SOCIAL SKILLS NEEDED S&L; seeks people who like people


Loyola Federal is intensely customer-oriented. That's why the savings and loan association turned last year to Activity Vector Analysis as a tool to choose the right people for customer representatives.

Customer reps, who work at Loyola Federal's 31 Maryland branches, have nearly constant contact with the public. And the company wanted to be sure that new hires for these 60-odd positions would find the job fun.

Those who rate high in sociability on a test like the AVA are more likely to enjoy dealing with the public and will be more effective, says John Shobert, Loyola Federal's vice president for human resources.

"AVA can help us find the right people for the jobs. I'm personally optimistic about it," he says, noting that since the test has been used for just a year, it's still considered an experimental part of Loyola Federal's hiring process.

One advantage of the AVA over similar tests, he says, is that it's individualistic.

"You're not really categorized and classified in one niche," he says. The AVA measures degrees of specific characteristics. It's not, he says, an either-or proposition.

To illustrate the flexibility of the test, Mr. Shobert notes that it can measure the degree to which a person is inclined toward sociability.

"All of us can go to a party and interact with groups," he says. "But some people will have more fun interacting with people. And if you're sociable and that's your job, you're going to do a better job than someone who doesn't like it as well."

Loyola also has used the AVA to help guide employees on their career paths.

Suppose, for instance, a computer programmer wants to move into marketing. If the employee's test shows that he has a weak propensity for sociability but likes analytical work, he could be guided toward market research, Mr. Shobert says.

In a few cases, Loyola has used the AVA to resolve conflicts among employees. To illustrate, Mr. Shobert recalls this incident:

An employee in an administrative job at Loyola's Baltimoreheadquarters came to see Mr. Shobert last June to complain that his boss was getting on his nerves by making frequent inquiries about progress on various projects.

The subordinate was given the AVA, and it showed that he preferred working with little direction from a boss. Meanwhile, the boss' test showed a need to garner detailed information from subordinates.

Learning more about his boss through the AVA, the subordinate was able to better understand the man and to adapt. He no longer took his boss' behavior as a personal affront and, after coaching from Mr. Shobert, became happier in his work.

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