Employees with a Soft or Hard Behavioral Style, what are they good for?
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Discover the Behavioral Style and how can it boost your company
People display different skills and abilities, and many of these are now assessed in Talent Acquisition and People Management processes. However, one individual difference which is often missed in employee and candidate assessments relates to behavioral styles. Assessing the employees’ (to be) behavioral styles is crucial to understand, for example, the roots of performance, engagement, and satisfaction in our organizations.
If you are wondering how to identify each profile, we have good news: Kodo People‘s Talent Acquisition Module does it for you. With this module, you will discover the best candidate for your company, thanks to its 3 assessment phases: Screening, Behavioral Style, and Onboarding. The Behavioral Style assessment will give you some clear insights into the behavioral profile of your candidates, allowing you to assess if they will fit in the position and your cultural values. This assessment is a perfect complement of other candidate evaluations, such as technical skills tests and interviews.
Kodo People’s Behavioral Style scoring is a scientifically proven predictor of job performance, which classifies people along a continuum from “Soft” to “Hard” (although most people fall somewhere in between). To determine at which point of this continuum people are, they are evaluated on behavioral variables related, for example, to the way they make decisions under uncertainty or to their style of bargaining. In particular:
|Negative Reciprocity refers to the willingness to respond to unkind actions with unkindness (retaliation), even at a personal cost. The stronger the preference for retaliating unfairness, the higher the score on Negative Reciprocity.|
|Bargaining Flexibility refers to the ability to facilitate agreements in bilateral negotiations that can be beneficial for both parties in aggregate terms, regardless of whether the agreement is unfair for one of the parties. The stronger the preference to facilitate this type of agreement, the higher the score on Bargaining Flexibility.|
|Long-Run Orientation refers to the differences in the relative valuation of rewards at different moments in time. People tend to prefer rewards that are close in time compared to others that are more delayed, even when the latter is larger. The stronger the preference for delayed rewards, the higher the score on Long-run Orientation.|
|Risk Aversion refers to the preference for values with low volatility. Risk-averse people tend to prefer outcomes with reduced levels of risk instead of riskier ones, even when the latter are associated with larger benefits. The stronger the preference for safe (vs. risky) choices, the higher the score on Risk Aversion.|
The combination of different values of these variables gives us a position between pure Hard-Style and pure Soft-Style, which will be different for each person. Let’s see some traits that characterize each extreme to get an idea of where we can place each employee, which strengths they can bring to our company, and some positions where they could excel.
Someone who displays a Soft Style scores high on bargaining flexibility and low in negative reciprocity, is oriented to the long-run and risk averse.
Someone with a marked Soft Style can thus be represented as the patient, conservative, predictable, and subtle negotiator, who stays long at the negotiation table.
We can think of someone calm and quiet, who is used to maintaining long-lasting relationships with people and doesn’t mind sacrificing his personal benefit for the sake of the general well-being (Curry et al., 2008; Espín et al., 2019). Aside from their many positive qualities, Soft-Styles are often unable to make urgent decisions quickly enough and can, for example, lack a drive towards innovation since it requires taking risks they are not willing to take, unlike Hard-Styles.
Some positions where this type of profile could excel are those that involve long-lasting relations, require patience, and in which avoiding unnecessary risks is critical. For example, a Soft-Style would perform great in maintaining relations with customers or ensuring customer fidelity. They can also excel in sales departments, as well as in supplier and project management, once relationships and processes are established. Writer, researcher, or counselor are other positions where a Soft-Style can obviously find comfort and outperform Hard-Styles.
When people show a Soft behavioral style, it would be a good idea allowing them to work on stable teams, as Soft-Styles are known to perform well in environments requiring cooperation towards long-term group goals (Curry et al., 2008; Espín et al., 2015; 2019; Yi et al., 2005).
An advantage of working with people who show a Soft Style is that they are productive when working remotely on their own, without the need of being constantly supervising them, and of course also perform well in hybrid work. However, our research also shows that if you place someone with this profile in an office, you will not regret your decision as they will try to maintain a stable and pleasant environment and will, for example, help with onboarding in case you hire a new employee.
On the other extreme, people who score high on negative reciprocity and low on bargaining flexibility, and are focused on short-term results and risk-loving, can be behaviorally recognized as Hard-Styles.
Hard-Styles represent the direct, unpredictable, explosive, and tough negotiator, who tends to force the negotiation and often leaves the table. We can find this type in a turbulent business environment, such as that where companies like Apple or Google operate. They are under extreme competitive pressure as innovations in the IT industry are created at breakneck speed. HR departments in these corporations typically don’t hesitate to give away candid feedback if the staff couldn’t work effectively, and fire incompetence right away, since the core value of these innovative cultures is “failure as fast as possible”.
Another reason many firms hire Hard-Styles is that they are ready to respond unkindly to unkind actions, even at personal cost. Therefore, for HR management tasks, this type can sustain a very high level of fairness in the workplace, where every employee appreciates equal opportunities they are given. In this context, high-level business roles, such as project leaders, are required to be risk-tolerant as the higher risk is, the more likely they achieve radical or even disruptive innovation. As we can see, in a hostile environment, a Hard-Style leader can be better for corporations as they usually infuse the organization with energy and a strong sense of urgency.
From all the above, Kodo People suggest that such a “tough” style can be a good contributor to your organization if s/he is in charge of aggressive campaigns or processes with short-term goals. If you want to expand the market or grow sales rapidly, this type is the one you are looking for. They can fit in a project manager position, sales team, or accounting department with routine jobs, not needing long-term strategies.
For entrepreneurs whose suppliers and distributors are various and can be easily replaceable, Hard-Style will bring a higher profit margin to the business since they are willing to leave the table if the deals are not fair for both parties, and in this case, the cost of dropping a deal is relatively low. Therefore, this type can be responsible for the partner management department under these circumstances. In fact, Hard-Styles are more likely to start their own business due to their love for risk and innovation.
When it comes to working modalities, this type performs well in remote work if there is real-time supervision of their tasks. The office is often the best place to develop the full potential of Hard-Styles.
Conclusion – Your people, your style
In sum, it is important to be able to differentiate between Soft-Style and Hard-Style persons. Both types can be very useful and bring many advantages to your company as long as you recognize the needs of your business and the specific tasks assigned to them. If you place a Soft-Style person in charge of a negotiation that will have a large impact in the long term but requires short-term sacrifices, for sure his/her way of bargaining and treating the other party will lead your project to success. Yet this might not be the case if such long-term negotiation is led by a Hard-Style person.
Behaviorally balanced teams can be built either (i) by hiring people with intermediate behavioral styles, especially when you are not sure if you need a Soft- or Hard-style (remember that most people show both styles to some extent), or (ii) by combining hires with different but complementary profiles. This increases behavioral diversity, which tends to make organizations more inclusive and teams more creative.
If you want to get the maximum potential out of your employees by assigning them tasks according to their profiles, Kodo People solution based on behavioral economics assessments will help you to differentiate both styles. Remember that past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior and that Kodo People is the only SaaS measuring candidates’ real behavior.
Contact us to discover who’s soft and who’s hard in your organization!