HirePayoff™ Concludes Major Research – ‘Can Do’ Is Good, But ‘Will Do’ Is Beginning to Rule

Posted in Hirepayoff News

“Skills Are Still Important to Performing a Job But, In Today’s Workplace ‘Will Do’ Is Passing ‘Can Do’ in Gauging Who’s the Best Performer,” Says Dr. David Jones, Author of Million Dollar Hire.

Even though the country’s job growth is slow, employers still hire nearly four million workers every month. And the cost of making hiring mistakes continues to climb, particularly when new hires fail to meet expectations. This is why companies are focusing more and more on finding what really drives employee performance.

“Every employer knows performance is a complex thing; it’s made up of many pieces.  That’s why, when our team released Million-Dollar Hire: Build Your Bottom Line, One Employee at a Time (Jossey-Bass, April 2011), we stressed how important it is to gain a picture of both the ‘Can Do’ and ‘Will Do’ sides of a new hire,” says Dr. David Jones.  “And as more and more employers ask us to frame hiring process solutions – recruitment and selection tools that involve employment testing for these qualities, we found real changes emerging in the performance management side of the workplace,” adds Jones.

As Jones explains, “In working with supervisors and managers, we’ve heard increasingly that it’s not so much whether employees can do the job that’s the challenge; it’s whether they will do it.”  According to Jones, “Supervisors, managers, and HR leaders increasingly stress how important, compared to knowledge and skills, are competencies that reflect things such as dependability, commitment, drive, willingness to take responsibility, etc.

With engineering controlling more and more what’s done, technology simplifying work, and quality control watching output, managers today claim it’s increasingly competencies other than skills and abilities that differentiate the best from worst performers.  “Some of this is not really new; we’ve seen these qualities for many years,” says Jones.  “What’s growing is the concern employers are raising about the weight ‘Will Do’ competencies carries in shaping bottom line performance.”

Then again, the question is whether these reports are too subjective, or sometimes simply the result of a poor connection between the employee and supervisor.  To gain a better understanding of just how the workplace, and workforce, are changing, Jones set out to find hard data; information to clarify just how important ‘Will Do’ behavior is becoming in shaping employees’ overall performance.  In the process, he and colleagues at HirePayoff™ set out to collect job performance data on thousands of workers; ones assembled from companies in a wide range of businesses sectors.

To replace opinions and feelings with hard numbers, the team gathered detailed evaluations of workers’ behavior in areas such as learning, troubleshooting, problem solving, communicating, and other ‘Can Do’ aspects of performance.  They also gathered evaluations of behavior in areas such as dependability, commitment, drive, team play, and other ‘Will Do’ features of performance.

Data mining then explored which evaluations explain – predict – supervisor and manager judgments about employees’ bottom line performance.  Analyses even explored what on-the-job behavior determines whether a supervisor, if given the choice, would re-hire the person.

According to Jones, “Data mining showed differences from traditional research claims that it’s differences in ‘Can Do’ competencies that weigh far more heavily in driving bottom line performance,” for example:

  • In every organization studied, analyses found evaluations of employees’ ‘Will Do’ competencies carried as much, and often more, weight in explaining bottom line performance than their ‘Can Do’ competencies.  “Yes, skills helped shape overall performance, but the ‘weight’ of these competencies fell far short of ruling the bottom line,” says Jones.
  • For example, overall evaluations of workers’ bottom line performance among more than 500 employees at a technically sophisticated manufacturing company, shown in the graphic, were explained better by the worker ‘Will
    competencies, such as showing drive to succeed, commitment, and team play, than by their ‘Can Do’ competencies, such as how well they learn and apply, troubleshoot, and solve problems.

Explaining Bottom Line Performance with Skilled Manufacturing Employees


  • Jones notes that, “No matter where we looked, differences in employees’ bottom line performance were based as much on ‘Will Do’ as ‘Can Do’ competencies,” says Jones. In technology, professional, and supervisory jobs, the two sets of competencies driving bottom line performance were balanced inmuch the same way as in retail, shipping and receiving, and factory labor jobs.
  • When it came to ‘Does this employee have the potential to advance?’ ‘Will Do’ competencies still carried as much weight as ‘Can Do.’ Says Jones. “You would expect the potential for advancement to be guided more by ‘Can Do’ competencies, such as learning, applying skills, problem solving, etc., but that’s not what we found. Even here, ‘Will Do’ competencies played an equal role.”
  • When it came to ‘Does this employee have the potential to advance?’ ‘Will Do’ competencies still carried as much weight as ‘Can Do.’ Says Jones. “You would expect the potential for advancement to be guided more by ‘Can Do’ competencies, such as learning, applying skills, problem solving, etc., but that’s not what we found. Even here, ‘Will Do’ competencies played an equal role.”

According to Jones, “The data are so clear, and the research samples so large, it’s understandable why employers cite a growing need to evaluate candidate ‘Will Do’ competencies as part of the recruitment and selection process with the proper types of employment testing tools.” “Yes, skills and abilities are important, but data show the ‘Will Do’ competencies of an employee truly shape managers’ views about their overall on-the-job performance,” Jones adds.

“This places pressure on recruitment and selection and employment testing professionals to expand their traditional cognitive skills testing,” says Jones. “It’s a new world of measurement when it comes to tapping the ‘Can Do Will Do’ competencies that frame whether a new hire will make the grade. And today’s workplace can’t afford to continue focusing primarily on the cognitive skill and ability measures that have defined the world of employee assessment for so many
decades. Today, even employee engagement needs to become a target of recruitment and selection employment testing,” Jones adds.

Building on this solid research, Jones and the HirePayoff™ team launched more data mining to find just what types of employee assessment tools offer the best, most efficient ways to tap today’s ‘Will Do’ competencies. According to Jones, “The data we’ve collected show how tapping ‘Can Do Will Do’ competencies predicts job performance in a wide range of ways, adding to the accuracy of traditional cognitive skill and ability employment testing.”

According to Jones, “An added positive is what we’ve found in terms of actually reducing some of the legal compliance challenges employers face when only cognitive skills and abilities guide the hiring process, and ethnic and gender
differences result in hiring. The ‘Will Do’ tools actually help avoid such results,” adds Jones.

“It’s important, too, that recruitment and selection employment testing for ‘Will Do’ competencies not focus purely on classic personality testing or personality assessment techniques,” says Jones. “The world of ‘Will Do’ employment testing is far broader in the concepts to be covered, particularly in today’s online selection
testing procedures,” Jones adds. That, and the improvement in finding top talent, is the topic of even more data mining undertaken by HirePayoff™ and reported in a coming update.

About HirePayoff™

David Jones, PhD, author of Million-Dollar Hire: Building Your Bottom Line, One Employee at a Time, published in April, 2011 by Jossey-Bass, is among the few HR professionals to found and grow a major international business.  In Million-Dollar Hire he shows how, even in a slow economy, U.S. employers make millions of hiring decisions every month. Every decision carries
risk. Every hire is an investment. Ideally, every hiring decision pays a return. Using practical, real world illustrations, Jones shows there are tools to treat every hiring decision with the same focus a business applies in acquiring other high-value assets.

Today, Jones is president of Growth Ventures Inc., whose HirePayoff™ division works with employers to implement tools to tap both the ‘Can Do’ and ‘Will Do’ online employee testing.  Through HirePayoff™, Jones helps companies re-invent their recruiting and selection practices and add to the bottom line with re-engineered, legally compliant tools. For more information, visit www.hirepayoff.com.

Media Contact:

Dr. David Jones
President & CEO