If we were having a cup of coffee and you asked me how my work with employee selection and the creation of the 15dots® Selection Process began, here’s exactly what I would tell you.
Confessions of closet rebel
My educational background is in economics, psychology, and statistics. I’ve always been interested in the behavior of people in organizations: … why they join, why they leave, how they perform, how they learn, how they settle conflicts, etc. Serendipity got me into the wood products industry and more on that below.
In the 1950s, paper mills employed large numbers of minorities. They also were major users of ability tests for employee selection and job placement.
The unaddressed issue was that several commonly used tests created adverse impact for some groups of test takers such as women and minorities.
Leveling the field in employee selection
The passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1963 and Executive Order 11246 not only made unfair discrimination illegal, but it also held the defendant responsible for showing validity or job-relatedness with a test when adverse impact was created.
Wood products companies were the targets of the Department of Justice for enforcing the Civil Rights Act and the Executive Order. International Paper, Union Camp, St. Regis, Scott Paper Company, and others found themselves with a choice of either defending their use of ability tests or ceasing to use them.
Those who decided to retain the right to test and defend themselves sought help from attorneys and industrial psychologists.
I was among the group of industrial psychologists who were prepared to study the validity of the tests. The outcomes of these lawsuits were a summary judgement, a consent decree, or a conciliation agreement.
However, it’s noteworthy that none of the cases resulted in a cease-and-desist order to stop testing. This meant from a remedial standpoint, that there was a solution and a path forward to continue doing ability testing for employee selection.
Several companies chose to continue the use of testing and pursued a remediation strategy. Other companies determined that prevention rather than remediation was the way to go. They were saying, “If we could escape trouble once we are in it, why not set up and use systems that could keep us out of trouble in the first place?”
The end of an era: Giving employees and employers the tools to truly thrive
In the early 1980s, I left the security of a job as a college business school professor to start my own business with that prevention strategy in mind. I focused on developing and installing employee selection systems that would provide employers with data on candidate ability and motivation. I figured that if it did not work out, I could always go back to my college professor job.
My goal was to combine the principles of statistics, economics, and psychology to create a robust employee selection process that would deliver reliable repeatable results. Early on I worked with clients to complete the up-front job analysis that supported ability testing.
Over time, I realized there was a need for more. I developed training to standardize interviewing practices and made the case that organizations would benefit from involving more stakeholders in selection efforts. The Structured Board Interview, our interview guide, Selection Decision-Making training and tools such as our Final Prediction Grid grew out of those identified needs and insights.
The combination of the job analysis work, interview training, supporting tools and post installation consulting support became known as the Nowlin Selection Process or NSP for short (known today as the 15dots® Selection Process).
Clients rapidly realized that the Nowlin Selection Process was consistently yielding hires who learned quickly, worked well with others, and moved up successfully to higher level jobs. News about the impact of my work spread rapidly among paper industry leaders and HR managers.
I never went hungry and the need to return to the role of a college professor never materialized. I now joke with my partners at 15dots that at one point my advertising budget was what I spent on Christmas cards each December.
I attribute that success to two factors:
1) I established a sound employee selection process that yields predictable desired outcomes.
2) I made sure to let all clients know that I was only a phone call away if they had a question or needed support, and I promptly followed up when called upon.
Post project phone calls provided ongoing opportunities to coach, encourage, and build long-term business partnerships.
The oldest profession is not what you think
The oldest profession is actually the job of knowing who to hire when and why.
I was fortunate to enter this field when there was a pull for the services I offered. The pull continues to the present. We’re now in the next phase with the NSP under the umbrella of the 15dots® Selection Process with a broadened way in which to deliver our services both virtually and in person.
My proudest moment: bringing equality to employee selection
Fifty plus years have passed since the initial impact of the Civil Rights Act on the wood products industry. One of the things that I am proud of is that as I worked across the wood products industry, we’ve had an absolute minimum of federal court cases for unfair discrimination. Three cases come to mind over the past 32 years. It’s noteworthy that all three cases received summary judgements in favor of the client. That reflects the value created by enabling clients to implement and run a structured, objective rigorous employee selection process.