Marriott Alumni Magazine

Spring Summer 1977 Exchange

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Assessing Your Future by Roger Williams It's universal for a company to want individuals with the technical ability to run a highly complex operation and the interpersonal skills necessary to direct a diverse work force. But actually identifying these leaders is another managerial ballgame. No team wants to invest weeks of training only to see a rising star foul out. When Ore-Ida Foods, a food processing subsidiary of H. J. Heinz, Inc., needed to spot candidates for first-line managerial openings, it merged energy and ideas with students from BYU's organizational behavior department. The company and students were looking for men and women who could settle work-crew disputes, achieve fairness with employees, and avoid labor/management problems. The students and Ore-Ida staff, including management personnel in production, quality control, and training, conducted the two-day Assessment Center at the company's Burley, Idaho, plant. Twelve hourly workers were invited to participate in simulated exercises intended to judge such qualities as interpersonal skills, reasoning ability, handling of conflict, organizational and problem-solving capabilities, and motivation techniques. The plant employees included a warehouseman, carpenter, machinery operator, food boxer, and secretary, among others. The 6 men and 6 women ranged from 26 to 46 years old and had spent from 3 to 12 years with the company. Three of the workers were Spanish-speaking Americans. (Approximately 30 percent of the plant personnel are of Spanish descent.) Tater Tots For the six students, who knew nothing of the intricacies of transforming Idaho "spuds" into heat 'n serve hash browns, French fries, and tater tots, the plant operations were an unexpected mix of computer operations and human-technological skill. But how do you select from a dozen individuals the ones who can effectively manage a plant operation-those who have the appropriate sensitivity to minorities? Are these same individuals able to delegate assignments and encourage quality work? As a rule, assessment centers typically run both the assessees and assessors through a pencil-chewing battery of managerial brain teasers. This one followed the rule. In one exercise, the participants met with the assessors in one-on-one situations and were confronted with a series of work-station problems that required individuals to draw upon their knowledge of motivational skills and plant policy. The problems ranged from an employee petition on a coworker's personal hygiene to what tactics should be BYU students (from foreground) Peter Sorenson, Joe Koslarek, Greg Witt, and Kris Arnold review materials prior to simulation exercise with Ore-Ida assessment center participants

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