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Employee Matchmaking

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When Jeff Jernigan came to 186-staffed-bed St. Mary Medical Center in Apple Valley, Calif., as vice president of human resources in 2002, turnover and vacancy rates were high. Facing a recruiting challenge at the rural facility that serves a 200,000-square-mile area between Loma Linda and Las Vegas, Jernigan eventually turned to a tool that had yielded success outside the healthcare industry to improve St. Mary's employee satisfaction.In 2004, Jernigan introduced the Predictive Index system, a 50-year-old tool used to predict how well a person will respond to a particular work environment. The two-part questionnaire asks prospective employees to select traits they see in themselves, then to choose the behaviors they believe an employer expects of them. Each staff opening is evaluated to determine which responses are likely to result in the best job performance. The five- to seven-minute behavioral survey gives interviewing managers insight into a person's character so they can tailor questions to address areas where the employee and the position might not match. For example, an applicant for a foodservice position whose survey reveals they need variety probably isn't the right candidate to run a meat slicer. "If we put someone in that position whose behavioral preference in the workplace is for a job that has a lot of motion, it's a poor fit. They'll be slicing more than food the minute they get distracted," Jernigan says.St. Mary contracted with PI Worldwide of Wellesley, Mass., to pilot the online Predictive Index program in its finance division, which encompasses about one-third of its employees from entry to director level. Several managers and human resources representatives were trained to interpret survey results, as was the chief financial officer, who is now a champion of the instrument. Of 28 positions ranging from environmental service workers to vice president that have been filled using the behavioral test as part of the process, turnover has been zero, Jernigan says. Retention in those positions has increased an average of two years. -Kara Olsen