This one’s a Keeper – with KeeperHR, FTEs can have personalities too

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Well, that’s a bit unusual. It’s not often that I get a business presentation trying to get me to look at pictures on the Web. But there is method in this madness – from the drawings, people can divine my Personality, with a user experience that is somewhat more fun than the usual Stalinesque interrogation by HR.

But, why bother? Yes, I’m an employee – well, I can remember being one – which means that I’m paid to do whatever my manager wants me to do – my personality has never had anything to do with anything before. What has changed?

A couple or three things really. For a start, American general Stanley McCHRYSTAL is starting to convince people that flatter organisational models and “teams of teams” are the way forward for business. Then, Mutable is a thing, with businesses in a constant state of evolution, and that presumably has an impact on Business Teams. And now we have the COVID-19 crisis which means that remote homeworking suddenly looks feasible, and businesses are trying to manage the people in their teams remotely, on their own turf (in their own kitchens), where they have a lot more autonomy, and many distractions from the daily Zoom meeting.

All of which means that businesses are soon quite likely to have to start treating employees as people, not as Robots, FTEs (Full Time Equivalents), “Units of Work” or “Senior Programmers, Class II” or whatever. Businesses may have to negotiate “teams of teams” interactions on equal terms with people who have personalities.

Which is where this new product called KeeperHR, and its pictures comes in. KeeperHR aims at elucidating employee personalities and keeping a record of them in a Personality Profile – but it aims at making the employees’ life a bit more fun at the same time. I am quite convinced that teams of teams (flatter organisations), remote homeworking, and treating people as people instead of ciphers is going to be part of the New Normal, so I am interested in its webinar.

The current “workflow” using KeeperHR is something like this:

  • Supply personal information, name and address:
  • Pick favourite photos from an arbitrary Web source.
  • Explain (in free-text) why you chose those photos.
  • Upload your CV.
  • Email your KeeperHR form to KeeperHR for processing into a Personality Profile.

From talking with Keeper’s Co-founder and CEO, Vishal Ahluwalia, and its Head of Data Science, Derek Stanford, there appears to be sufficient science behind the KeeperHR approach – personality testing via analysis pictures is feasible. There are even various click-bait apps online which purport to be “personality tests” – what distinguishes Keeper is the professionalism of the analysis (of course), its flexibility, its open-ended choice of images, and the text which is input alongside the picture choice.

Key points from my discussion with KeeperHR’s personality testing experts are.

  1. It uses the standard five personality dimensions: Openness to experience; Conscientiousness; Extraversion; Agreeableness; Neuroticism.
  2. Keeper HR has several use cases where both Employer and Employee work together to synthesise a better culture.
  3. What makes KeeperHR unique is its open-ended approach – it claims to be “nimble” and easy to integrate with different business environments.
  4. Keeper isn’t based in a fixed, limited, set of images (good, because I didn’t find any of the large range of images available in the version I was using particularly engaging); free text is used as well as images; and it can be repurposed in many different ways. It has applied for a patent; I hope to see this (but under NDA, until it is granted, I’m, afraid).
  5. Keeper is a data-driven company, with insights as to which employee fits a given role. The process of converting pictures/text into Keeper profiles is mostly a skilled human process at the moment; but research into its “analysis pipeline” is ongoing, and automation will increase as the product is developed.
  6. There are possible issues around personal data in KeeperHR and the legal obligations placed on organisations using it. Nevertheless, KeeperHR has a data masking capability, can keep information “company confidential” and has successfully done business with organisations subject to GDPR.
  7. The question of Profile quality. The possibility of “gaming” KeeperHR profiles has been the subject of considerable internal discussion at KeeperHR. The accepted idea seems to be that KeeperHR is looking at the personality people are happy to project (much as in an interview) and isn’t trying to catch people out. It is supposed to be open and fun. That is all very well but I suspect that looking at conflicts between basic personality and the personality people seek to project, for example, would be of considerable interest to Keeper’s customers (and could be handled in a sensitive way, although there is a risk that it might not be) and I don’t see this anywhere on Keeper’s immediate roadmap. I would also like to see a formal process around communicating Profiles to their subject; and for resolving conflicts between the personality suggested by the picture choice and the personality suggested by the subject’s CV.

Caveats? Well I haven’t seen a full personality assessment done so far; and I haven’t been able to talk to any early adopters yet. No doubt this will be remedied – the idea behind KeeperHR seems good, but execution is all. I’d also like to see positioning papers on the website, similar to “Using Visual Questionnaires to Measure Personality Traits” (which is for a different, but somewhat similar, approach).

It also seems to be focusing on large established B2B customers at the moment, which probably makes business sense, but I also think that there are some interesting use cases in the B2C space (it could be used to help staff made redundant to discover what job opportunities really suit their personalities, for example) – but B2C is definitely on the roadmap. I’d also like to see it institutionalize itself (cheaply) in startups (when personalities aren’t much of an issue, everybody knows everybody else pretty well) and then become part of good practice as the organisation grows, as well as targeting large companies.

What I am reasonably sure of is that treating employees as people, with personalities, will become good practice in the New Normal and that we will then need tools to help us asses personality impartially, without the risks of manual error, bias and favouritism which beset human assessments. KeeperHR may be one of the first of a new breed of tools which can help organisations do this.