We work with several clients who have started conducting culture indexing on potential staff members for their surgical programs. Are you for or against this approach? I have been against culture indexing because I do not understand its role in the surgical area.

About two years ago, several clients of ours asked for their candidates to go through culture indexing. This method resembles a personality test whereby company leaders determine what traits a particular candidate possesses and if that person will fit with the company.

The process starts with scanning résumés of potential staff. Then, one conducts a phone interview to see if a candidate meets criteria for the facility. Next, qualified and screened candidates are presented to the client for their comments.

Once candidates arrive for in-person interviews, culture index testing begins. Assessment questions include (but are not limited to): What is your leadership style? Can you recall a time when you pleased or displeased a customer or client? How would others you worked with describe your personality? Do you prefer to work with a team or by yourself?

The process also calls for the test-taker to choose between two actions; the candidate can pick only one response. For example, a choice between “I will always avoid being critical of a co-worker” or “Sometimes, it is difficult to hold my tongue when I see a co-worker being out of bounds with a patient or surgeon.” The questions twist and turn, going on seemingly forever.

One challenge for facility leaders considering culture indexing as part of their hiring practice is understanding their own culture and what they are looking for in their staff. These expectations can vary by position.

For instance, someone who scored high on “follows direction well” may not fit the role of nurse manager or administrator.

However, the results of culture indexing tests are not necessarily automatized. Many programs with which I am familiar employ a trained psychologist to review the data and create a customized report.

As a nonbeliever, I recently took one of the leading company’s tests to see what we were subjecting our potential employees to. I thought I could make myself look better than I probably am. The online test took about 45 minutes to complete, but it did not feel that long because of the assessment’s length.

At the end of the session, I submitted my responses. A couple days later, I received my report, which basically concluded I did not answer questions honestly or consistently. While it was irritating to be caught, I was impressed.

Since the report was going only to me, I decided to take the assessment again and be honest. Several days later, I received the new report, and I believe it pretty well captured my personality.

Later, I asked several of my long-term staff to take the test. The results were right on. One staffer who has been with me for over 20 years did not meet my desire for culture; because of that, I probably should not have hired that person. However, I am glad I did because that person is a jewel to work with and great at their job.

Some of our clients have uniformly rejected candidates based on their traits revealed through culture indexing, while other clients hired candidates on a case-by-case basis, which is what I would recommend. While culture indexing can be another tool in the hiring process, I would not recommend using it exclusively.

There are good people available who do not have to meet your needs perfectly. We all can use fewer “yes people” in our lives to see the complete picture of who we are. Maybe we could require our surgeons to take these tests?

(Earnhart & Associates is a consulting firm specializing in all aspects of outpatient surgery development and management. Earnhart & Associates can be reached at 5114 Balcones Woods Drive, Suite 307-203, Austin, TX 78759. Phone: (512) 297-7575. Fax: (512) 233-2979. Email: searnhart@earnhart.com. Web: www.earnhart.com. Instagram: Earnhart.Associates.)