As a psychology professor who also studied philosophy, linking academic theories about personality and behavior to real-world business problems was both a source of frustration and a career-defining challenge for Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic.
“There was a big gap between what HR needed to solve on a daily basis and the theoretical world of academia,” says Chamorro-Premuzic, who is a consultant to Hogan Assessment Systems, a developer of personality assessment tests. “The two worlds were very different. I found that everything you can read about leadership, like in self-help books, was inaccurate and at the same time I realized that there was an appetite for these things.”
As a student in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and later in London, Chamorro-Premuzic, 37, began to study how personality differences affect performance in the workplace, examining traits such as creativity, leadership and entrepreneurship.
“One example is work I’ve done in profiling innovation potential, or entrepreneurship,” he says. “When I started there was no tool to measure this. We realized that everyone was talking about entrepreneurship but the topic was being hijacked by management consultants.”
He wanted to develop a more scientific approach to talent management. He developed a 15-minute test that identifies strengths and weaknesses and tells participants things like how likely they are to launch a successful business, “and even if they will be successful in getting funding for their proposals.”
Chamorro-Premuzic has helped companies like Citibank Inc. and Yahoo Inc. tackle staffing challenges, leadership development and branding strategies, among other issues, using the principles of organizational psychology and behavioral economics.
He says that the field of talent management has become more data driven and the demand for quantitative analysis of how personality differences affect the workplace is growing.
“These differences have huge consequences for business,” he says. “People are realizing that hard skills don’t mean that much. It doesn’t provide an indicator of how well someone will perform.”
His passion to understand how personality drives behavior was sparked in high school when he began reading philosophers like Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud and Martin Heidegger, he says.
An early reader who grew up in a middle-class Argentinian family, Chamorro-Premuzic says he began pondering life’s big questions when he was about 9 or 10 years old.
That sense of curiosity led him to a career in academia and to his current mission of bridging the gap between academic theory and human resources practice, he says.
Chamorro-Premuzic has written several books and many articles on psychological profiling and talent management for both academic and mainstream publications, including the Harvard Business Review, Fast Company and the Guardian newspaper in London. In addition to his work with Hogan, he is also a professor of business psychology at University College London in the United Kingdom.