The business world is increasingly coming to realise that their human capital is their most valuable asset and the cornerstone in the success of their business.

However, managing employee relationships continues to be the daunting responsibility of the manager as personality conflicts rear their ugly heads with monotonous frequency.

Managers are also continually faced with appointing the most competent and suitable applicant for the job, someone who will adjust to the culture of the company which in turn will minimise the risks of interpersonal conflicts.

Recognising the integral role personality should play in the selection process and employee relationship management, human resource managers are turning increasingly to analysing the more subtle traits of prospective employees.

Handwriting analysis offers a proactive approach as the analysis can identify the potential for conflict before the working relationship becomes a reality.

Handwriting analysis is a complex exercise which measures the involuntary impulses between the brain and the hand, foot or mouth, whichever is used to write.

The study of handwriting is not akin to tarot card reading, but is an emerging science which is taught in major universities in Italy and in Germany as a part of courses in the faculty of psychology.

The professional and certified graphologist will take a holistic, Gestaltist approach to the analysis of an employee’s handwriting together with an analysis of the finer technical aspects of the handwriting to identify, among other things, motivation, drive, strengths, weaknesses, emotional stability, flexibility, creativity, materialist, ethical and intellectual bents and in some cases, health.

Professional graphologists adhere to a strict code of ethics and reports are balanced and impartial. The professional graphologist would also not attempt an analysis without the consent of the writer of a sample.

Although the individual has a right to privacy, the employer also has a responsibility to the current employees and to the customer. Furthermore, the employer has the right to employ the most competent and suitable applicant for the job.

Eighty percent of large French and Swiss companies, and several large corporations in America, for example, Boeing Co, Deloitte & Touche, Kodak, Peugeot Motors, amongst others, hire prospective employees with the assistance of appropriately trained and experienced handwriting specialists. In Israel, the most used personality test is handwriting analysis.

Handwriting is as unique to each individual as is their fingerprints. Unlike fingerprints, however, handwriting tells a story. It is a reliable indicator of personality and behaviour.

To illustrate this point is the case of an applicant whose handwriting sample revealed that he had the right qualities for the job. However, the handwriting suggested that the applicant may have an alcohol problem. It was later confirmed that he was an alcoholic who had not used alcohol in seven months. The company decided to risk employing the candidate who was, after two years, asked to leave after having been found drunk on the job on several occasions.

Silvana Grandin, well known handwriting expert with more than 30 years experience of working with companies in the recruitment of employees, believes that the usefulness of handwriting analysis lies in its ability to fill gaps in knowledge which other sources of information are not able to reveal and furthermore provides confirmation to results obtained from other forms of assessment. For example, handwriting analysis can assess the integrity of an applicant.

Furthermore, handwriting analysis may bring to light information which will facilitate the final selection from a short list of candidates for a position, all of whom may be suitable.

Handwriting analysis’ greatest strength lies in the ability to assess the combination of characteristics which makes up each unique individual.

It is also very useful for Employee Relationship Management (ERM) as it identifies personality traits, and indicates the success or otherwise of potential inter-personal relationships and adaptability.

There are three stages in ERM where handwriting analysis could be useful.

Prior to Interview

Firstly, before a potential applicant is interviewed, a sample of handwriting can pinpoint aspects to be explored in the interview, which the interviewer may not have thought to ask, e.g. the handwriting may indicate over-sensitivity to criticism, or argumentativeness.

Often in an interview, a scenario will be posed by the interviewer and the interviewee is required to indicate how he or she will respond. More often than not, the interviewee will respond in a way they think the interviewer would like to hear. The interviewer has no option but to take the interviewee’s word for it and try to gauge whether the response is sincere. The usefulness of a handwriting sample analysis is in the fact that it may confirm the response or indicate otherwise.

Just such a case dealt with by Grandin, gave the employer insight into the person behind the mask of a prospective employee. The artificial character of the writing revealed a very different face to an applicant who portrayed charm, eloquence, good manners and an impressive c.v. The applicant charmed her way into the company despite the warning emanating from the handwriting analysis. Sixteen months later during an audit in the accounts department, irregularities committed by her while she was employed as accountant, came to light.

Unlike psychometric tests, which can be manipulated, it is not possible to manipulate handwriting. The writer would not know what to change. Attempts to disguise handwriting are seldom successful because the trained and experienced graphologist will pick up the involuntary impulses which will reveal itself somewhere in the sample which will therefore lead to further investigation. There are a number of graphological features which are impossible to manipulate.

With Conflict Areas

The second area where handwriting analysis can assist in ERM would be conflict which already exists in the work environment. Understanding the basic character and approach to work of each individual assists the manager to handle employees in the conflict situation and the co-workers can understand how each thinks and feels, because the reasons for compatibility or otherwise will be revealed through the characteristics identified in the handwriting.

In Grandin’s experience, handwriting analysis has been very insightful in team building and she has successfully assisted a large corporation during a merger in helping to identify suitable candidates within the merging companies for particular posts.

Promotion Opportunities

A third aspect of ERM would be understanding employees who are being considered for internal promotion. Leadership qualities, people skills, determination, ability to make decisions, etc., would be revealed, e.g. a high achiever who prefers to work behind the scenes, but who is catapulted into the limelight may increasingly feel pressured. This valuable employer may begin to look around for a position with which he or she would be more comfortable or on the other hand, become demotivated. The threat of losing the employee becomes real or the employee may begin to underachieve as pressure to perform becomes more intense. An analysis will pick up the stress the individual is experiencing and further consultation could bring to light what is happening in the employee’s head.

Handwriting analysis can be a powerful ally to the human resource manager. It can help to appoint the most suitable employees, reduce potential conflict situations and retain valuable staff. Handwriting analysis provides accurate insight into the way people think and behave, which conventional psychometric tests are not always able to do.