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Meet Ernie Paskey


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May 2, 2017 | by Eleni Lobene


You know it’s going to be a great interview when your interviewee is at an international airport purchasing Jelly Bellies as a preflight snack at the end of a long week. The scenario actually perfectly sets us up to get to know Ernest Paskey… efficient, productive, humble, and – importantly – fun.

Ernie is a Partner at Aon Hewitt and serves as the North America Practice Leader for Assessment. He is approaching his 9th anniversary with the company and oversees a team of close to 60 people. Ernie describes his work broadly as “helping organizations achieve business results through talent.” He explains that it is part science, part art, and – of course – part execution supporting overall strategy. Through his assessment team, he is about bringing the best in science to the workforce, in the “easiest, simplest, most effective way possible.”

What drew you to the field of Industrial-Organizational Psychology?

Ernie explains that a lot of people are attracted to the field of psychology because they are interested in people’s behavior – and what goes on in in their minds. But, for him, the real intrigue is in the “so what” factor. We have theories and know a lot about human behavior, but what does that result in, in society? In the field of Industrial-Organizational (I-O) Psychology, you have the opportunity to apply psychology to the business world, resulting in clear feedback including business metrics, such as performance. Ernie appreciates that practical application of psychology saying that “you are either right or you are wrong… or you are kind of right and we need to continue to try and do better.”

Ernie started his career in the public sector executing public policy. The government is the single largest employee in the United States and the programs he worked on had – and continue to have – a national impact. Today his career lives in the engine of capitalism and commerce offering a very different, but interesting, perspective. He still seeks to make the world better by moving the needle on variables such as improving customer satisfaction, growing and expanding opportunities, and even making work safer. These are simple concepts that are not-so-simple behind the scenes. Ernie describes them as being “ever changing and fascinating” concluding with “who cannot love that?”

What is the top guiding principle you try to instill in your team?

“…that we are in this together and collectively. There is no challenge or issue that we cannot answer together. With that comes huge freedom and responsibility to operate individually and collectively in the best way possible.”

Rumor has it that you have a knack for identifying top talent – do you have a secret formula you would like to share with the world?

[Chuckling and without hesitation] “Yes. Very much so. My secret is that I recognize that I have an inability to identify top talent. This is very true. I trust others and I trust objective data to tell me what top talent looks like.”

What has kept you in this industry?

“The industry I was in 10 years ago, 5 years ago, and today… are all totally different.” Ernie explains that assessment continues to evolve through technological advancement, business strategy, the science of measurement, and globalism. He also asserts that the people coming up behind are smarter and better [some might challenge this claim…] and that they keep “us” [presumably his generation] on “our” toes.

As you look out over the horizon of the work that you do, what are you most excited about moving forward?

Ernie is excited by the idea that assessment, as we know it today, will be gone in 5 short years: “We have some ideas of what it may look like, but it will probably be something we never fully expected.”  He goes on to explain that if we are accurately predicting roughly 30% of variance in job performance now, you have to ask the question: can we capture 50% or 60% in near future?

When I inquired if there was anything else that came to mind which we had not yet covered, he offered two additional nuggets of wisdom I would be remiss to exclude: 1) make sure you are never the smartest person in the room – always have people around you who you look at and wish you were as good as them; it helps you grow, and 2) allow yourself to be wrong at times; have a low ego and humility.

Finally, since we started this post with Ernie buying a bag of candy, it is only fair to round out that image with a bit more color – especially since I have literally never seen Ernie eat candy. Ernie is an avid runner – having completed multiple marathons – and coaches his daughter’s soccer team in his (nonexistent, but somehow still existent) free time. He also enjoys following his alma mater’s – James Madison University – college sports. So, go Dukes!



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