Making Sense of the Assessment Maze

If work life sometimes feels like a rat race, then the selection and application of workplace assessments can sometimes feel like a long and complicated maze. If your workplace is similar to most in today’s fast-paced business environment, the use of assessments to gauge expected performance, preferences, fit, and development are commonplace.

assessments mazeAssessments are used in a variety of people-related practices, including recruitment and selection, training and development, team effectiveness and succession planning. And, not surprisingly, different assessments are used for different purposes, different reasons, and different roles.

In addition, the choice of assessment is typically based on what’s most familiar or popular – to either staff or external consultants. Whether the assessment, or suite of assessments, is appropriate for the intended application(s) and provides the required insight in a meaningful and valid format is rarely addressed or is conveniently avoided altogether.

Choosing the right assessment might seem like a trip through a giant and sometimes confusing maze, but there is a clear path to the end. To get the best value from the use of assessments in your organization, you should consider the following simple steps:

  • Clarify the results expected, and benefits to be gained, from your use of specific assessments for each proposed application (e.g., selection, training, etc.). During the selection process, for example, determine whether the assessment will be for front-end screening, additional information during the actual selection process, or an additional validation of your quality candidate towards the end of the process. This step will simplify the entire process.
  • Determine the key principles that guide the use of assessments in your organization, including how different assessments should link together across various phases in the talent management cycle. Ideally, assessments should be linked in some fashion, so the criteria used for selection for a specific role, for example, will also show up in assessments used to help develop staff in that same role.
  • Confirm the important predictors of success for target roles so you match assessment results with desired attributes of your assessment participants. Generic assessments may have their role, but you’ll get far better results if you take time to identify the key actions and behaviours that differentiate effective, or even superior, performers. While this can involve more time and effort, it is worth winding your way to through this portion of the assessment maze.
  • Ensure that the assessments you select are suitable for the proposed use – most have specific applications and won’t easily transfer to alternate uses. For example, MBTI Step II is an excellent tool for team development but is inappropriate for selection purposes. You’ll want to move to something like the Hogan Assessment suite that has proven predictability in terms of on-the-job performance.
  • Find out about your assessment’s strength in terms of validity and reliability. You can get online access to expert reviews of various assessments through the Buros Centre for Testing. It will cost a few dollars, but you’ll get some very insightful feedback about the purported validity of your desired tool, enabling you to feel more certain about the entire process.
  • assessments debriefAnd don’t forget to build in full interpretation and debrief support for your assessment users and/or participants. Qualified and experienced practitioners should be the ‘go to’ people for providing full understanding of assessment features, benefits, limitations, and interpretation. You, your organization, and the participants will get a lot more from their assessment results if they get this quality debrief.

Used properly, assessment tools bring real value to the decision-making process – just be heads up on how to incorporate the foundation elements before you launch and you’ll be at the end of the maze in no time at all.

About The Author

Scott Borland, Founder & President of CYGNUS Management Consultants Inc, , is a recognized expert in helping executives host strategic conversations and obtain high impact feedback. He brings insightful perspective and proven strategies to strengthen the alignment between strategy and leadership behaviour. Scott has presented frequently at regional/national conferences and is a regular contributor to online journals/blogs. Follow Scott on Twitter or add him as a connection on LinkedIn.

User Comments

There are 2 comments on this post.

  1. Excellent breakdown of assessment tools, Scott — I’ve definitely felt like I was in a bit of “maze” in the past when it comes to assessments, and I’m sure I’m not alone on that! Thanks for the insight.

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