Assessments in various forms have been used within business for decades. Whether you want to call them behavioral assessments, psychometrics or people analytics, you know what I am referring to and many of us will have completed them. But what was that experience like for you or your team?

And how do you balance their use with creating an engaged workplace and strong culture?

I doubt it will surprise you that I am an advocate of some of these assessments. I use them with my clients. However, I’m very clear on what I feel is ethically appropriate and how I believe they should be used.

With the new wave of gamification assessments and other more invasive elements (used for profiling large numbers of job candidates), business leaders must assess the ethics of the tools they are using and be open and honest with candidates regarding this. With these tools, intent and context are key. Put simply, two similar companies using the exact same tools can use them in very different ways and create a hugely contrasting candidate or employee experience.

Context

The way any tool is used is critical, but it’s so vital here.

Why are you using them? Is it for mutual benefit? Are you already fixed about what answers you need?

Let’s not use them to put people into a box or for negative means. Be open-minded.

The results should provide some food for thought for the respondent and the organization. In many scenarios, the true value does not necessarily come from the results but what you do with them!

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Validity

Some well-known assessment models are akin to a three-minute Facebook quiz or a teen magazine assessment on relationship compatibility. They have no statistical significance, yet they survive by tapping into people’s desire to have their behavior explained or to be part of a ‘club’.

Can you really use those as part of any decision-making process? Could they be detrimental to the respondents?

In stark contrast, some are clearly well suited to the business landscape. The language used is different and their relevance within the workplace is far stronger.

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How do We Best Use These Assessments Within Organizations?

The main areas of application are obvious, but that does not stop people doing them poorly!

Coaching & Development

Behavioral tools can offer huge value to the assessed individual and the wider business in the correct context. If you are using these tools to exclude or rule people out of a potential promotion or a specific department, you are missing the point.

The tools should be steering you towards a development plan for the individual, showcasing their strengths and highlighting areas that could be addressed. Like an annual performance review, done well, it is a launchpad for growth, but if done badly it leads to disengagement.

Team Dynamics 

Particularly with teams, it is vital to be very clear about why any assessments are completed. Ideally, it is because you want to create greater understanding amongst the team of the varying personalities and styles within it, with a view to growth, improvement and appreciation of others. The alternative is that you can easily, and unwittingly, create scapegoats and limit the development of new skills or interests.

Recruitment 

I’m not a fan of mass recruitment, using only tools delivered online, without any human interaction from the employer. That’s just my view. I understand the challenges those organizations face in hiring staff, but I always encourage them to validate their candidate experience. Some are horribly cold and dehumanizing.

I suggest that these tools are used as part of a wider recruitment strategy. Used properly, they can offer information or topics to raise in interviews. As part of an aligned and strategic process, using a high-quality assessment adds a measurable and objective component to recruiting.

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Thinking of Using Assessments?

These tools are unlikely to work for everybody. They can work for you, but you’ll likely need management and the wider company to buy in to help ensure their effectiveness.

Here are a few simple tips from me to make the most of any investment in this area:

  • Do you know what you are looking to assess and what you are hoping to achieve?

Sounds obvious and easy, but it’s remarkable how often companies are using a tool not quite optimized for the task at hand. Does the tool have the right level of depth? Is the language excessively complex or academic?

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  • Have you briefed the respondents ahead of time and explained the process?

Take the fear out of it for people and you will see a huge shift in the value you receive.

If you are using the tools with good intentions, people will pick up on that and be happy to gain insight and be excited by the possibilities!

  • Do your research!

Is the tool reliable? Does it have workplace and academic validity? Is there an accreditation network for practitioners? Have you read sample reports? If so, read them with a respondent’s mindset and think about potential areas of concern for them.

  • Get training, or use an expert.

The debrief and interpretation of results are very important and you only get one chance to do these properly. If you guess or presume you have understood the results correctly, you are very likely missing some vital nuance. As these tests can be very personal for people, don’t take them lightly. Protect your investment in them and the tool!

Like employee engagement and workplace culture, people are at the core of these assessments. As a result, don’t forget your human side in these interactions. Use them positively and you will embark on a journey of personal development with people. Use them poorly and they will quickly get dusty on the shelf or lead to resentment and frustration.

To coin a Spiderman line, “With great power comes great responsibility”.


pete-grosse-picPete is based in the UK, and runs Team 144.

He is passionate about helping to create the type of business that people want to work for and fostering environments that allow people to do the best work of their lives.

He is making business more human, whilst still driving high performance and success.

Twitter – @petegrosse.

LinkedIn – www.linkedin.com/in/petergrosse/