By: Susan Ruhl
Employee assessments have been in use for a long time – as far back as 1115 BC, officials in what is now part of China used formal assessments to examine civil servants on their proficiency in job-related skills and abilities. Following World War II, the practice of assessing employees began to take hold in our modern-day culture. Today, the use of assessment tools and practices is widespread, and organizations spend millions of dollars each year on them.
Many people associate the term “assessment” with selection – and certainly, assessments can help increase the probability of hiring the best candidates. But another valuable use for assessments is employee and leadership development. Assessments provide information about individual and group-level capabilities, preferences, styles, behaviors, etc., that contribute to a wide variety of purposes. Some of the development-related purposes for employee skill assessments include the following:
Assessments enable employees to gain insight and awareness about themselves, serving as critical input for where to focus attention and effort on growth and development. Professional skill assessments may be an integral part of a training program, enabling participants to increase awareness related to the topic at hand (for instance, leadership style or conflict preferences). The value of insight and focus gleaned from assessments also make them important tools in executive coaching and comprehensive development programs, such as high potential or career path frameworks.
Foster team development
Assessments help foster team cohesiveness and synergy. Personality or style/preference assessments, or assessments geared specifically toward teams, enable members to understand each other better and serve as a basis for communicating more effectively, sharing roles and responsibilities and generally working better together.
Assimilate new people
Organizations that have used a particular instrument widely find that making that assessment available to new hires is one vehicle for assimilating them into the organization. Common assessments enable new employees to learn about the culture, language, their colleagues and how they fit into the organization.
Target training resources
At a collective level – across a department, job level or family, or entire organization – assessments can help identify what training programs are most needed and worthwhile for investment.
Enhance organizational effectiveness
Using assessments for any of these purposes contributes to overall organizational effectiveness. As individual employees, teams, whole departments and organizations increase awareness and insight with the use of assessment tools, employees are able to learn and develop behaviors that increase their effectiveness. Additionally, any time an organization supports employee and leadership development, it contributes to overall employee engagement and retention.
How to Conduct Employee Assessments
If you want to use an assessment for any of the purposes described above, how do you go about doing so? There are a multitude of assessment tools out there and the choices can be overwhelming, so I offer the following advice in selecting and using assessments:
First, know the reason why you want an assessment. Assessments are simply tools, so what is the situation, problem, or need you are trying to address? Understanding the purpose will help determine what you want to measure and what kind of tool would be best – do you need an assessment focused on personality, cognitive skills, leadership competencies, specific behaviors, or something else? Is a 360 tool best, or a self report? Do you need a virtual simulation?
Second, whatever tool you use, ensure that it is a solid one with research and data to back up its validity.
Finally, partner with a trusted consultant or advisor like ICC who has experience in assessments and who can guide you and provide critical understanding and interpretation of results. Many companies start here rather than wading through all the options themselves.
Assessments can be incredibly valuable in organizations. How can you use assessments to meet your needs and increase organizational effectiveness?