Consultants, human resource professionals, career coaches and executive coaches use assessments in many talent management activities. When used judiciously, assessments are wonderful tools that provide real insight into an individual’s personality and/or behaviors. In fact, OI Partners offers a tool-belt of assessments depending on the situation. However, when it comes to selecting the “right” assessment, the choices are numerous and selection can be overwhelming. A couple of fundamentals to keep in mind:
- Define the need for an assessment(s) – The first steps in an engagement includes defining the issue, performing a “gap analysis,” and determining how to gather accurate data. Assessments provide useful insights into specific strengths and opportunities for growth or change. However, they aren’t the only tool available and should always be considered in light of other choices. Interviews, observation, focus groups, simulations and 360s are just some of the other tools that inform us and may actually be less expensive and more informative in the long run.
- Understand what assessments do and don’t do – Assessments differ in what they attempt to measure and how successfully they do it, so it is helpful to know the strengths and limitations of an instrument.
Descriptive Assessments measure the connection between discrete personality traits, personal styles, and behavioral inclinations. The goal is to understand what “drives” behavior or job performance through one or more psychological measures. These include instinctive/inherent traits (e.g., resilience, flexibility, etc.), rational traits (e.g. problem-solving, abstract reasoning, etc.), and social traits (e.g., empathy, assertiveness, etc.). Instruments are designed to measure specific characteristics or constructs that extrapolate to an individual’s overall style. What descriptive assessments do well is present a generalized personality profile based on a set of select characteristics/traits. What they don’t do well is predict how personality characteristics translate into specific, consistent behaviors.
Predictive Assessments are different in that they are designed to measure capacity rather than capability. More specifically, they utilize a job “profile,” based on specific validated skills/competencies, to measure an individual’s potential level of performance in a role. They may also contain a limited descriptive component. For example, it is good to know that a sales candidate is assertive (descriptive), but it is critical to know how they prospect for clients, handle conflict, and close a deal (predictive). Predictive assessments are most useful in succession planning and leader development programs, where the goal is to build competencies or skill sets. On the downside, while a number of instruments claim to be predictive, there are very few that actually have the research to back that up.
Remember, one type of assessment is not “better” than another. However, one may be better suited to a particular situation. A combination of both predictive and descriptive measures would seem ideal, but it can be cost prohibitive and overkill in some situations.
Ultimately, choice of assessments is based on preference, which may be driven by things like, familiarity, cost, certification requirements, validity and reliability, complexity interpreting results, etc.
What assessments do you use? Why? Tell us about your experience with assessments?