Humans are inherently bad at making judgments about themselves and others In light of this, the “assessment” field was developed to try and bring greater objectivity and predictive power to these evaluations. The manner in which people are assessed varies greatly, but the goal is to synthesize information and gain a thorough understanding of someone’s personality, capabilities, or both. In organizations, assessments are used to make any number of decisions about people. Assessment can be a valuable tool to inform talent management practices, and useful at any point along the talent life cycle. I’ll let you in on a little secret—assessments can offer much, much more. The problem with focusing on assessments solely for decision-making is that you aren’t inherently getting enough bang for your buck from your investment.
Figure 1: Talent Life cycle: Assessments can be utilized to aid in decisions at every stage of the talent life cycle, but organizations get the most value by utilizing insights continually over time across all talent management practices.
So what can organizations do to increase their assessment ROI? Below, we offer five ways to get the most out of your employee assessment practices.
Train Your Bosses
We have a long-standing client at Vantage for whom we complete hundreds of hiring assessments a year. One of the hiring managers I often work with, Susan, heads a new business unit. She has hired a dozen or so individuals over the past three years, and she worked one-on-one with assessors to understand the candidates’ testing and interview results. She is now so well-versed in the psychometric tools we use that she utilizes the terminology found in the test results to create a common lexicon for the team. She does this by referencing different styles and behaviors described in the testing in team meetings, references each team member’s results to help peers understand how to better work together, and sets expectations for performance based on where she believes her employees will fall on the assessment metrics. Susan is quite a savvy user of our assessments results, and she’s consistently finding new and interesting ways to incorporate this information into her day-to-day. But this is not by her company’s design—Susan is simply curious and resourceful. Imagine an organization where every manager is that invested! Training management on what an assessment is, what information it provides, and how it can be used is critical to keeping the results from sitting in a filing cabinet. Even better, organizations can provide resources and timely reminders to help leaders incorporate this information into how they manage their teams.
Ask: How Does This Benefit the Employee?
Many organizations use assessments the same way the Department of Education uses standardized tests—ask people to do some (often grueling or uninteresting) activity to get what you need. Historically, there has been very little emphasis placed on what the person being assessed might need or how they might benefit. Not only is this approach simply outdated, as it gives the impression that the organization’s needs trump the employee’s (essentially you’re taking employees for granted), but it also resigns assessment results to be a one-off tool to help a decision maker in a specific moment in time. Instead, it is best practice to provide feedback based on assessment results and help the person understand what they can do to continue to advance their skills.
Create Accountability for Development
Once the manager knows how to use results and the employee understands what their results say about them, the pair is well-prepared to take action. Engaging in development planning or goal-setting to shore up any gaps revealed in the assessment is the logical next step. Many, many organizations leave this process up to the participant. Unfortunately, that means that only the highest caliber employees do anything with their results. Others treat it as a “nice to know” fun exercise in self-reflection, but do not actually adjust behavior. There must be some sort of accountability in place to ensure everyone takes action on their results, particularly because the people who are most in need of behavior change are often the least likely to see the need to do anything differently. Wondering where to begin? Here are some tips for creating an actionable, effective development plan.
Don’t Let Results Gather Dust
Nearly every client we have is trying to “do more with less” and squeeze additional value from the proverbial stone. This is why it is mind-boggling to me when organizations do not take the time to map how assessment results can inform all their talent practices. For example, when recruiting, you gather a wide variety of information on your candidates. How often are individuals’ specific results utilized to assist in their onboarding? Unfortunately, not often. Leveraged to determine who should be on a succession plan? Slightly more often, but still not enough. In the Age of Information, we should be finding new ways to unlock the power of our data, not shelving it.
Believe it or not, one of the most frequent questions I receive after assessment feedback sessions is, “Will I be reassessed?” These participants inherently know that if they want to demonstrate change and growth, they’ll need feedback on their progress to help guide their efforts. And, assuming they make progress against any developmental needs, they want to be recognized. Additionally, just knowing that you will be re-assessed creates some accountability for change. It’s one of the reasons we strongly recommend re-assessment for any leadership teams that go through our High Performance Teams process—people are more likely to do what they say they’re going to do if they know they’re on the hook for it. This is a particularly critical component of getting the most from your assessments when it comes to external hires. A year later, you should be evaluating whether or not the person is a good fit, how they’re performing, and how they’re fitting into the culture. If you don’t, you open yourself up to flight risks.
How does your organization use assessments? How integrated are assessment results into the talent management life cycle? How savvy are leaders in maximizing assessment insights? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.