I can tell the War for Talent discussion is real. For me, one indicator is the increased conversation about assessments. I’ve found that companies often start considering assessments when they want that extra bit of confirmation during the hiring, training or career development process.
There are many assessments on the market. Any organization considering an assessment should do their homework. That’s why I thought it would be interesting to speak with Julie Moreland, president of PeopleClues, a provider of employment assessments for measuring job fit, attitude and engagement level for candidates and employees. She’s the co-author of the new best-selling book “Women Who Mean Business,” which highlights the success strategies of women entrepreneurs in terms of business, profits and lifestyle.
For starters, how would you define an assessment? Do you consider it to be the same as a profile, survey or test?
[Julie] It’s an interesting question, some of these terms are interchangeable and semantics but there are some differences: typically a survey captures data with no right or wrong answer intended, more the ability to compare and look for trends on the information. An example would be an Employee Satisfaction Survey. Generally a test implies that there are right or wrong answers, and this term is often used with testing for skills or knowledge such as the ability level to use Microsoft Excel or Word.
In our industry, an assessment generally refers to something that measures an individual on a set of criteria and compares their answers against benchmarked data to be used for screening, selection, development and leadership identification. They aim to help the employer learn more about an individual’s preferences and core behaviors that impact job fit and job satisfaction.
Let’s say my company has never used an assessment before. Tell me what an assessment can do for my business? I’m not necessarily talking about a specific assessment but just in general.
[Julie] Valid and predictive assessments will help organizations calibrate their screening and selection processes with objective data, and give a greater understanding of the factors that make an individual successful at their company and in specific roles. It becomes your people-business-intelligence data that becomes an objective data-point for workforce planning. A highly effective assessment implementation will also be user friendly and stream-line the processes internally.
The three critical benefits of using assessments are:
- Bring objective information in the hiring process to make it more legally defensible and efficient (don’t spend precious HR time with applicants who don’t have a basic fit for the position)
- Create a more focused and efficient interview by using behavioral questions from the assessment results to have a quicker and more focused interview and avoid the pitfalls of managers who haven’t been trained in interviewing but are responsible for knowing what they should and shouldn’t ask (they have a specific process and questions to follow to create more consistency)
- Pre-employment assessments can help employers gain better insight to their candidates to improve quality of hire and reduce turnover. By better-understanding the individuals’ skills, behaviors and preferences, companies are equipped to make better hiring decisions. Assessment reports can also be used to develop employees and teams and identify and groom potential leaders.
Is there anything an assessment can’t do?
[Julie] In order for an assessment to be successful and legal, it cannot and should not be the only data point in the people process for a company. Assessments are designed to measure specific characteristics with people, some measure more broadly and some more specific. So, there will always something a hiring manager may want to know that the given assessment can’t measure, because it’s designed to measure something else.
What advice would you give to a company looking to bring an assessment into their company?
[Julie] When evaluating assessments for your pre-employment selection and workforce development processes, there are a number of factors that you should consider:
- Is the assessment right for the situation? Some assessments are geared more toward management and are long and expensive. Others are geared more toward your general population of applicants and are quick and inexpensive. You may need both, but often companies use good assessments but not as efficiently and cost effective as they could be.
- Is the assessment easily interpretable? Make sure you’re picking assessments that don’t require your hiring managers to become experts in interpretation! The assessment ideally will be benchmarked and create a job fit profile that matches your jobs, so that the reporting is job relevant and doesn’t need interpretation.
- Is it valid and reliable? Ask the assessment provider for the technical manuals that illustrate how valid, legally defensibly and predictive their assessment is. You’ll need this information to be confident that your processes are compliant and reliable. Ideally, you want to ask if the assessment has been certified by the British Psychological Society, because this is known globally as the good seal of housekeeping confirming that the assessment has been through a rigorous review and is valid and reliable.
- Is it easily accessible via your technology? How technically capable is the assessment company? In an ideal world the assessment should quickly integrate into your HR technology for ease-of-use and a seamless recruiter/hiring manager and candidate experience.
One of the downfalls I’ve seen with assessments is when companies become too reliant on a single instrument and use it for the wrong purposes. What would you say to a company that is looking for a “one size fits all” approach to assessments?
[Julie] Assessments are not and cannot be a silver bullet; they are designed to provide additional insight and inform decisions, not make them. There are at least three areas that should be explored with applicants. Job Fit for sure, but also Attitudes and Skills, which can be explored within interviews and resumes. By relying solely on assessment results, employers risk missing out on other key information to determine which applicants are the best fit overall for their organization. This is the opposite of the intended purpose and outcomes when including assessments in talent acquisition and management practices. It is possible to choose an assessment that can work across your entire organization, but benchmarking is critical to make sure you’re measuring your jobs, so that the reporting is job relevant.
Another challenge I’ve witnessed is when companies are afraid to start using or stop using an assessment out of fear of being sued. Can you offer 1-2 things companies need to consider when they have to make changes involving assessments?
[Julie] A good best practice is to consult their legal counsel. In doing so, they’ll likely learn that consistency and documentation are key to compliant assessment practices.
Another important step is to conduct a benchmarking study and overall analysis of their hiring process to see if the assessment they are currently using or thinking of using is actually job relevant and isn’t creating disparate impact.
Are you seeing any trends in assessments that business pros should start paying attention to?
[Julie] It is widely accepted by the psychological world that we can reliably and predictably measure cognitive ability and behavioral traits (“The Big Five” of Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Stability, Tough-Mindedness and Conventionality), so once you go outside of these measures, you may be using an assessment that is not widely accepted or documented.
Assessments that aim to measure “social” and “cultural” fit – which are currently hot topics for recruiting – are garnering a lot of interest recently, but these are qualities that are complicated and difficult to determine through a single assessment measure. The industry has also seen several new assessments that don’t have much science behind them, which is why it’s important for employers to ask about technical manuals and validation. It’s better to be safe than to learn these details about the assessment in court.
My thanks to Julie for sharing her expertise and experience. PeopleClues assessments are built for pre-employment screening, career development, team development as well as training and development. If you want to learn more about them, be sure to check out the PeopleClues website, read their blog and follow them on Twitter.2