Choosing an Assessment That Maximizes Your Investment
The Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How
By: Craig Robbins | May 19, 2016
Have you ever been through the process of selecting a workplace assessment? If so, you know how difficult it can be to find the right tool for the job. With thousands of assessments to choose from that measure everything from personal motivations and career alignment to leadership effectiveness and team culture, ensuring your organization is using the right assessment, with the right people, and for the right reason can be quite the challenge.
Realizing how difficult these decisions can be, I’ve decided to provide some guidance that should help. Whether you’re choosing an assessment for the first time, introducing a new assessment within your organization, or changing assessments for an ongoing project, here are a few of the considerations I find to be most helpful in making the right selection:
Like many things in life, selecting the right assessment should start with a clear understanding of purpose. Below are three of the most common uses for assessments today:
To Uncover the Unknown
We all have blind spots, but many of us are unaware of what our blind spots really are. Assessments can help uncover blind spots that individuals, teams, and entire organizations have by providing you with a better understanding of career alignment, internal motivations, and the relationship between various working and communication styles that exist on a team. The results typically produce at least one “Ah-ha!” moment – for you personally or somebody else on your team.
To Address an Issue
Have you recognized a recurring communication problem within your team, department, or organization? Do your hiring managers repeatedly struggle to select the best candidate to hire? Are you tasked with resolving conflict between individuals you manage? The right assessment can address these issues and help resolve many common workplace challenges.
To Improve Oneself and One’s Team
Assessments are the first step in creating a successful development program and serve as a foundation for further growth and development. You may want to use them when building new teams, improving processes within your organization, and enhancing the learning experience within programs already in place.
Is this a one-time event, or are you hoping to implement a common practice and establish historical reporting data? Assessments typically fall into one of two categories:
These assessments are used on a limited basis when they’re intended to address very specific issues and produce immediate results that can be used to take action. You might use this type of assessment if you’re looking to hire somebody for a unique position within the company or you need to address issues on a particular team at a particular point in time.
Organizations typically use ongoing assessments to create historical reporting, best practices, competency models, and training. Continuous use of assessments can be necessary if you want to create normative data and best practices throughout the organization. You may see this in cultural assessments, skills and competencies, or performance management.
Would you use the same assessment when hiring the right candidate to fill a position as you would to improve a sales manager’s interpersonal skills? Probably not. Below are 5 of the most common assessment topics:
Hiring and Selection
Assessments used during the hiring process help to accurately identify job applicants before the interview and make scientifically-informed judgments to select the right candidate.
These assessments can identify areas for improvement which can strengthen your sales team’s ability to identify observable behavior, profile prospects, and adapt their selling style in advantageous ways.
Assessments, such as DiSC and Myers-Briggs, can provide a detailed analysis of a person’s nature and can predict how a person will likely behave in a given role or situation. These assessments are often used to improve interpersonal relationships and team dynamics.
An Emotional Intelligence assessment can improve a person’s ability to read the emotions in others, be more engaging, and make better decisions.
These assessments can help organizations identify how different employees learn and retain new information. They’re often incorporated into ongoing training programs.
While many assessments are offered in multiple formats, some can only be applied to individuals. Other assessments are only designed to measure team and organizational metrics, while some combine self, 360, and group profiles into the same report. Here are the primary differences between the assessment types:
Self assessments are centered around getting to know oneself. Without the feedback from third parties, these assessments rely solely on the input provided by the person being assessed. This one-sided view, however, does not negate the statistical significance of the insights, as most assessments produce valid results. These results, or reports, can be used to create action plans, development plans, and help guide mentoring or coaching relationships.
Group assessments provide team/department profiles and feedback on how large groups are operating. They create insights related to group communication styles, culture, and team cohesion. They can also be used to compare and contrast the culture of various teams or departments throughout an organization.
360 assessments provide objective feedback from direct reports, bosses, peers, and others associated with a single person. These assessments can help a person better understand how they’re perceived by specific groups of people they work with, which enables guided change to work or lead more effectively.
After determining the goal of the assessment and who all will be involved, you’ll have the necessary information to select your assessment. The selection process is two-fold – selecting which publisher and which vendor. This section focuses on the publisher who designs, creates, and produces the assessments of the end product you purchase. You’ll want to evaluate assessment publishers in the following areas:
Credible assessments are scientifically validated. They’re rooted in scientific research and use surveys that are designed to avoid biases and produce objective feedback and accurate results. You’ll want to find a publisher whose assessment has noted proven results and can support the quality of their research/questions if asked about the scientific validity of their assessment.
Some assessments will require a certified individual to analyze and deliver the results. You need to determine if you’ll want to regularly use a particular vendor to interpret results, seek a “train the trainer” model to establish an in-house capability, or send somebody to training outside the organization to become a certified partner.
Let’s face reality. If you’re going to ask someone to participate in an assessment, it had better provide them with a good experience. Factors that lead to a positive user experience include mobile technology and accessibility (using smartphones and live links to complete surveys), design and branding, clarity of instructions, and perhaps most importantly – the ability to see the bigger picture once the process is complete.
Packages with Additional Resources
Some assessments only provide raw data and information, leaving it up to you or your certified practitioner to deliver meaning and guidance that will make that information useful. Other assessments are accompanied by workbooks, action plans, and sometimes digital media such as videos and other resources. Using a full package will ensure that you get the full value out of your investment in the assessment.
Publishers produce only a handful of assessments but enlist the help of vendors to distribute their assessment to the masses. There are thousands of vendors who each distribute the same publishers’ assessments, so how do you pick the right one to work with? When selecting where to buy your assessments, consider:
The Level of Support
The more complex an assessment is, the more you’ll need to rely on a quality vendor to provide services. The level of complexity can vary greatly between assessments. Some are easy to interpret and can be understood without additional explanation of its results. Other assessments require a certified expert to interpret and place the results in the proper context to produce meaningful takeaways. Ask yourself what level of support you need.
Your Expectations of Customer Service
Customer service is essential. If you plan to use a complex assessment, establish historical reporting through high-frequency use, or require a database to track and manage administrative tasks, you’ll want exceptional customer service. A vendor that provides quality customer service will be easily accessible, willing to provide guidance and answer questions, and provide updates and support through every phase of the assessment process.
- Have you pinpointed WHY (what is the goal) you are using an assessment?
- Do you know WHEN (ongoing, single use) you will be using the assessment?
- Have you determined WHAT (Hiring and Selection, Sales Effectiveness, Behavioral Profile, Emotional Intelligence, Learning Style) type of assessment best aligns with your goal?
- Do you know WHO (self, group, 360) will be taking the assessment?
- Are you confident in HOW (credibility, certification, experience, resources) you will select the exact assessment you’re using?
- Are you prepared to determine WHERE (vendor support, customer service) to buy the assessment?
Assessments can provide invaluable information to support decision making and improve employees, teams, and organizations as a whole. There are a number of factors to consider, so keep in mind that only looking at the cost per assessment can be quite misleading. If you take the time to carefully consider your options, you will find the right tool for the job. Good luck!