When effectively deployed, good psychometric assessments give businesses a measurable edge. They enable leaders to optimize the performance of talent and teams in targeted ways enabled by valid, reliable science. High-performing leaders know the stakes are too high to operate without these tools even in the best of times. With historically competitive labor markets, it’s a massive opportunity for CHROs to help their organizations bring meaningful measurement to the talent function. Using psychometric assessments does not need to be an epic undertaking. It can be simple, science-based, and scalable– and even fun.
Assessments, personality tests, psychometrics...they’re known by many names. You’ve probably taken a few yourself – maybe MBTI, Hogan, DiSC, or Strengths Finder – and if you’re like most people, you’ve had mixed results. They tend to lead to interesting one-off conversations before sitting in a drawer, which has led many people to doubt their utility.
There are other good reasons to be skeptical. Some people worry about assessments’ accuracy, validity and claims that they can predict performance. Some worry about bias, discrimination and the legal minefield that might follow if they are misused. Others just don’t see how the data would actually drive performance without an epic investment of resources – they enjoy reading the result but don’t know what to do next.
As a workforce analytics nerd who went from naysayer to devotee, I’d like to share my experience with these assessments and offer some guidance about how to proceed – with caution – if you’re curious about using them in your organization. I believe it is a massive opportunity for all leaders, CHROs in particular, to help their organizations bring meaningful measurement to the talent function, which can help them increase their own influence (a very good thing) and get executive support for other talent initiatives.
But before I go on, I should share a few personal confessions:
Now let me set the stage with a few of my opinions about the “world of work” that I invite you to scrutinize.
“Johnny had such a great resume and interview yet those few hours were the best moments of his tenure. What happened?! What did we miss?! Why didn’t that work out?”
“Barbara was a great performer – right?! – and everyone loved her. That’s why we promoted her. Then somehow ‘great Barbara’ became ‘mediocre Barbara’ and we lost twice with one decision!”
To be clear, I know this human dynamics stuff is FAR trickier – far more variable – than many other business domains. That’s why so many leaders – we’re all guilty – groan about disproportionate time and energy spent on “people stuff” after, let’s face it, we’ve underestimated the difficulty (that’s a topic for another day).
Most organizations and leaders have admirable intentions with respect to talent. They want to get the right people in the right job(s), apply and develop their strengths, and avoid putting them in jobs that don’t take advantage of strengths.
As a business leader, I was obsessed with doing excellent talent evaluations for selection, promotions, rotational programs, succession planning, etc – precisely for this reason. I worked really hard to establish good processes, train other leaders, and get great at this stuff myself.
Then one day I decided to list every hiring, promotion, and succession decision that I had been a part of (that I could remember). I also looked at the clunky, time-consuming, and debatably valid talent “solutions” that I endorsed. And when I did the math and reviewed the feedback, the success rate was seriously disheartening.
But it set me on a new course. I realized I needed better tools – simple, scalable, and rooted in science – which led me to explore the world of workforce analytics. Before I found the right tools I had the misfortune of using a few bad ones – I even built a really bad prototype myself – but it has made all the difference.
Most organizations can do better. It starts with having a point of view about where performance comes from and how to measure it well. If you don’t believe talent and organizational health – more specifically, the ability to measure and unleash it – are sources of competitive advantage, you’ve already read too far. But if you’re good with that premise, the next step is to get good data with a valid and reliable assessment so you can see the correlations between talent and performance.
Assessments abound – from the social media nonsense that claims you’re an “Analytical Cobra” or a “Purple Elephant,” to valid, reliable, user-friendly instruments. There’s tons of confusing variation.
And here’s another problem: some of the most widely used and beloved assessments (e.g. MBTI) have bias issues and were never intended to be used in talent decision-making. Some are based only on theory, not real scientific research AND application. Even DiSC – which is backed by solid science – warns clients not to use the tools to make talent decisions.
The kicker: even good tools can be problematic if they’re not used responsibly.
So maybe just avoid assessments altogether, just to be safe?
The right tools – used effectively – can have a measurably positive impact on an organization’s bottom line, employees, and culture.
Case in point: using reliable assessments, we helped a multinational client see the positive correlation between measurable strengths in a critical sales role and revenue. The evidence was irrefutable: a 12% difference between an underperformer and a top performer represented $90M in revenue for their business. Without reliable psychometric tools, they would not have been able to determine which variables to isolate in hiring, coaching and upskilling.
The right tools – used effectively – can also give an organization a common talent language, which is an underappreciated performance lever. Imagine coders collaborating without a common programming language. Ludicrous, right? So why do we expect business leaders and HR to operate with wildly different assumptions about talent – some as fundamental as ‘where performance comes from?’
Many of our clients report significant increases in the quality and consistency of their coaching and development conversations because they have simple and reliable insights to guide them. Problem identification and diagnosis have become less threatening because they trust each other. Feedback tends to be less loaded and cryptic, more strengths-based and actionable. And our clients love that they don’t need to make an epic investment to upskill their managers – they just need better insights and a bit of practice.
We’ve also been able to design internal talent marketplaces that work. We can map employees’ probability of meaningful fit – beyond transactional competencies and skills – for a wide variety of jobs. We’ve made talent planning data-driven and practical. High performers love to see this investment in their potential, even if it may take some time for the future opportunities to open up.
Humans are tricky and organizational health can be elusive. It can be uncomfortable for managers and colleagues to talk about natural strengths, blindspots, and self-awareness. Some people simply believe business collaboration shouldn’t be so personal. Many of us like to think of ourselves as ever-evolving creatures with free will, grit and a growth mindset.
Truth is, that’s how I like to see myself.
But I also know that I have core drives and motivators that will impact my behavior again and again, even as I learn and evolve. I can’t change my stripes. This cat can’t bark. And even if “can’t” isn’t the right word, the effort would be too costly.
There are valid and reliable tools that can help us to be more predictive and objective about our strengths and motivators, which will make our organizations healthier, higher performing, and more human. That’s a big deal.
Stay tuned for Part 2, where I’ll share a detailed guide to choosing an assessment platform that works for you and your organization. To learn more about Mindwire's work and impact, feel free to connect by reaching out at Hello@troophr.com.
All Troop Members are being offered a free Predictive Index strengths assessment with complimentary readout and feedback session of your results with an expert from the MindWire Group, plus a special discount off of their software solution.