Thought Leadership Blog

The HRS Thought Leadership Blog delivers validated findings, visionary perspectives and op/ed commentaries related to HR, Leadership, Organizational Development and Employment Law. To enjoy the full volume of available articles, please enter topic keywords in the search box to explore our body of work. Articles are regularly presented by the HRS team and guest experts.


Getting the Right People Doing the Right Things with Safeguarded Precision!

Amidst organizational change employers deploy a wealth of employee assessments in a scheme of cost-benefit analysis. Some overspend the outcomes and then don’t even understand the data. Some sales-based assessment organizations inundate prospective clients with “high brow” tricks while brow-beating them into pretending they understand. What’s just as important as data integrity is simplified and universal buy-in… and the ability to attach meaningful cost saving action. Crazy labels and “smoke and mirrors” are not the keys to predicting success. If you don’t understand, your employees won’t either!

Employee assessment, training needs analysis, legal compliance and leadership development remain at the forefront of today's critical employer issues. Employees and leaders at all levels must be ready to adapt quickly and assume responsibilities, potentially for the first time with limited up front training. Employers can manage 5-7 figure risk with a 2-3 figure implementation before the change. This awareness continues to expand, and the demand for the right employee assessments explodes!

As a follow up to our research essay published by SHRM in 1999 and countless essays since including a Forbes interview a few years back, let’s review the changed environment. A wealth of assessment exercises is now available on the open market, and we endorse some but certainly not all of them. While HRS proprietary instruments are clearly our favorites (shameless plug), we have welcomed the most valid, reliable and meaningful instruments of other vendors into our catalog. Those we exclude and caution against are the many, many instruments that fall short of data integrity, legal compliance and assessor/assessee buy-in. For instance, validity does not exist if you cannot prove test performance directly correlates, within acceptable statistical margin of error, to workplace performance. This includes both positive and negative performance. A common pitfall here is to sample assess your top performers against the instrument and be fooled that good performance on both test and appraisal constitutes validity. That’s only part of the argument. Before assuming complete validation, test your poor performers and potentially those who weren’t selected for hire. 
 

Why Assess?

According to recent survey (to which 3000+ responded), advancement is the primary employee magnet and motivator, yet nearly half of incumbent managers miss at least 45% of the opportunities to be successfully transactional or transformational in leadership tactics. Self starters are proven not naturally inclined to transform others, and are therefore challenged as leaders. Incumbent call center employees are proven to miss more than half of follow through opportunities when presented with task to resolve rather than route. Nearly half of those excelling in external customer service roles underperform with internal customers, creating disharmonious team environments and unnecessary efficiency waste. In the HRSAC SR2 simulation, analytical adaptability consistently reveals itself as the most challenging criteria when employees are asked to assume a changed job condition. In short, job knowledge can hide logic, problem solving and trainability. Change for some can create disaster. Assessment results should pinpoint the “why” and the learning goals behind the performance ratings, present and future. When top performers are competing for promotion, 3rd party objectivity and buy-in are essential to ensure every top performer walks away feeling valued and empowered with tools to win that promotion next time. 
 

What Can Be Assessed?

Leadership Styles/Tactics, Customer Service, Critical Thinking, Analytical Adaptability, Multi-Tasking, Attention to Detail, Problem Solving, Group Presentation Dynamics, Teamplayer Orientation, Time Management, Workflow Planning, Conflict Resolution, Change Advocacy, Negotiation, Persuasion, Natural Abilities and Natural Roadblocks can be measured at a minimum, and are certainly among the most popular. Some erroneously call these the “soft skills.” While there’s nothing less common than sense, I attest these are the “hard skills.” Crafted reliably, in-baskets can predict job success according to any identified job description. Skills tests are available with endless functionality. 
 

Selecting the Right Assessment Instrument(s)

Examining validity and reliability is not as complex as it sounds. The assessment administrator who has an instrument of meaningful integrity will proudly take you through this explanation and may demo the instrument for you. Ask the following questions when choosing the instrument…
1. Inquire regarding validity and reliability studies. This includes pass-fail and/or both positive and negative ratings.
2. Investigate margin of error and resolution thereof.
3. Be convinced the instrument and its scoring report will be meaningful and gain buy-in from all parties. Be convinced the outcomes point to meaningful action.
4. Ensure the instrument’s content, delivery method and criteria support the job description for both meaningful information and legal defensibility. 
 

Delivery Method

On-line assessment grows in popularity due to convenience and has its important place, but for those not required to deliver such communications on the job via Internet, validity and data integrity are compromised. The testing environment should relate to the work environment. For those allowed to deliver key communications on-the-job in discussion, why force only Q&A or multiple choice based tests? Allow essay and/or conversational feedback modules. Such modules should not be computer scored. In short, the testing method and environment must be consistent with the job conditions.
 
In labor intensive or talent based organizations, success is largely impacted by human accuracy or error. Advancement is a key motivator, and a blueprint is essential. With the appropriate tools, employers can maneuver the right people doing the right things. Employers still promote great implementors into leadership, assuming this is the natural progression. Management is not natural progression but rather its own professional skillset and a lifelong learning commitment. The same is true for project management. For those who already buy in to the assessment center method, it remains challenging to differentiate between assessment instruments.

Having endured great cost in creating and validating precisely job specific instruments so obviously on the mark and easily understood that even assessees immediately buy-in, it’s difficult to watch others throw some meaningless crapshoot of a “smoke and mirrors” tool onto a website and pummel advertising at the public held hostage.

The best assessments gain buy-in upon inspection and discussion of scoring outcomes. The HRSAC has validated our proprietary assessments over 26 years working with hundreds of organizations from 10 to 100,000+ employees including global operations. Baselines have been established over these years for job-related criteria across countless demographics and fields. The scored analysis of the job-specific instrument reveals more precisely how behavioral traits would actually manifest themselves in a specific job setting. Probabilities for successful corporate training efforts coincide with these baselines. As interest surveys, personality profiles and integrity questionnaires continue to move out of utilization, job-predictive assessments continue to move in. Reputable assessment instruments come with validity and reliability studies, so don’t hesitate to ask! Sample reports should be proudly presented. Both employer and employee should be convinced. The key to success will be actionable findings, easy to understand with trust that ratings are accurate, job-related and meaningful in career-oriented decisions without bias. If your assessment doesn’t meet all the goals described herein, you haven’t found the right tools. Contact HRS… we’ve got them!


Jessica Ollenburg - Sunday, May 24, 2009