Business leaders know there’s more to success than intuition. It takes solid strategies, identifying opportunities, close observation of market trends and a concerted effort to recruit, retain and develop talent at all levels of the organization.
Every business is looking for an edge in maximizing the performance of employees, which is why talent assessment tools have exploded in popularity over the past two decades. Research suggests over 80% of Fortune 100 companies are using assessments to select, coach and develop high-performance teams. And yet, I still encounter leaders who have never or rarely utilized assessment tools in their organizations.
Although talent assessments have been part of the business world since the early 1990s, assessment tools and how to effectively use them are not widely understood. Many leaders I’ve talked to see the value of adopting assessments in recruitment and selection. But they don’t necessarily know that these tools have other applications that would lead to a better understanding of their employees. And those insights could significantly improve retention rates, coaching and leadership development, while ensuring the continued growth and prosperity of their organizations.
Googling the words ‘Talent Assessment’ will produce hundreds of thousands of options available to you for enhancing talent retention, performance and development. By considering the following questions, you’ll be better equipped to evaluate and select the talent assessment solution that best meets your needs.
What do I want to know about my people?
This is the most important consideration when it comes to sizing up talent assessment tools. Assessments are fundamentally about understanding people. But it’s hard to know which tools will best help you understand your employees if you are not clear on what you want to know about them.
Do you want to know how well a new hire will fit with your corporate culture? Are you interested in exploring what makes someone tick so you can deliver more effective coaching? Or are you identifying internal candidates who possess the necessary knowledge and skills to take on a leadership role with your company? Once you know what you want to measure, you can start identifying the tools that will deliver the data you need to make more informed decisions about talent.
What should I consider in choosing assessment tools?
Now that you’ve determined what you want to measure, you’ll want to examine how effectively and dependably the tools you use, or plan to use, deliver the information you need. The main consideration here is the reliability and validity of results. The tools you choose should produce stable, consistent data every time you use them, whether that is now or a year from now. And they should measure what they are specifically designed to measure, whether that is how well an employee responds to stress or their core competencies.
Assessing the data you get means comparing it to previously collected results from other individuals, or a norm group. Ideally, there will be a close match between the employees you are assessing and the norm group. If you are weighing the strengths of, say, executive professionals in St. John’s, it is not reasonable or fair to compare them to professionals in China. The considerable cultural, geographic and professional differences between the two groups would result in very different scores or outcomes and lead to poorly informed talent recruitment and development decisions.
Your choice of tools may also be limited to some extent by your credentials, or the credentials of the person who will be leading the assessment in your organization. Many assessments available on the market require specific education or training to administer and interpret the results. You also want to know that you have access to sufficient support and expertise to resolve technical issues or confirm your interpretation of the data you gather.
How do I create the right assessment experience?
Deciding what you want to measure and finding the right tool to do it is a start. But the assessment experience you create also has the power to impact the data or results you get. It’s not just the delivery of the tools; it’s also about setting expectations and addressing questions employees may have about the process.
Before starting any assessment, make sure you and your employees, or the candidates you’re looking to hire, are clear on the ethics related to testing. Be upfront and honest in sharing how the test will proceed, the information you will be gathering, and how you intend to use and archive the reports that are generated. You also want to establish and communicate clear guidelines on the confidentiality of this information. People want to know who will have access to the results, whether the results will be included in their employment record and how long you will keep the data on file. The more candid and forthcoming you are, the more you can allay concerns about your intent, and thus help people to feel more positive about the assessment experience.
How you deliver the assessment may also impact outcomes. Most tests can be done online, which is convenient for the candidate or employee. But there may be issues related to accessibility and ease of use, not to mention the possibility that employees can get help in completing assessments related to competencies or aptitude. This can skew the results and thus compromise your employee recruitment or development initiatives.
How should I apply assessment results?
Ultimately, the goal of any assessment is to produce reliable data you can use to make decisions about talent that will improve performance. Whether the resulting report is lengthy and technical or short and simple, the insights can be powerful and the consequences of the decisions you make as a result, immense.
Yet assessments are not so much about delivering a definitive testament to someone’s character, aptitude or ability as they are about opening up conversations about talent and potential. This is where a professional debrief, rooted in a solid understanding of your business objectives, is invaluable and can dramatically enhance your ability to turn insights into results. An experienced consultant can help you apply these insights to other aspects of your talent strategy to maximize the return on your assessment investment. For example, the consultant can assist you in using the information you gather about a potential new employee to choose onboarding and development strategies that facilitate success in the new role.
There are other factors that will come into play as you evaluate assessment tools, such as cost, flexibility of application and technical requirements. You also may determine that you want to bring in outside expertise, whether to ensure impartiality in the process or expert handling and evaluation of the results. Whatever way you choose to go, by assessing the need for talent assessments – what you want, the tools available and how to use them – you will gain more insight into the strengths, personalities and potential of your people. And those insights are better than intuition when it comes to making critical talent decisions in your organization.