Employee assessments have been around for decades. Organizations use them for hiring, team-building, conflict resolution and succession planning. While there are many legitimate options for these tools in the marketplace, there are many more that either aren’t very reliable or, worse yet, aren’t legal to use in certain situations. I get asked about these a lot, so it seems to make sense to help frame out some of the key things to consider if you’re currently using (or plan to use) assessments in your organization.
For my purposes here, I’m going to focus on behavior/personality assessments. That’s because these are the types of assessments whose accuracy and applicability are typically most difficult for people to confirm.
The Big Five Personality Traits
Most of these assessments are ultimately based on the “Big Five” personality traits. To make it easier to remember, you can use the acronym “OCEAN”:
- O = Openness (degree to which someone is open to a variety of experiences)
- C = Conscientiousness (willing to work, self-discipline)
- E = Extraversion (importance of social stimulation)
- A = Agreeableness (cooperative vs. antagonistic)
- N = Neuroticism (need for stability)
Beyond these Big Five, most assessments now have created varying numbers of sub-scales to look into these various traits in more detail. Regardless of how they might be configured, having this basic working knowledge can help you to make sure a given assessment has at least the beginnings of being legitimate. Now, let’s look at five items that can help you be even more discerning in your evaluation:
Ipsative vs. Normative
Ipsative assessments are forced choice tools that provide a measurement of a person’s relative strengths in various categories. These types of tools tend to be used more in post-hire activities, as they don’t compare a person to others.
Normative assessments measure a person’s characteristics against confirmed patterns of normality — the population at large. Due to this, these types of tools tend to be used more for hiring.
Validity defines what characteristics an assessment is measuring and then determines if that assessment is truly measuring those characteristics. In other words, does it do what it’s supposed to do? There are a host of ways to validate assessments, but asking a provider for their validity studies is an excellent way to gauge how well the solution is put together.
Reliability defines how dependably (or “reliably”) an assessment measures certain characteristics. This is usually gauged by how consistent the results are for groups of people who take the same assessment multiple times. Typically, you’ll want to work with an assessment that has a reliability score of .80 or better. As with validity referenced above, reliability figures are typically included in most assessment providers’ validation studies.
One of the primary concerns for many people considering assessments for their organization is how easily others may be able to manipulate results. For any tool you’re considering, be sure that it has a way to detect this. Often called distortion or candidness, most quality tools will be able to flag those who have provided answers that are inconsistent.
To help assessments really enable you to better understand what key traits are common in your high (or low) performers, it’s important to be able to benchmark existing performers within your organization. This usually includes looking at both ends of the performance spectrum. Being able to use results of real people performing certain functions within your culture and work atmosphere allows you to zero in on those particular traits/characteristics that are difference-makers for you.
Assessments, when used appropriately, can be significant predictors of success. They can also help you handle conflicts, promote from within and ensure current staff are in the best positions possible. I hope these core items help you choose the best options for you and your organization.
For more information on employee assessments available through ExactHire, please contact us today.