Episode 10 - Adjective Checklist…Really??
Should We Keep the Blackberries
Last week I had two experiences that exemplify how the assessment market is both blind and hopelessly out of date when compared to most other industries. A leading accounting firm recently moved into larger offices, leaving the one they had occupied for years. Of course, they purchased new servers with the latest technology, leaving the old ones behind in the old offices. My son was tasked with removing them, and among the many things left behind, he discovered a drawer full of the original Blackberries. Imagine for a second…these were the state of the art in cell phones just a few years ago. Now they were junk in a drawer.
The same day he found the Blackberries, I received a call from the vice president of human resources in a large company. She had talked to someone with BestWork DATA at a trade show, and she now had some doubts about her current assessment program. She described the product as being really easy to use (a prime buying point). It was an adjective checklist, which the candidates used to check the words that “best described” them. They then repeated the exercise, checking the words that “friends would use to describe them.” This is a First Generation format in a world of 7 Generations, being one of the earliest attempts at assessing individuals. It was originally intended for use in personal counseling, but it “became” a hiring tool and was then sold as such to thousands of companies. In the psychometric world, it has long been outdated for almost any use, as it soon became apparent that the participants often chose the description they wanted to have rather than the ones that were accurate. This presents a challenge in the counseling world; it can be disastrous in the hiring world.
Blackberries are discarded but outmoded tests live on. The purpose of this series and of www.aboutassessments.com is to inform and educate people on how to take advantage of the extraordinary potential offered by new generations of assessment technology and how to avoid the many dinosaur assessments that continue to lumber around in the marketplace. This is the concluding episode of this series. Next week, I will begin a new one on the specific applications of assessments with sales teams
Written by Chuck Russell, CEO
Episode 9 - Who Needs the Experts
Once upon a time, after many years of trial and error, scientists found a way to accurately measure how human beings thought, learned and behaved. These scientists were psychometricians, a very tiny and specialized branch (many would even say a twig) of psychology. This information was invaluable in understanding why people behaved a certain way in different circumstances. It could even predict how they would behave in a particular job. The catch was that only an expert could really understand the data from those assessments, and only an expert could relate the data to real life business situations. This made for a complicated and expensive process, often costing hundreds and even thousands of dollars.
Then the age of computers began, bringing two extraordinary changes to the world of psychometrics. First, the calculating power of computers enabled the scientists to factor analyze the data from assessments faster and in more depth than ever before. The data got better and better.
The second feature of the changes has not been promoted very much. Newt Gingrich once observed that the greatest impact of technology was to disintermediate the experts. His example was a machine on a factory floor that automatically diagnosed carpal tunnel syndrome for the workers without the need for a doctor or nurse. In the world of assessments, this meant that the marvelous information on job behavior was readily available and easily understood by anyone. Many companies are not happy about that. Their revenue depends upon consulting fees. Other companies stick with old style profiling systems which tend to reduce the data to simplistic percentages. That was an early way of eliminating experts.
Today, job candidates can complete an assessment in less than 30 minutes, and the company immediately has access to a world of information job performance, management needs, training options, career development and much more. No experts are needed for even the deepest levels of business applications. Instead of hundreds of dollars, the cost is often measured in cents.
Written by Chuck Russell, CEO
Episode 8 - Are Thinking & Learning Really Important?
Once after playing tennis at a ritzy country club, I noticed a sleek, jazzy red sportscar parked near my car. I commented to my friend that it really looked like a Shelby Cobra, one of the fastest cars of its day, and I imagined what it would be like to take it out for a spin. My friend took a closer look and destroyed my fantasy, saying it was a fiberglass kit car with a 4-cylinder Volkswagen engine…all show with no go.
I don’t believe many people would buy a car without first knowing what kind of engine it has. It is amazing how many companies hire employees without knowing how they think and learn. The interviewers may guess at it…just as I did with the red sportscar, but they cannot determine it with any certainty. The vast majority of assessments do not include a measurement of cognitive abilities. In today’s rapidly changing business world, knowledgework is the cornerstone of many companies operations. That is work that is dependent upon acquiring, understanding and applying knowledge, as opposed to manual labor requiring only the simple training of the work processes.
Cognitive ability has long been established as a principal determining component of job performance. It is important to understand that today’s understanding of cognitive ability shatters old concepts of “smart” and “not smart.” All people are “smart” but in different ways. Knowing the way that a person is “smart” enables a company to put them into roles in which they are most likely to succeed.
Hundreds of real world studies of such jobs have shown over and over again that speed of learning is a key factor in employee retention. Fast learners leave routine jobs, often after blazing through the training program. Slower learners stay and perform those jobs quite well. Conversely, when slower learners are faced with increasing complexity in their jobs, they do not leave, but continue to struggle, not realizing what has changed. For example, complex or solution sales demand higher speeds of learning than product sales. This creates huge challenges when a company attempts to transition from one to the other. Vast sums of money are usually spent on sales training with only marginal results. In these situations, it is not a skills issue but a speed of processing issue.
One of the first things to consider when analyzing a performance problem or when planning strategic initiatives is to inventory the cognitive strengths of the work group involved. This information will reveal the how well the strengths can support the strategies, and it will show the most effective training options.
For more information on how to select and use assessment technology, visit www.aboutassessments.com.
Written by Chuck Russell, CEO