Welcome to our new series called Observations on Assessments. Over the next 10 weeks Chuck will dive into the in's and out's of the assessment industry. Stay tuned, we will have new posts up every Thursday!
Several assessment companies are touting their “hundreds of job profiles” and their “millions of people tested”. On the surface, these claims are impressive, but perhaps a bit more examination is in order. “Job profiles” originally offered an alternative to having an expert personally interpret the data from an assessment. Employees who performed at a high level were identified and assessed. The resulting data were analyzed to search for any factors that top performers had in common. It was then reasoned that candidates with those same factors would be more likely to also perform well. This was a sound methodology for dealing with routine jobs with clearly defined procedures that seldom varied. Jobs today are rarely that stable. The market changes; the economy changes; the company’s strategies change, and the job changes to meet the current needs. The managers change and the right person for one manager is not quite right for the next manager. The library of profiles is unlikely to contain the one that will serve you best. Your business is unique, and it needs a solution that fits you and then changes with you as the needs of your business change.
Why then, do so many assessment companies promote profiling and center their business around it? To paraphrase the Big Bad Wolf, “…All the better to sell you with, my dear!” When good assessments first appeared (“good” meaning that they produced solid data) experts were needed to explain the data and how it related to business decisions. This worked for the occasional situation, but it was not scalable for an assessment business. Profiling was not only scalable, but it was an easily understood story that made sense to prospective buyers. It also worked fairly well with simple jobs. The salesperson asks if you want more people like your top performers. You, of course, say “YES”. The salesperson then offers to test a sample of your top performers and create a template or benchmark which can then be used to compare job candidates. The sales pitch is simple and appealing, and it is somewhat true. The problem is that it is just true enough to be dangerously wrong. There is a myriad of variables that affect job performance that is lost in the rudimentary percentage match to a job profile.
More information on the qualitative differences in assessments is available at www.aboutassessments.com. Part 6 will continue the discussion on how to tell the age or capabilities of the many assessment products competing for your business.
Chuck Russell is a thought leader on applying behavioral data to business, educational and social challenges. For over 25 years, he has worked with companies of all kinds to optimize their talent acquisition and talent management practices with behavioral data. He is an international speaker on behavioral data analytics.