Making sense of the psychometrics puzzle

In the first blog of this series we highlighted the importance and value of psychometrics in these testing times. In this blog, Fiona Hancock of Added Insight explains the importance of choosing psychometrics that complement your organisation’s strategic objectives.

Whether you’re considering reasoning ability, personality, or team style, the number of psychometric tests and tools has increased significantly over the last 10 to 20 years making it challenging to decide what to test for and which provider to trust. Before you make any decisions, you need to be clear about what you’re trying to achieve with psychometrics.

Psychometric assessments can, and should be, more than just a box ticking exercise. Used properly, they can be a powerful tool to help organisations achieve strategic objectives and deliver significant value. However, currently many organisations are investing in psychometrics for very little return. Here are our top tips to select psychometrics for impact:

1) Alignment and Integration

Strategic and future focused

Every part of the selection process — including interviews, reference checking and psychometrics — is an attempt to wrap some rigour and science around predicting which individuals from a pool of candidates are going to be your best performers, instead of relying on a gut decision or a coin toss. Getting the right people with the right skillset in the right roles is critical to gearing people and organisations for success. A key priority is to select individuals who will add value to the organisation into the future.

Psychometric solutions also provide organisations with insights into what makes people tick and deliver objective data to direct the development of your existing employees. This makes it easier to identify and actualise their strengths and provide continuous learning and growth to create a strong employee experience, retain key people, and maximise their contribution.

Often psychometrics are selected for use based on what is familiar, what has been used before in a previous organisation, or a tool that someone in the team is currently accredited in. As a result, an organisation’s assessment framework often evolves over time to incorporate very different assessments from selection, to development, to key talent processes.

It is important to align and integrate these as much as possible to reinforce and iterate the behaviours required to deliver on strategy. Considering psychometrics from a strategic viewpoint enables you to identify an aligned and integrated assessment approach across the organisation’s selection, development, and talent processes to cohesively deliver the behaviours, capabilities, and mindsets required for organisational success.  

The psychometric tools you use should be capable of measuring the future skills, mindsets, and capabilities needed in your organisation. These include factors such as business acumen, collaboration and social connectedness, intellectual curiosity, and working in more agile ways.

Employee Experience – the assessment journey

Aligning the psychometric tools you use for recruitment and selection with other learning and development assets in the organisation can significantly increase the impact and value gained from this investment. The employee assessment journey can otherwise become fragmented and confused, with mixed messages about personal strengths and opportunities as well as the behaviours that are expected from the organisation.

One advantage of using psychometrics as part of the selection process is that the insights can inform the onboarding process, helping to get new people up to speed in their roles as quickly as possible. However, very often a psychometric tool is used exclusively for the selection decision and the results are never looked at or referenced again. All that valuable information and insight into the new hire is forgotten.

Ideally, the information provided by psychometrics at the selection stage should set new employees up for success with a focused plan for both their initial learning and future development. The results can highlight areas where they need additional coaching and support and can deliver valuable management tips for best supporting and coaching new team members.

Psychometrics can deliver valuable self-insight and raise awareness of an individual’s strengths and gaps aligned to programme learning objectives and focus behaviours. They can also help identify individuals within the organisation who have the potential to progress into more senior or complex roles. Reiterating at each touchpoint the key focus behaviours and traits required to drive strategic objectives provides the consistent reinforcement of what is important and necessary to drive clear and focused actions and behaviours.

2) Type or trait based assessment?

Type-based assessments assign labels to individuals that are quick and easy to understand. Some psychometric providers use a letter system (e.g. you have individuals with ABCD, EFGH or VXYZ personalities). Others use different colours or animals to distinguish between different personality types.

Typically, these assessments give a very broad overview of an individual’s preferences. The simplicity of the insights makes them best suited to team building and raising awareness of individual differences in team and working styles. These assessments provide a common language that can be useful for understanding individual differences, to improve team communication and decision making. They can help shift people from frustration that others don’t see a situation or solution the same as them to them to appreciating the strength that comes with diversity of thought or approach.

Trait or dimension-based assessments are more in-depth and nuanced measures of preference across a large number of traits. This provides the depth of insight and the differentiation required between individuals to support effective selection and recruitment decisions and guide in-depth individual reflection and development.  

These profiles are characterised by a more discrete breakdown of scores on a continuum across a wide number of traits and provide scope for a broader variation of personality description rather than the individual being classified within one of a relatively small number of ‘types'. These assessments often align to the ‘Big Five’ personality constructs – Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness, Neuroticism (OCEAN) – although usually these five factors are broken down and measured by a number of sub-traits.

3) Balancing consistency with role alignment

While consistency of key behaviours is important to reinforce through alignment and integration of the assessment framework, a key consideration in choosing the right psychometric tool is ensuring it is appropriate to the role and pitched at the right level with the right focus.

For example, a test that measures reasoning and cognitive capability must be pitched at an appropriate level of difficulty. If the assessment is too challenging, it can have a negative impact on the candidate experience. They may feel completely out of their depth, perform poorly and that can really impact on their confidence and ultimately their decision to accept a job with your organisation or not.

If the assessment is too easy, then all or most candidates will perform at a high level meaning you will gain little additional insight. If your assessment doesn't give you any criteria to differentiate between the candidates then there's no value or return on your investment. The goal with any assessment is to ensure it delivers maximum value, meaning and impact.

4) Robust yet simple

One of the most critical considerations is the robustness, validity and reliability of the tests and tools. Psychometrics is a scientific discipline, albeit an imperfect science, that studies human behaviour and preferences. As with every scientific discipline, there’s good science and bad science.

It's advisable to review providers with a critical eye and look a little bit closer at the claims and assurances they make in their marketing material. It’s easy to get creative with data, graphs and statistics but a proven track record of robustness and reliability is a better measure of worth.

The art of delivering impactful psychometrics lies in making the complex simple and straightforward. Some reporting from psychometric assessments can be overly complex, difficult to interpret, and less meaningful for the identification of tangible insights.

At Added Insight, we place a strong emphasis on simplifying the interpretation of our assessments. We take what can be quite complex data and information and deliver it in a way that is straightforward and easy to navigate.

5) Change is constant

There are a lot of robust tools out there in the market but many of them were developed 30 or 40 or more years ago and they've been measuring the same behaviours that were judged to be critical to work performance at their time of development. The world and the way we work has changed dramatically since the 1970’s and ‘80’s when many of these tools were created. The traits and behaviours we need from people in our organisations now and into the future is very different.

At Added Insight we identified a need in the market for a more contemporary approach that measures behaviours that are vital to future success in organisations. Our assessments focus on key traits and capabilities for professional and leadership success, traits that underpin agility, resilience, and a sustainable approach to achieving strong commercial outcomes and delivering value to stakeholders.

These include business acumen, adaptability, intellectual curiosity, emotional stability, data affinity, and sustainable relationships as well as a number of other factors that are critical to business success right now.

Above all, maintaining a core focus on delivering clear, actionable, and meaningful insights to drive mindset shift, behaviour change, and effective people decisions, is a great guiding principle to underpin your psychometric tool selection.


For more information on gaining the most value and impact from psychometrics across selection, development, team, and talent processes contact us

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