HR mangers commonly turn to assessments to ensure they’re hiring and promoting the best people. However, many factors influence the value a company can derive from assessments, including how well the assessment tool matches the role you’re testing for, the quality of the responses from the employee, and what you do with the data the test generates. Only when all factors are optimized can a company reap the full benefits of assessments.
“Ask yourself if you really understand what you’re looking for, and is the assessment you’ve chosen aligned to the business’ strategies,” suggests Shavit Bar-nahum, senior vice president of leadership development, executive, at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management. “Is everyone engaged in the strategy? Do they know why we’re doing this? Do they buy into it, or view it as merely an HR initiative? If it’s just an HR initiative, the likelihood that people are going to make long-lasting decisions off it is very rare.”
Bar-nahum details best practices in assessments that HR managers should follow to ensure they’re maximizing the value they provide:
- When promoting from within, build first, assess later
Assessments aren’t just for making sure you hire the best outsiders; they are also for identifying people already within the organization who have the potential to grow into leadership roles. Bar-nahum suggests turning the process on its head and investing in developing people first, then assessing them. An ambitious, interested employee is primed for development, and first understanding that worker’s skills and motivations can help you choose the right assessment tool for development.
“If you do assessments right, you’re going to find the diamond in the rough,” Bar-nahum says.
- Try it on yourself first
Before you implement any assessment tool in your organization, take the test yourself. Understand the process, get the feedback and know what the experience feels like. It’s also a good idea to beta test an assessment with a small group of people to get their feedback.
“You can’t be haphazard and just choose a tool because someone told you to do it,” she says. “You’ve got to create trust around the product before you can put it into place.”
- Use trained assessors
Personality assessments, 360s, stakeholder reviews, cognitive tests, team tests, decision making analysis, interview guides — all can be useful when administered by a trained assessor and when they’re linked to development outposts.
- Be rigorous, consistent and deliberate
When choosing assessment tools, HR managers need to be deliberate about what they’re testing for, Bar-nahum says. While assessment practices must be aligned to current talent needs, they may also need to be predictive and address talent requirements down the road. Assessments should also be consistent at eliminating biases from internal stakeholders, and rigorous in ensuring the data generated is accurate and useful.
“We have a saying in assessment. If you see something once, it’s an observation. Twice, it’s a hunch, and three times it’s a pattern — and you know it’s consistent.”
- Don’t let the data go to waste
You’ve done the assessments for a group or individual, so now turn them into useful reports. “What are the trends? What are the data? What can you see? Look at it from a demographic perspective, run it by gender, run it by POC, run it by length of service in the organization, and you’re going to see so many wonderful things that can help you as an HR executive.”
“As HR professionals, we have an obligation to help people make the best decisions,” Bar-nahum says. “The leaders make the decisions about who gets hired and who doesn’t. We provide a process to help make recommendations. It’s their job to make the decisions, and it’s ours to help provide the data they need to make those decisions, so they can trust us in the future when they’ve got other decisions to make.”