Using Assessment Tools to Build More Successful Teams

Human resources professionals commonly turn to assessments to evaluate job candidates, or to help guide the development of current employees. But assessments can also be a powerful tool for building and developing a team, and the information they glean can help team members better understand how to work together optimally.

“One common staffing challenge is how do you ensure that you’ve hired the right people,” notes Arturo Pagan, Deputy Director and Chief HR Strategic Partner at the United Nations Population Fund. “But you also have the challenge of ensuring teams function effectively to actually carry out your mandate. You have to address how you can help staff develop to meet their individual goals, their team goals and the organization’s goals.”

Pagan’s organization, UNFPA, operates in about 150 countries with roughly 2,500 staff members. Working with very diverse populations around the world, UNFPA uses assessments in learning and development programs to help improve team communication and interaction.

“Through assessments, we help people identify what motivates them in the workplace,” Pagan says. “The information for assessments helps foster their self-awareness, and helps us feel confident that someone will be a good fit not only for the job and location, but also in dealing with the team they will have to work with.”

Pagan’s HR professionals use a popular role theory instrument to help them hire the right people to fulfill certain needs within an existing team. Typically, the tool defines nine team roles. “If you have five of the team roles already, and some others are missing, you can look for those characteristics in the people you’re hiring.”

Assessments can also help refine an existing team, and make members work together more harmoniously and efficiently, Pagan says.

Through assessments “we have the team identify some of the things they think are holding them back,” he says. After team members take the assessments and begin to have a better understanding of where they fit in the team, managers then conduct a SWOT analysis. This allows them to identify the sources of office friction, opportunities for team growth, and any gaps in team proficiencies.

“All this information helps us understand how to get past the problems and develop a good working plan.”

In addition to the roles tool, brain instrument profiles can be helpful because they not only yield good information, but allow managers to couch discoveries in fun, easy-to-understand vocabulary that lightens the subject matter.

“We allow employees to break into roles based on which quadrant of the brain they prefer to function in, and try to explore with their team members some of the similarities they have in how they’re perceived by others, how they perceive themselves, and what their preferences are.”

This approach builds self-awareness among team members and empowers them to adapt to others on the team.

“Assessments create easily accessible ways to understand the cognitive diversity that exists within the teams that we work with and the teams that we need,” Pagan says.

UNFPA also employs assessment tools for coaching and leadership development. Assessments help HR managers identify team members who have the potential to grow into leadership positions. They also provide valuable information that managers can build on when coaching staff members within their roles.

The key to maximizing the value of assessments for team-building is to use them as a suite of tools, rather than as standalone instruments, Pagan advises. “They can complement each other if you use three or four of them with the same person, or there can be conflicting information,” he says. “Our role as HR professionals is to really work with what this information means for the individual, and if they do get conflicting feedback, how can they look at that? What useful information can they draw from that?”

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