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Types Of Workplace Assessments And The Best Way To Use Them

HRH 1 | Workplace Assessments

People show up to work differently. As such, studies on human behavior are very ripe of answers when it comes to identifying what makes a workplace succeed. In this episode, host, Andrea Hoffer, digs deep into one of the greatest and most common tool organizations and companies use to understand human behavior, workplace assessments. She probes into how useful these assessments really are, how they are measured, and whether they are worth using. As it is popular just as it is varied, Andrea then breaks down the different types of assessments out there and the best way to use them. Learn how to utilize this great and necessary tool in the workplace and soon watch your company flourish.

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Types Of Workplace Assessments And The Best Way To Use Them

Workplace Assessment

I’m excited about our topic because it’s something close to my heart. It might sound a little funny because we are talking about assessments. We’re talking about how you measure why people do what they do. There are many of them out there. How do these assessments measure this? How does that help in the workplace? Does it help? Is it worth it using an assessment? Before we even dig into that, I want to talk a little bit about why I am fascinated by this. It started when I was a little girl. I’ve always been fascinated by how people act differently in different situations and everybody shows up differently. I’ve always approached things logically. I like things that are structured. I like knowing the 1, 2 and 3. What step do you take next? People aren’t like that. As I like to say, they are wonderfully messy. That led to me being curious and that’s what I’m saying a lot is to be curious. Why is somebody acting that way? There could be a good reason and if you know that reason, you may respond a little differently.

When I was a little girl, there was this little hallway that was right outside my bedroom. Tucked in the corner of this hallway was this beautiful big mahogany desk. You could tell it was old. I used to sit at it and I felt important when I was there. There was something about that desk that I felt an attraction to it. I felt connected to it. I soon learned that the desk used to belong to my great, Aunt Bertha, who unfortunately I never met because she passed away years before I was born. Aunt Bertha was ahead of her time. She earned a Doctorate in Educational Psychology in the 1940s at a time when a lot of women weren’t even going to college. She taught and finished her Doctorate at the Teacher’s College of Columbia in New York. In 1946, she published her Doctorate and it was called The Foundation of Measurement of Values.

When I first found the book that holds her research, her doctorate, her paper, I badly wanted to read this book, understand it and know what it was about, but it was complicated. I admit I had a hard time reading it. Every year or so I would pick the book up and open it up. I try to read a few pages and understand what the topic was and what this was all about. I would try to take notes. I was one of those little girls that like to learn. It took me a long time to start to grasp what her research was all about. As the years passed, I became interested in Educational Psychology. I studied it in college and I started to recognize some of the researchers that we studied in college are some of the resources that Aunt Bertha used in her Doctorate as her references, even some people that she had studied with, which was neat to have that connection.

One of the things I learned as I continue to dig into her research is what she was studying was what motivates behavior. She particularly focused on values in children and how can we measure these values in children and use that measurement to help change future behavior or future conduct. I find it interesting because I’m fascinated with measuring values, essentially assessments. I’m fascinated by it in the workplace and how we use it in the workplace to help us be more successful. That’s what we’re talking about. What we’re talking about is workplace assessments and it had been around for a long time and had been used in many different manners. There are lots of companies that make assessments for all different reasons. I’m a big fan of assessments if they’re used correctly.

Values drive motivation, but our motivation is situation-based. Click To Tweet

I want to talk a little bit about workplace assessments and the different types out there and the best way to use them so that you’re not hurting yourself. You’re using them to be more successful, whether it’s to help your business grow or to help yourself individually. One of the things that my Aunt Bertha had determined in her research or at least what her thesis was that values drive motivation, but our motivation is situation-based. Our motivation may change depending upon the situation, but what’s driving behind those are our values. If our values are strong enough, then we know how that person or how we are going to act or decide or approach that situation because our values are determining that for us.

I’m still trying to understand her research completely. If you’re interested, her name is Bertha Freedman and she published The Foundation of Measurement of Values in 1946. I’m not sure if you can find it on the internet, but everything’s out there these days. Was she trying to determine we can measure these values? As we’re using assessments in the workplace, we’re saying yes. Maybe it’s not our deep core values that we’re measuring, although some of the assessments try to do that. It may be some other things that we think may drive behavior because essentially in different ways, we’re using assessments to either help determine future behavior or to mold future behavior. Let’s dig into that a little bit.

Behavioral Assessment

When you look at assessments in the workplace, you often will find what I like to refer to as behavioral assessments. Sometimes people will confuse that with personality assessments, which is more trait related. Behavioral assessments are more the behavior that comes up in the workplace, what your preferences are in that area. There are assessments that might try to determine your EI or Emotional Intelligence or even your work ethic. We have the assessments that a lot of us are familiar with, which is more competence-related like knowledge skills. Where are you as far as verbal skills, mathematical skills, and how do you apply those skills? There are different types of assessments and a lot of assessments will bring aspects of all of that together.

The first thing you want to look at when you are determining what assessment you’re going to use is you want to make sure you’re using the right assessment for what you’re trying to accomplish. If you’re trying to determine if somebody has the specific skills or the specific cognitive ability to do part of a job, then you need to find an assessment that is validated to those skills to that job. Sometimes I see people using behavioral assessments alone to determine if somebody is going to be successful in a job. That’s one little factor. We have what I like to call our default zone or the way we act or preferences that are the most comfortable for us. We also would experience with education, with pushing ourselves outside our comfort zone, have learned to be successful outside that default zone. That needs to be taken into account before you discard somebody because their behavioral style came up differently than what you think will be successful for your type of job. We’ll dig into that a little bit more when we talk about pre-hire assessments.

Number one, you need to make sure you’re using the right assessment. Even more than that, make sure that the assessment that you’re using is based on a body of research, and on a theory that you know is highly regarded and that you believe is a good solid theory that you can wrap your head around. Myers-Briggs is based on research and DISC as well. There are a lot of different assessments out there that are grounded in research. I would suggest as you look for assessment, make sure that any assessment you use is grounded in some research or theory that makes sense to you. Typically, it’s good to look at the company that’s developing the assessment as well. See if they did some of this research and if they know what they’re doing, that they continue to research and to make sure that their assessment is up with the times.

HRH 1 | Workplace Assessments
Workplace Assessments: Assessments essentially, if you’re using them correctly, are communication tools

Number two is, how do you use the assessment? This is probably one of the most important things to consider. You could have the best assessment out there. It’s grounded in good solid research. It’s done by a great company, but if you don’t use it properly, you can hurt an organization or you might even hurt the development of that person. You want to be careful about how you use it. One of the first things is to make sure you revisit it. If you do an assessment with somebody or you yourself do an assessment and you’d glance at it and then you shoved it in a drawer and forgot about it. That’s not doing anybody any good. You’ve wasted time and money. Maybe the person who took the assessment read something on there that bothered them to understand her research completely. If it was never discussed, it might play with their head a little bit.

Assessments are not foolproof. I always feel it’s important to tell people when you get the results of the assessment that you can make it your own. If you don’t agree with something on the assessment, cross it out, or let’s talk about it. Let’s figure out how maybe it does fit in or maybe there’s no value to it whatsoever, and that’s okay. That is important when you’re talking about an assessment report. Assessments essentially, if you’re using them correctly, are communication tools and their communication tools are many different levels.

DiSC Assessment

We often will use a DiSC assessment with the team. We have lots of different DiSC products that we use. We use everything DiSC because we feel that’s a good product that has good support material. There’s a lot of research behind it. They are a good company. One of the best things about it is it has excellent support materials. When we do any of our DiSC assessments with a team, we also make sure that they schedule facilitation with us. Depending upon what the goals are for the team, that facilitation could be a few hours or a couple of days. It depends on what you’re trying to accomplish.

The important part is there’s facilitation that is directed around the assessment that brings discussion out. We give people an opportunity to talk about the results of their assessment and share it with each other in a low-risk situation. They can talk about things that maybe they don’t talk about on a regular basis but will help their coworkers understand them a little bit better. We find that is an effective method to help improving communication and also relationships in general, getting along better, understanding why people act the way they do in the workplace. Why is one person slower in how they do their job, but yet focused on the details? Another person, the people aspect is much more important for them. They want to talk a lot and socialize at the same time as getting their job done.

Everybody has different preferences and assessments. This allows you to have a conversation around it. If you don’t have that conversation and you stick it in a drawer, you’re losing all of that value. We also find that it provides you with a way to communicate one-on-one. We always recommend if there are two people that work together a lot, maybe there are two people that sometimes butt heads and have some conflicts. Assessments can be a great way to build a foundation of how you’re going to work together in the future so that you don’t butt heads much. You learn how you each show up and what’s important to each of you and together, you come up with an action plan.

Assessments are not foolproof. Click To Tweet

Number one, you want to use the assessment tool as a foundation to build discussion and communication. Number two, you wanted then from that communication to come up with an action plan to reach whatever that end goal is. Maybe it’s to improve communication between two people or between the team. Maybe there is a deeper goal that you want to reach. You want to have a specific action plan of what you’re going to work on within the next few weeks so that you’re using that information and the discussion that came from it to get results.

Number three is we found that assessments are often using pre-hire. This is where I almost have a great deal of concern because when it comes to pre-hire, there are a lot of assessments out there that may not be the best assessment for pre-hire. A good pre-hire assessment is one that is going to test competence. It’s going to test some skills in different areas that are specifically validated for the job you’re hiring for. It’s also going to test some behavior and interest level for that particular position. Somebody could take the same pre-hire assessment, but then when you score it against one job that the results may show a good fit. You then take the same results and you score it against a different job, and it may show a poor fit.

The importance of that is to understand that there’s no 100% on any assessment, especially pre-hire assessment. It’s helping you to get to know the person a little bit better in different areas. It’s not saying this person is going to be a great employee or this person’s going to be a terrible employee. It might say they have great skills that work well for this particular position, but maybe not for that one. Even if it has all of those elements, you still want to make sure there’s a conversation. You can do the pre-hire assessment, but then a good pre-hire assessment is going to give you some direction on interview questions to ask the candidate so that you can drill down a little bit further.

If the assessment picks up that somebody maybe isn’t the right behavioral fit for your job or your organization, it will give you questions to ask the candidate, so you can find out if that’s true and to what extent. Maybe they score great on all the other areas as far as those and this is something they can overcome. It’s also going to give you a direction on coaching them. If you hire them, it’s going to say, “Keep in mind, their pace is a little bit slower than yours. Give them a little bit more time. Here are some ideas to help to get them more comfortable with working faster or something that may be a little different than what you see as the ideal person.”

Pre-Hire Assessments

The last thing as far as pre-hire goes are where you do your pre-hire assessment in the hiring process is probably one of the most important things to think about. A lot of people will do a pre-hire assessment right in the beginning. They’ll ask for the assessment with the resume or right when they send the resume. They won’t even speak to that person unless they score a certain way on the assessment. That is a dangerous way to do pre-hire assessments. It’s still only a tool. You may be weeding out people who could be a great fit for your position. There may be some bias in that assessment that you don’t know about. You don’t want to weed out people because of the assessment. For whatever reason, they didn’t test well. We usually recommend not to do a pre-hire assessment until you’re down to your final candidates.

HRH 1 | Workplace Assessments
Workplace Assessments: If used correctly with good communication and training, assessments can form or help us change how we show up in the workplace and maybe improve our skills.

This is for a couple of reasons. One, now you’ve gotten to know the candidate a little bit. Maybe you’ve already done some reference checks, which we typically recommend even doing before the pre-hire assessment and you’ve developed the relationship with them. They’re also more likely to take the assessment. Often, if you ask candidates right away to take an assessment, especially if it’s a long one, they might not bother. Especially in this employment market, you might be losing out on some great people. If they’ve already put something in, if they’ve already spent energy and time with you and they already had some buy-in to this job, they’re probably going to be more likely to do the assessment. Especially if you explain to them, “This is another way for us to get to know you a little bit better. It’s not going to determine whether or not we hire you. It helps us get to know you better.”

That’s what a pre-hire assessment should be. It gives you a communication tool to help in that final interview, so you feel more comfortable on whether or not this is the right person for your job. In addition to that, assessments have been used successfully in succession planning as well. If you’re going to use it with succession planning, make sure that your team knows you’re using it as a way to help them grow and to see if maybe there is an area where they might have an interest in. They might have some skillsets that we didn’t know about where they could be successful, and that you’re looking to help move them up in their career and your organization.

That’s what that tool is for. You’re going to have a conversation around it. You want to make sure that your team doesn’t think this is the end-all. You’re not going to be promoted if you don’t do well on this assessment or we might not even keep you. A lot of it is whenever you’re doing an assessment, you need to introduce it to let people know the reason for it because people get anxious. When we were kids and we were taking tests in school, there’s always some anxiety around that. You always want to know what this is going to say about me. The other thing you can share with them, which is true with all of these assessments, is that the results of the assessment are a reflection of the person taking the assessment.

Whoever enters the information and answers the questions, they’re writing down their response to what they believe about themselves. Essentially, if this tool is a good tool, if this assessment is a good assessment, it’s reflecting back who you are or who you believe yourself to be. Maybe in a different way so you can understand it a little bit better. It’s not going to uncover any deep dark secrets. It’s a tool. That’s what’s most important for us to think about as we introduce the assessments into the workplace. To bring this back around to my Aunt Bertha, what she was trying to determine was do the values drive motivation? More than that, can we measure these values and be accurate in our prediction of behavior and even molding behavior?

If I was to answer that question without doing any research that she has done or any great researchers have done, I would say that the assessment tools that we have available to us for our workplace do help to give us a better reflection of our values and what drives our behavior in the workplace. If used correctly with good communication and training, it can form or help us change how we show up in the workplace and maybe improve our skills, how we communicate and how we lead. It all comes back to the individual if they’re willing to take the results of the assessment and create an action plan that they’re going to follow to make those changes.

In our next episode, we’re going to look more at organizational values, the core values of the business. When you’re talking about hiring people, you want to make sure that you bring people onto your team who had the same core values that you’ve set up for your business. We’ll dig into that deeper in our next session. This is where you need to start before you even put a job posting out there. I look forward to visiting with you next time.

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