Employee Assessment as HR's Secret Weapon

How employee assessment data can be a HR manager’s secret weapon

If you’re an HR professional and you haven’t been sleeping for the past 15 years, you’ll have witnessed the steady rise in the use of HR Analytics and Employee Assessments/Talent Assessments within small businesses, SME’s and multinationals everywhere.

And there’s a very good reason for that.

After all, when studies show that 50% of CVs contain falsified information, and that 70% of employees claim they feel like they’re in the wrong job, it’s no wonder that companies are looking for a more reliable and scientific way to hire, develop and promote their staff.

To top it all off, global studies show that 4 out of 10 employees are not engaged in their job.

Ouch.

As you know, engaged employees are the most productive and satisfied employees. This means that getting to the bottom of the causes behind apathy within the workplace must be one of the key objectives for any HR team. Especially if HR is to have a greater impact on the overall performance of the business.

And this is where your “secret weapon” comes in.

OK, I know.

There’s nothing really secret about using employee assessment systems and ‘big data’ within the HR function.

But as a weapon in your arsenal of HR tools to help your organisation ‘defend and conquer’ within the current “War for Talent”, there is huge value in supplementing your own opinions with the insightful data that personality, cognitive and behavioural assessments can deliver to you and your team.

Now, before you start to proclaim that “assessments are only good for recruiting”, think again. That’s what your line managers might believe, but it’s simply not the case.

The simple fact is that assessment data from your employees has uses and applications far beyond the confines of the HR office, and in this blog post, we outline 5 ‘often-overlooked’ ways that you can utilise the power of employee assessment data to improve your talent processes, support your line managers better and gain more credibility and influence for your HR function.

Here goes…

Accurately benchmark the “secret sauce” behind your top performers

When a company makes a ‘miracle hire’ and brings a top-performer into the fold, the tendency by managers is to do whatever they can to keep hold of this person.

Well, there is certainly sense in that approach! But equally important is to find out exactly what makes this person so successful within the role, and measure the elements which allow him or her to achieve this high level of performance.

I mean, wouldn’t you like to know why your top-talent outperforms the rest of your team?

I’m sure you would.

You see, using a reliable employee assessment tool (or two), you can easily identify and benchmark the top performers in your company and create a “personality profile” to measure other potential and current employees against.

This profile could include the key behavioural drives, decision making style, level of task-people orientation, selling style, or simply, whichever metrics you have deemed to lead you to being able to understand your staff better.

Once you have your “top-performer” personality profile, you can then use this data in your selection process to focus on identifying and selecting the most suitable person for the role. The best thing about this method is that you won’t simply be “shooting in the dark” when you interview and select.

You’ll actually be using cold, hard data that you know will lead to a better selection, all round.

Another advantage that having this insight brings, is the ability to present this data to senior managers in order to help them hire smarter and manage better…which, in turn, positions you – the HR professional – as trusted advisor and strategic business partner who can deliver metrics that matter to overall team performance.

Predict and avoid potential conflicts within a new team

If there’s one thing that eats away at a manager’s time, it’s dealing with team conflict. Some managers even report spending up to 2 WHOLE DAYS per week trying to handle the interpersonal friction that dogs their teams.

So, just imagine if you could reduce conflict, before it even happens?

You see, most of the time when we put teams together, we have a subjective idea of how those people will interact, collaborate and gel with each other…but we’re never really sure exactly how well the members of the team will be able to produce results as a unit.

Let’s be honest:

We can ask as potential new team members as many ‘probing questions’ as we like, but in many cases, our internal cognitive biases and lack of ‘reliable insights’ into the individual hold us back from putting the right people into the right places within a team.

In contrast, when we involve objectively-gathered employee assessment data in our team development decision (natural behaviours, person-task orientation, style of communication), we are able to get afar clearer picture of whether whether their values, drives, motivations are in alignment with what we need, and whether the members of team have complimentary working styles, or not.

You might, for example, have a more ‘extroverted’ team member who loves talking and chatting to their colleagues, sat next to an introvert who hates small-talk and is purely task-focussed.

Of course, there’s potential conflict in that situation, because there’s a good chance that they’ll misunderstand each other’s natural styles…without a good dose of facilitation from their manager!

Put short: by using employee assessment data while you’re building your team (rather than as a “remedy” for diagnosing the problems), you can better predict whether there’ll be conflict in a team by evaluating the personality factors of each member and moving forward with this information in mind.

See the world through your employees’ eyes using data-driven employee assessments

We all know that each of our employees has their own “roadmap” with which they navigate life. This roadmap could be seen to consist of factors such as:

  • Core Values
  • Motivational Needs
  • Current Perceptions
  • Self-Image
  • Past Experiences
  • Preferred Behaviours
  • Future Expectations

Unfortunately, these elements of our ‘personality’ aren’t readily accessible or available for everyone to see, which regularly causes untold problems in companies and organisations, alike.

The simple fact is that it’s almost impossible to know what another person’s ‘roadmap’ actually looks like, and it’s even harder to understand their behaviour when you have no idea at all.

Lack of understanding for other people’s perspective and approach is surely one of the MAIN causes of employee-manager problems and of conflict within a team…but it doesn’t have to be like that.

With personality assessments, for example, such as Predictive Index, you can start to build a much better understanding and develop far greater empathy with your employees and co-workers.

Employee assessments which measure “adapted behaviours” as well as “natural behaviours” can give you a far deeper insight into how a person perceives themselves and the expectations that they feel are being placed on them in their role.

If you’ve got an underperforming employee on your team for example, it may well be that this is not because they’re not suited to the role, but rather, because their perception of the demands of the role is simply not in alignment with reality.

By using a tool like PI to evaluate their “natural-self” as well as their “adapted self” you’ll not only get an insight into their natural behaviours and motivations, but you’ll also be able to understand how they perceive themselves in their current role.

In many cases, false perceptions about the demands of a role can be as problematic as being in a role that’s unsuited to you.

After all, your reality defines your emotions, despite what the “actual” situation or environmental demands may be, your perception plays a huge role in how satisfied you feel in your position.

The simple truth is, that without an objective and reliable employee assessment tool to help you, you could spend hours and hours in coaching or feedback sessions with your employee, attempting to understand what makes them tick and what they need to get back on track…

…and still, you may not get to the bottom of it!

Using a reliable personality or behavioural assessment, you’re able to get these insights far quicker and with far less ‘friction’ – and your employee will have far less “soul searching” to do, to give you the information you need.

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Ask tailored interview questions and pinpoint gaps quickly

Did you know that traditional interviews alone are seldom a reliable predictor of performance or suitability? Some research shows that face-to-face interviews only have a 6% chance of delivering the right candidate for the position…

How’s that for unreliable?!

Unfortunately, many companies still rely on the face-to-face interview to hire their top talent, yet still complain when their new hire walks after 6 months….

But what can we do about it?

Well, yet again, data from a carefully chosen talent assessment can give you a distinct advantage in the interview room. By providing you with ‘hard-to-get’ information about your candidate BEFORE you meet them, it allows you to ask specifically ‘diagnostic questions’ that will not only get your candidate person to really open up to you, but will also give you a far better idea of the gap-fit between that person and the demands of the role.

If your employee assessment shows that some behaviours don’t quite match the role, but the rest of their profile is a good fit, you can tailor the interview precisely, using strategic questions, to explore these gaps and identify whether the person will be able to ‘bridge’ those gaps, or not.

Without having benchmarked the role and assessed the person against that benchmark, you’ll simply ask identical questions to each candidate, which, in my experience, seldom leads to your identifying the most suitable person for a position…

…especially when you consider that the aim of an effective interview is to select the person for whom the least amount of energy, money and time investment is required to get up to speed in the role and deliver the desired results.

It’s not about hiring ‘the perfect person’, it’s much more about knowing exactly who you’ve got in front of you, identifying the gaps and then understanding how much you have to do to fill them.

This is where employee assessment data can really add value to the selection process, and act as your “secret weapon” when it comes to hiring the best people and not just the best interviewees.

Deliver negative feedback more objectively with smart employee assessment data

Giving feedback to your employees can be an immensely rewarding experience for them and for you…but delivering less-than-positive feedback has always been difficult for most managers.

In most cases, however, it’s not the content of the feedback that causes friction, but the way in which it’s delivered.

Say you have an employee who’s not bringing home the bacon, for example. If you were to speak personally to them, you’d certainly get some insight into the causes of the issue. In many cases though, they’re not the real reasons.

They might not even know the real reasons behind their lack of results…or they may simply not be open to discussing it.

On the other hand, by basing your performance review of feedback session on objective employee assessment data, rather than it being based on your own subjective opinion, you’re actually creating a non-offensive platform for meaningful discussion between you and your employee.

Let’s imagine for a moment, if you were to say to your employee:

“I think you’re a perfectionist who spends too much time on details”

Of course, this is a subjective statement and there’s a good chance they’ll put their guard up instantly. Alternatively, if you base your evaluation on information which they have given you through self-assessment, and state instead that:

“You’ve described yourself as somebody who is a perfectionist who spends a lot of time on detail, and I’d be interested to know if you think this is what is getting in the way of your delivering results…”

…you can bet your bottom dollar that there’ll be a completely different conversation that ensues.

The whole atmosphere of the dialogue changes, from you seeming to judging your employee, to them opening up and evaluating themselves in a more objective and open manner.

In my experience, employee assessment data gives us an objective platform on which we can talk about sensitive issues, without the other person feeling like you have judged them personally…and this is incredibly valuable for any people manager.

Support line managers with “hard-to-get” information about their team

If there’s one thing that managers want from HR, it’s practical and actionable advice and information from HR that will actually help them with the day-to-day managing of their team.

Far too many HR professionals forget that they have the ability to directly impact the performance of managers and employees, at every level of the organisation, simply by delivering the right kind of insights about their people.

When HR managers choose to use employee assessment data in the right way, and feed it down  to the line managers, senior managers and team leaders, on a regular and understandable basis, they not only impact the bottom-line, but they also gain the respect and trust of their colleagues.

“Hard-to-get” information might include:

  • What motivates and demotivates an employee
  • How to best praise and support that person
  • The level of autonomy that the employee needs
  • How a manager should best adapt their approach
  • The most appropriate kinds of development opportunities

Not only will managers be able to better motivate and mobilise their team with this in mind, but HR managers can position themselves as ‘strategic business partners’ by delivering practical information that will actually help their managers ‘on the shop floor’, rather than just supplying them with formal (administrative) information about employment history or professional background, etc.

When you can supply really hard-to-get “personality-based” information that will actually save managers time and hassle and help them to motivate and praise their team more effectively, then you raise your reputation and your level of influence as a HR professional who wants to impact the performance and development of the business, as a whole.

Employee assessments remove the guesswork and give you clarity

Ultimately, the real secret behind using employee assessment data within your talent strategy, is the huge time and budget savings that you can make by reducing guesswork and simply improving your ability to make informed and accurate decisions about your people.

Like Peter Drucker said:

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”

If you are a HR manager who has not yet equipped your team with a set of employee assessment tools, it’s a good idea to actually develop a good understanding of the system and the methodology before you do, so you can get the best out of the data and feed it down to your managers more easily, too.

When you realise that a lot of the hurdles of implementing employee assessment systems within your organisation revolve around getting ‘buy-in’ from senior management, it’s an even more compelling reason to not only implement, but MASTER the tool you choose.

If you want your chosen employee assessment tool to have applications beyond the interview room, it’s helpful to know exactly how the tool can not only help you on the ground, but also how the tool can be used to further the strategy of your business.

As with any weapon, knowing how to use it with skill and purpose is the first step to mastery!

What I can say for sure, is that when you are able to apply your talent assessment to each and every ‘people process’ in your business and you can confidently support your managers with the right data from the tool, you’re actually setting yourself up as a trusted advisor, rather than a HR “tactician”.

Question: Are you already using employee assessment data to support your organisation? If you are, which areas of your organisation have benefitted most?

Please share your experience in the comments section – we reply to all your comments.

 

4 Comments

  • JS

    January 20, 2016

    Much of this content expands on the common challenges that all HR personnel and management face. There are many headlines and management sayings (Drucker) used as expamples, all carry weight in the argument for understanding the DATA.
    Herein lies the real challenge. We have been using data in different forms for as many years as I have been a manager (over 20).
    There are two things that have still not been solved – getting managers and employees to talk to each other – communication is always in the top three complaints, and how to get better performance from appraisals.
    The basic data this article refers to is all wrapped up in there somewhere but we never teach people how to communicate using the measurable rules for interactive behaviour.
    Having developed a new system to allow for positive development of individuals in a group or team, working only with individual strengths and building teams based on working strengths only to realise that managers only want REPORTS from computers about people’s TALENTS so they can call on them when needed without ever speaking to the individual.
    The challenge then is HOW do we get managers to WANT to change THEIR behaviour so that they can lead change down the line?

    • RPx2 Web Team

      February 2, 2016

      Thanks for your comment and for sharing your insights and experiences.

  • Anonymous

    January 25, 2016

    Thanks for a well written article – we often take it for granted that most HR folks are familiar with the benefits of objective assessments and how it supports their hiring efforts – although this might not be the case. Thanks for the useful reminders!

    • RPx2 Web Team

      March 7, 2016

      Thank you for your comment!