People Puzzles – Finding the Right Fit – Suitability vs. Personality Assessments

 “Suitability assessments reveal important attributes and values that can otherwise be overlooked in hiring and career development,” explains Belinda Morris, Principal Consultant at Peoplescape Consulting. “In spite of the advantages of suitability assessments (like Harrison and Profiles XT) over general personality assessments, there are only a couple of these on the market, due to a greater level of scientific sophistication required to develop and test these instruments. However, we find suitability assessments so much more accurate in understanding individuals and predicting fit. Mismatches can be very costly and damaging, not only to team members but even to brand credibility and morale.”

Behavioral and aptitude assessment tests have more than gained traction over the last decade. Once viewed as instruments for pre-employment screening,

assessments are now a $500+ million dollar per year industry, growing at an estimated 10% annually with broadened uses in organizational fit, relationship matching, development and team building .

Traditional personality assessment instruments such as Myers Briggs (MBTI), DISC, and Birkman bring an understanding of 16, 4 and 12 personality traits respectively. Harrison Assessments offer insight into 156 traits designed to measure engagement, motivation, interpersonal skills and retention factors related to specific jobs.  While each of these is not considered essential in every job, the robust nature of the assessment provides a rich understanding of individuals based on their individual baseline, rather than the normative data used in other assessments. Obviously, if normative data disproportionately represents one group, that group will fare better on tests and raise concerns about bias. Newer companies to the market, Gartner (Talent Assessment), IBM (Watson Personality Insights), Oracle (The Color Oracle) and Deloitte (Business Chemistry) offer assessments with their unique take on using self-identified test-taker preferences to gain a better understanding of one’s self and one’s fit with others.

As ease of administration has vastly improved, many companies are tempted to administer these assessments in-house, not realizing professional versions of assessments remain more sophisticated in their design and measure a greater number of factors than the consumer versions. By placing weight on specific attributes that match to customized job criteria, a trained professional will get the best results for job matching or team building outcomes. Personality tests are a gray area of the law because the general factors are not job specific and their related questions often invite legal challenges. Many recent lawsuits related to personality tests resulted in large settlements. Since suitability assessments are entirely focused on job requirements and the questions are entirely work related, they satisfy employment laws and prevent lawsuits.

What is the best first step if you are considering implementing job suitability assessments?

Conduct a job analysis that collects information as to knowledge, skills, and abilities for specific positions. Prepare job descriptions based on employee generated task statements, observation, interviews and questionnaires. This is the starting point from which to customize a reliable job suitability instrument and implement a sound assessment strategy.

What is new in the use of assessments for career development and team building?

Using customized assessments to support 360-degree performance reviews allows organizations to have a validated structure that leads to unique and productive training plans for employees and teams.

In team reviews and teambuilding interventions, the benefit of using a 360-degree team review tool is valuable in understanding what is going on through other peoples’ perspectives. However, when we add an assessment tool to enhance the team review we also get to answer the question “Why?” through an objective view – the assessment. Understanding and awareness of the root cause fosters purposeful discussion and actions for change.

According to Belinda Morris, of Peoplescape Consulting, “Our clients find assessments a tremendously powerful tool in teambuilding. The assessment provides a fresh and objective perspective; it alleviates blind-spots, maximize team strengths and leverages opportunities for enhanced teamwork and business creativity”.

Contact us for more information about customized assessments for your recruiting, development and team building needs.