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10 questions to ask when choosing an assessment

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By Greg Barnett, PhD

Assessments are effective tools for understanding the people who make up your workforce. These data-driven tools can help you evaluate candidates, organize teams and develop employees, and give you unprecedented confidence and accuracy in the selection and development of the individuals you depend on to make your company successful. However, assessments come in many different forms, and not every assessment is right for every environment and circumstance.

So how do you know what solution is right for your organization? Start by asking yourself – and your potential provider – these ten questions:

  1. How will the data be used? Each type of assessment addresses specific aspects of an individual. Behavioral assessments reveal data about people in their work environments, and personality assessments ascertain people’s personality types. Decide which type of information would be most valuable to your organization.
  2. Is the data valid and reliable? Are people’s scores consistent and repeatable over time? Does the assessment effectively predict important workplace behaviors that drive metrics such as sales, customer satisfaction and turnover?
  3. What is the pricing model? There are many different pricing models out there: subscription-based; pay-per-user; pay-per-assessment. Determine what you’ll be using the assessment for and the number of employees who will be using it to help you choose the pricing model best for you. Some providers may offer assessment results that can be analyzed as an employee develops. This may require you to deploy several assessments over an employee’s career, which may make pay-per models less attractive.
  4. How long does it take to complete? Assessments vary in length from minutes to hours to complete. Consider the amount of time you’ll require of your employees and potential employees to complete the assessment when when evaluating different options. Longer tests aren’t necessarily better.
  5. How is the data gathered? Tests can be either free choice or forced choice. Free choice means that the test takers select only what they feel applies to them, while forced choice requires test takers to select among various choices. Forced choice tests have been known to cause frustration because of the need to make uncomfortable or unnatural decisions among different types of items. Evaluate which format gives you the most useful and relevant data while considering the implications on the test-taker experience.
  6. How are the assessment results presented? Results of assessments can either be written in the form of a report or a more visual graphic, where data is presented in a quick snapshot that can be interpreted immediately. Some assessments have a combination of the two. Match the level of information with the end user of the data. For example, sometimes in-depth reporting can seem attractive on the outside, but can be complicated and time-consuming to review. Visual graphics, on the other hand, make it easier to get at the high-level information but may not convey the depth of the assessment information. So think about who the user will be, how much information they need, and how much time they are expected to spend reviewing results. And note – it is always best to provide some level of training to all end users so they can make sense of the information, regardless of the format in which it is presented.  
  7. What level of support is required? Tests can be administered by someone certified within your organization or by the test company. Determine if the ability to administer and interpret test results within your company is a better fit for you or if it makes more sense to work with an outside firm. Also confirm that there’s ongoing support from the test vendor and that the company understands your business challenges. Using assessments in your organization is not enough — introducing the use of assessments as part of a broader effort to affect change, provide clarity and remove unnecessary obstacles between you and your objectives, and increase employee engagement, will ensure high impact on performance.
  8. Is the assessment global? If you have a global workforce, it’s important to be able to administer the test in an employee’s native language and have analyst support within your area. Verify that the assessments and results are available in all relevant languages and that the test publisher follows best practice translation practices.
  9. Can the data be used with groups and teams? In addition to providing data about individual employees, some assessments can also give insights into group dynamics, which can be used to address group conflicts and evaluate performance in relation to other groups. If group analysis is important, make sure the data is available for that use. Some tools allow you to compare two behavioral patterns, or even entire teams, to get a better understanding of what makes a top-performer in your organization.
  10. Is the assessment constructed follow professional standards? Standards organizations, such as the American Psychological Association (APA) and International Test Commission (ITC), provide compliance guidance for how a test should be constructed and validated. In addition, if you are in the United States, ask questions about how the test publisher ensures compliance with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in terms of the fairness of the assessment or the procedures the publisher uses to reduce risk and provide legal defensibility in case of challenges.

More and more, organizations are turning to assessments to help meet strategic business goals and grow talent management initiatives. Whether you’re looking to source top talent, improve employee engagement and retention, build teams that click, develop future leaders, or end sales slumps, the right assessment tool will help you tackle your biggest talent challenges by uncovering the right people for the right roles.

Greg is a PI alum and former SVP of science at PI.

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