Avoid Common Talent Assessment Mistakes

Talent managers play a key role in defining and guiding organizational effectiveness initiatives so that they have the desired impact. When it comes to talent assessment, mistakes on their part could put the success of the initiative in jeopardy.

Here are some examples of common mistakes and tips for talent managers to avoid them. It highlights the importance of properly shaping and guiding assessment-focused talent management initiatives, and the talent leader’s role in doing so.

Don’t mistake a lack of supervisory skills for an entry-level turnover problem. There are pre-selection tools that can be used to screen out applicants who are likely to quit soon after joining the company or be terminated for cause. But in some cases, the problem is not selection oriented when high turnover is observed. Instead, it is a lack of effective supervisory skills among the front-line leaders. There is truth to the old saying: “People join companies, but they quit on their bosses.”

If the problem is misdiagnosed, the pre-selection tools, no matter how well developed, are unlikely to decrease turnover. This can be avoided with more thorough due diligence up front. For example, an employee attitude survey can be used to pinpoint sources of employee dissatisfaction and disengagement, including ineffective leadership behavior. This effort could point to a leadership development intervention as the most appropriate solution.

Avoid overemphasizing the company’s “unique way of doing things” when choosing a selection tool. Organizations in the same industry often have different procedures for getting work done. Retailers can have different models for selling merchandize, such as athletic footwear, for example. But that doesn’t change the foundational characteristics one needs to possess to be effective at sales, which is the product of nearly a century of research.

Typically, no matter how unique the shopping experiences are in two different retail organizations, the same characteristics will be important for success. One potential remedy is to become familiar with examples of selection tools available for screening into a specific role. Common themes will become evident, such as resilience and extroversion in the sales example — characteristics that companies can use to ensure their unique approach is successful.

Set realistic expectations and priorities regarding applicants’ perceptions of the assessment experience. Most assessment vendors focus on ensuring assessments and other selection tools are as engaging as possible. But some talent managers go so far as to insist that these tools should be enjoyable.

Selection assessments can be perceived as a hurdle applicants must successfully cross to gain employment. Further, these tools are intended to help identify the characteristics that are most favorable for higher job performance. Not all applicants will display these desired characteristics. Given all of that, it is very unlikely even the best candidates will thoroughly enjoy completing an assessment.
Instead, talent leaders should focus on what’s reasonable and attainable when evaluating selection tools. This includes choosing a selection tool that’s most likely to predict the desired business outcome — sales, retention, etc.

Don’t confuse job expertise for assessment expertise. The involvement of subject matter experts is critical to analyzing a job and developing an assessment process for it. But in some cases, talent leaders responsible for these initiatives overuse or encourage SMEs to provide input outside their area of expertise. Specifically, an SME with extensive knowledge of the target job will be encouraged to review assessment content and make pronouncements about what should be included and excluded from the final version. This is almost never productive.

Two types of SMEs need to be involved in such initiatives: job experts and assessment experts. Experts on the target job are needed to provide input on the tasks performed, and in some cases the competencies required, to be effective in the job. It is then time to turn it over to the assessment experts, who are best suited to determine exactly what needs to be measured in the assessment to predict the outcomes defined by the job experts.

The talent management leader’s key contribution in this scenario is to position the roles appropriately and set proper expectations for the nature and use of internal SME input up front.

John Morrison is a chief scientist at Kronos, a global workforce management company. He can be reached at editor@talentmgt.com.