Using psychometric testing for recruitment and development

Have you ever worked anywhere where there was high staff turnover, little employee investment or engagement or a lack of understanding between staff and their managers?

There is an old saying that staff don’t leave companies they leave managers. Often that statement is true and more than often it is down to poor development of managers when recruiting or promoting them into a role.

Managers are not ‘natural’ at management skills, they are not born with these skills within their tool kit. Some will have natural traits that can be associated with being good leaders, they may have natural traits that are good for their roles as managers such as empathy and listening skills however, they will still be raw traits and knowing how to use them and what to do with them is the essential skill.

The high turnover of staff can be traced right back to the initial recruitment stage. Recruiting managers often use unstructured interviews relying on their own knowledge and gut instinct. If I had a pound for every manager that told me their gut instinct always selected the right person I could have retired by now……….also how do they know they got the right person if they hadn’t tried any of the other candidates.

Managers carrying out unstructured interviews for selection have about as much chance of getting it 100% right as if they use a person’s horoscope as a predictor. Often you also find that a recruiting manager will recruit someone in their own image as the ‘halo’ effect comes into play, of course if you are recruiting someone in your same image they will be looking to do your job not the one you want to recruit them for.

Using other forms of assessment and information gathering gives a much greater chance of getting the initial appointment right and a chance for the person to be developed further.

Hands up, who agreed to marry their partner based upon a 30-60 minute unstructured ‘date’ and said yes without getting to know much more about the person they eventually married, their likes/dislikes, their preferences, their inherent character, predictors about what it would be like with them.

Given that some employment relationships last longer than some marriages, is it not worth the effort of using some other methods of getting information that doesn’t get tainted with your own bias? A way of doing this is using structured interviewing processes alongside other forms of assessments.

More enlightened companies bought into the concept years ago of using a variety of psychometric assessments as a way to recruit the right individuals and then to use the same tools for effectively managing and developing their staff, including their managers.

There is nothing new in this, a lot of psychometric tests were developed during the second world war as a way of identifying suitable candidates for officer training, after all, who would want an officer who struggled with decision making, was introverted, lacked assertiveness and feared conflict or would you feel comfortable flying on a plane with a pilot who struggles to make decisions in a crisis situation?

You certainly could not identify those through unstructured or potentially structured interviews with straight open and closed questions. Using a psychometric test takes a lot of the guess work out of recruiting a new team member.

Getting it wrong can be a very expensive endeavour. The average cost of recruiting a mid-level team member is between £5-12k. Let’s not forget how time consuming it is to have a new person on board, the disruption to the company and customers, how many times do you want to train a new starter? Just once would be nice.

When you have a number of applications all seemingly perfect for the role how do you differentiate? How do you tell if they are right for the company culture, your work ethics, the right personal characteristics and indeed if their skills are truly aligned with the role?

There are many different types of assessments that are available that can predict a person’s characteristics, whether they are a team player or prefer working alone, if they enjoy structure and processes or not, how they deal with conflict (important if working in customer services), getting the right assessment for your needs is important and there are many good value ones that provide excellent information.

There are many tests out there, traditionally larger companies have used Myers Briggs and Saville and Holdsworth which have proved to be very reliable predictors.

DISC profiling

Others prefer to use the DISC model* as it seems to fit the majority of our clients’ needs in terms of budget and the information it provides. Although many writings have advised against its use in recruitment, it has proven to be very reliable among clients and the results seen within the reports are seen within the workplace.

*DISC is a behaviour assessment tool based on the DISC theory of psychologist William Moulton Marston, which centres on four different personality traits which are currently Dominance (D), Influence (I), Steadiness (S), and Conscientiousness (C). This theory was then developed into a behavioural assessment tool by industrial psychologist Walter Vernon Clarke. Source Wikipedia.

DISC is not just used at the recruitment stage although it is terribly effective. As well as identifying the candidate that will best match new role criteria, fit with the current team and embrace the company vision – DISC can also be used to increase productivity, head off potential conflicts and expand positive behaviours. DISC gives individuals self-awareness, improves communication and identifies behaviour styles to enable your staff to work more effectively and efficiently within a team or indeed manage the team, build relationships both internally and externally and will even improve their personal relationships.

DISC profiles help you and your team:

  • Increase your self-knowledge: how you respond to conflict, what motivates you, what causes you stress and how you solve problems
  • Facilitate better teamwork and minimise team conflict
  • Develop stronger sales skills by identifying and responding to customer styles
  • Manage more effectively by understanding the dispositions and priorities of employees and team members
  • Become more self-knowledgeable, well-rounded and effective leaders

Emotional intelligence assessments can also be used for managers. These provide a good guide to essential skills and traits that a manager should have which includes self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills.

Providing the self-awareness to managers can be very enlightening and combined with coaching and mentoring programmes can help develop managers who manage people to become better in their role which enables higher productivity from the team, less conflict and less costly staff turnover.

Getting it right can mean the difference between a happy team and an unhappy team.

Simon Merriman
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Simon Merriman

Solved HR was formed by Simon Merriman in 2015. Simon originally trained as an engineer and has over 17 years operational experience which gave him a valuable insight as to how HR can be seen from the other side of the fence. With over 25 years' experience in senior HR & training roles gained within corporate, SME and multi-sited organisations of 20 to 800 employees covering the whole employee cycle including terminations of all kinds, Simon is able to bring all that experience and understanding to all sectors and sizes of business knowing that a ‘one size does not fit all’ response is not always the commercial answer. Commercially astute with a business degree combined with excellent employment law knowledge.