Executive Search Recruiting Tips – Assessments

That new leader didn’t work out.  How did that happen? 

One of the many reasons could be that you used the wrong assessment.  Using the wrong assessment has the potential to do more harm than good.  You might be better off not using one at all if you are going to use the wrong one.   

While working as in-house legal counsel I started getting heavily involved in operations.  This happened for two reasons.  1) Staying up late at night reading psychology books became a great personal interest of mine; 2) I noticed that there was huge bottom line value and strategic objective value to the company if I could help solve operational problems associated with people.  I refer to it as the human element.  Merely being human means that we all have strengths and weaknesses associated with our core behavioral traits.  I am a big believer that our strengths will only take us as far as our weakness will allow.  All strengths come with a weakness and being aware of both is a great place to start. 

I joke around a lot saying that we all suffer from being human, because nobody and no companies are immune to it.  That’s something I can say with absolute certainty and I hate absolutes.  I don’t get into whether it all started from eating an apple from a tree or anything but the human element is never going away unless you are a Buddhist monk in Tibet who meditates 16 hours a day and sleeps the other 8 hours.  If you are reading this article I am sure you are well aware of the human element and the hurdles associated with it when trying to bring a large number of humans together to achieve a common goal. 

I remember a particularly difficult situation where I think I bought every single book there was dealing with personality types and enneagrams.  At least that’s what it felt like.  Employees had taken an assessment and I paired my late night reading notes with the assessment results to try and solve this human problem that was eating up a lot of company resources.  The end result was that something was missing.  I put my faith into the results of an assessment that at the end of the day was not predictive of employee behavior and the results were actually muddying the water while giving certain employees defenses for their actions.

I will divulge that when I had been put through assessments in group settings, I found the experience to be completely useless and a waste of time.  Well ok, maybe it got discussions going and people talking but still never really got us anywhere.  Maybe it bought us some “honeymoon” like time but the same pattern of problems invariably continued to occur somewhere down the line. 

Then one day I came to find that there is another type of assessment out there that was different from the one my company had purchased.  At this point I got introduced into the real world of assessing humans and learned that we had been using the wrong assessment.  It took some convincing for me to even entertain the idea due to my past bad experiences but I am glad I did!  Not only was efficiency immediate but the landscape of possibilities had been broadened.  I could solve issues in a fraction of the time and give clear objective criteria for decisions I was making. 

This happened because someone let me in on their little secret – Normative assessments.  I am grateful for this.  As I was staying up all night reading books trying to figure out why so and so is behaving like this or that while referencing the results of an ipsative assessment, there was an assessment out there that could have taken all the guess work out of the equation while giving me a starting point. I mean….you mean to tell me that I didn’t have to stay up all those nights reading?! I would have stayed up reading anyway because that’s me but my day job would have been a lot easier had I been using a normative assessment. 

I was left to wonder why I had never heard about this normative assessment despite all my googling and research.  I mean after law school and two masters’ degrees I feel like I am at least decent at research yet this tool was eluding me. I didn’t have to think too long why because I know that we are a society that markets and buys popular things and a Myers Briggs type ipsative assessment is the popular thing to do.  No need to hold resentment now for lost time and money, I consider myself lucky that I got into the world of normative assessmetns and if you are reading this you can’t say I didn’t tell you so. 

Normative VS Ipsative

Ipsative assessments:  Are used everywhere and are known as providing good team building tools.  Reality is they are not accurate and have narrow range of application.  Ipsative assessments measure traits within an individual, but the measurement is defined as the individuals’ opinion of themselves.  Therefore, the accuracy is only as good as to how well an individual knows themselves or is willing to admit their strengths and weaknesses.  These assessments are very easy to fake or skew if the individual has a motive to do so.  Simply put the result is what the individual wants it to be.  It is common for individuals to say “this sounds just like me.”  Well yeah….. you told the assessment what to say. 

Normative assessments:  Insightful, very accurate, complete, reliable, and have a broad base use and application.  The normative approach determines and measures an individual’s traits through behavioral based questions, where the answers have been normed (bounced off of) from a large test group of individuals (millions) who have answered the identical set of questions.  The results are considerably more accurate and this accuracy significantly broadens the width of application by connecting an individual to who they really are at their core and not who they think they are.  This provides a starting off point where an individual can begin true behavioral improvement and employers can begin true behavioral alignment to their objectives.  It is common to hear “this may not be me” or “I thought I was higher or lower on a score” because studies have illustrated time and time again that people are not good at telling their own story. (Read the book “Blink” if you don’t believe me)

Using a normative assessment is a powerful and sustainable method for understanding a leader’s capabilities, developing and accelerating the capacities of leadership and helping each team to understand one another better.  Assessments are critically important for taking new or current talent to the next level.  At Employers Edge we use the most reliable assessment on the market to drive leadership development strategies.