Some factors to take into account when selecting an assessment instrument.

There are literally 1000s of questionnaires and tools which all claim that they will help to solve your Human Resource or Talent Management issues. But how can you distinguish a good instrument from the pack? Here are some suggestions.

How modern is the instrument?

Some instruments are based on psychological theories going back to the 1920s. Many of claims made by those theories have been proven wrong by current research in the areas of psychology and neurology.

Is the instrument aimed at the work context?

Since the advent of cognitive science around 1983, researchers tend to acknowledge that everything is contextual. Simply stated, a person will not react in the same ways when they are a-vacationing as they are in the workplace (and probably you are happy they don’t).

Does the instrument claim to solve everything?

Some instruments will pretend that they can measure attitude, values and skills. Well, the reality is that these 3 building blocks of competence need to be measured in different ways. For instance, you measure skills by doing simulations of by asking behavior based questions. But it’s not because someone can do something (have the skill), that they will be doing it (having the right attitude). For measuring attitude, one needs to analyze the thinking patterns of a person. Measuring values is even harder. Value words such as “caring” or “respect” can mean different things to different people.

To what extent is culture taken into account?

many instruments developed in the UK and USA have been developed by persons who have little experience with other cultures. Their instruments lack the sophistication to acknowledge cultural differences. A bare minimum when using the instrument outside the UK and the USA, is that the instrument has norm groups or standard groups which calibrate the instrument based on culture.

How does the instrument predict performance?

A good instrument can be calibrated to predict how current as well as future employees will perform in a specific job. This means that if you would apply the instrument on your current staff, it should be able to rank them from “very good” to “struggling”.

Does the instrument make a claim involving large numbers?

Some instruments will claim to be based on a survey of say 100.000 salespersons. While such a large number definitely is impressive, the question that you need to ask yourself is whether a salesperson who functions well in another work context would be functioning as well in your own organization. Many people will know examples of successful salespeople or managers who were not successful at all in their new work environment. “One size fits all” doesn’t work – rather than detecting averages, statistics based on large numbers tend to deteriorate down to averages.

What application is the instrument developed for?

Some instrument developers will recommend not to use their instrument for a application such ar recruitment, but “clever” salespersons or enthusiastic users may fail to acknowledge this. Know that if an instrument isn’t really developed for the work context or for recruiting in specific, that your organization could be liable to claims of discrimination.

How is the instrument backed up by research?

It’s not because the key developed has a PhD that the instrument is valid. For the reasons cited above, the research should be recent and come from different universities in different countries, by preference showing it has been used in different cultures.


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last modified: 2014/Aug/13 00:01 CEST