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4 Tips for Engaging Employee Assessment Skeptics

September 8, 2015

assessment-skepticDespite increasing acceptance of the value that employee assessments can bring to organizations, both in terms of selecting better talent and developing employees, there are still plenty of stakeholders who shy away from assessments for any number of reasons. They may have had a bad testing experience themselves, or they may have been part of an assessment implementation process at a company that was ultimately not successful.

While these situations are sometimes unavoidable, it is unfortunate that they can lead to long-term negative perceptions of assessments in general. This is because many companies can put themselves at a distinct competitive advantage by leveraging assessments to select and develop top talent, particularly when there are valid, cost-effective assessment tools available for key roles in the organization.

While turning the tide of negative perceptions regarding assessments can be very challenging, it is not impossible. The following paragraphs describe some tips for effectively communicating information regarding the value of assessments to a skeptical audience. While these tips are not guaranteed to sway the naysayers, they can sometimes at least create a positive dialogue regarding assessments that could make some doubters reconsider their positions.

Tip #1: Talk More Business than Science

Too often, business leaders with limited background in test development get inundated with data that is better suited for psychometricians and industrial psychologists. Even if these leaders understand concepts related to test reliability and validity, what really resonates with them are how assessments impact real business outcomes. For example, did the Sales Reps who scored highest on the assessment also exceed their sales quotas at a higher rate than those who scored lower?  If you can speak to the direct impact an assessment has on the business, the message is much more likely to be heard by company leaders.

Tip #2: Propose Assessment Solutions That Meet the Most Immediate and Critical Business Needs

If a company is really struggling with its first and second line leaders being able to effectively manage their teams, even assessment skeptics at this company may consider using an assessment tool that effectively evaluates key people manager capabilities such managing performance, coaching & delegation, and developing others. However, it must be made very clear to key stakeholders exactly how this tool can help inform what actions need to be taken to address the company’s people management challenges. In addition, identifying internal resources that will be responsible for ensuring these actions are taken will help demonstrate to stakeholders specifically how the assessment program can help the company.

Tip #3: Consider Pilot Programs

Assessment skeptics often find pilot testing appealing because it gives them an opportunity to try a new solution for a given period of time without having to commit to it for the long-term. In some cases, this may involve using a screening tool as an information-only data point during the pilot period. This gives hiring managers time to decide if the assessment results provide valuable information that can help make good hiring decisions. If during the pilot study the assessment tool demonstrates utility, the organization will be more willing to implement it as a true screening tool going forward.

Tip #4: Align the Assessment with Other Talent Management Solutions

Many organizations do not consider how new assessment solutions can support existing talent management programs such as performance management systems, career development programs, succession planning, and onboarding. Perceiving an assessment as a one-off tool that is not connected to the company’s talent management strategy can sometimes be the primary reason for resistance from stakeholders. To the extent that the competencies a new assessment measures can be aligned to those evaluated in the other programs, stakeholders will more likely view the assessment as a valuable tool. 

In sum, there are a few key issues to consider when trying to turn around negative perceptions regarding the use of assessments in organizations. First, the benefits of using assessments should be framed more in terms of how they impact the business than how effective they may be psychometrically. Second, it needs to be made very clear how a proposed assessment solution meets a critical challenge currently facing the organization. Third, it is often worthwhile to present options for piloting a new assessment solution so that stakeholders are given an opportunity to conduct a trial run of the solution before committing to it long-term. Finally, alignment and integration of the target capabilities evaluated in a new assessment to existing talent management programs will go a long way in gaining buy-in from key stakeholders and help ensure the new solutions attains long-term success.

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John Fernandez, Ph.D. John Fernandez, Ph.D. was a Senior Consultant at PSI and lead the implementation of assessment programs for both selection and development. John has extensive experience working as an internal expert within HR for large companies to deliver large scale, global assessment solutions. John’s areas of expertise include project management, job analysis, assessment design & validation, and presentation of assessment results to sponsors.