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How Your Company Can Fix Counter-Intuitive Employee Assessment Results

November 29, 2016

assessment-fix.jpgMore is always better, right? When it comes to ice cream, the answer is always yes. However, when it comes to employee assessment scores sometimes the answer may not always be as clear-cut as we’d like.

Well-developed assessments target and measure behavioral competencies that are important for the job. Good assessments measure what they are intended to measure and they predict performance on the job. In this case, higher overall scores on behavioral competencies should indicate higher job success. So, where does the disconnect come into play?

Turnover and counter-intuitive results

When looking at different outcome variables, turnover for instance, it gets a little more complicated. As we’ve discussed in the past, turnover is a complex problem and is a result of several factors. It can be a result of the individual. For example, they might not have all the necessary skills to be successful in the role or they might not be a good fit for the job or organization.

Alternatively, turnover can be a result of the internal factors within the organization. Supervisors could be negative or ineffective, or opportunities for development or promotion could be lacking within the organization.

Turnover can also be a result of external factors. For example, the unemployment rate or jobs with higher salaries in other companies might drive people to look for alternatives. As you can see, it’s very difficult to nail down the exact cause of turnover.

Going back to my original question, how do assessments relate to turnover? Overall, the use of assessments reduces turnover. Assessments identify individuals who have the skills necessary for the job and therefore, involuntary turnover will decrease. Depending on the nature of the assessment, it may give you an indication of whether they would be a good “fit” for the job or organization. For example, if an organization is very team-based and collaborative, individuals who have higher teamwork skills would do better in this environment and be a better fit.

The majority of the time, we see that people who do better on assessments and throughout the entire hiring process do better on the job and stay on the job longer. However, there is an exception to the rule. There are occasions when we see those who do better on the assessment leave the company more frequently than those who do poorer on the assessment.

What causes this disconnect?

Why is this? Well, if there are internal cultural issues or job fit issues, then the best people would be more likely to leave at a higher rate. These individuals have more opportunities available to them. Alternatively, those who do “worse” on the assessment may be more inclined to stay because they don’t have the options available to them.

Despite this finding, at times we see the relationship between assessment scores and turnover change back to the direction we’d initially expect (higher scores, lower turnover). Hiring better leaders and improving the culture and environment attracts and retains the better performers. It may take some time as well as a deep dive into the culture of the organization, but it should get better.

If people are leaving for “fit” reasons, try to better understand the current state of the organization. Organizational values may be different from what is actually at play within the organization. Dig deep to understand what the reasons are for leaving. If they’re internal factors that can be changed (e.g., poor leadership), then make some changes (e.g., hire better leaders, develop your leaders). If they’re job factors that would be difficult to change (e.g., work schedules), then be sure to provide a detailed realistic job preview during the hiring process (e.g., ask if they will work those hours).


Even though these findings seem counter-intuitive, they aren’t – better performers know they have options available to them and won’t settle for a culture that doesn’t fit with them. However, these findings don’t stick forever. Making the hiring process more robust by assessing for skills and assessing fit with the company culture can move that relationship back in the right direction.

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Alissa Parr, Ph.D. Alissa Parr, Ph.D. is a Senior Consultant at PSI. Her areas of expertise include the development, implementation, and evaluation of assessment processes. Alissa has experience managing entry-level through executive level assessment and selection efforts across a number of different industries including government, financial, military, education, healthcare, and manufacturing.