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The NFL is Using Behavioral Assessments - Shouldn't You?

December 17, 2015

If you’re curious about the practical utility of behavioral assessments, you can look to the NFL.

As you watch the first NFL games of the season, rest assured that most of the rookies on your favorite team’s roster went through behavioral assessments as part of their evaluation. NFL teams make huge investments in talent. As you can imagine, they want to understand a player’s potential from every angle possible. They test and measure all the physical attributes they can – speed, quickness, size and strength. They look at past performance by evaluating film of their college performances. Not surprisingly, they also use behavioral assessments to understand their potential to succeed, and potential behavioral risks.

Football Player

We wrote previously about major league baseball using tools like the Athlete Success Evaluation and the Baseball Athlete Success Evaluation, to measure the extent to which individuals possess the desirable mental characteristics of elite athletes.

The NFL has long recognized the value of similar tools. For instance, the Atlanta Falcons use four separate psychological tests, including the Player Assessment Tool that examines mental acuity and character. The Human Resources Tactics (HRT) test is widely used by NFL teams. Adapted for the NFL by military special operations psychologists, the HRT measures mental and physical toughness, respect for authority, self-discipline, motivation, work ethic and combativeness.

In fact, the HRT correctly predicted the recent troubles of San Francisco 49er Pro-Bowler Alden Smith, whose promising career was derailed by guns and alcohol. Even more impressive, it foretold the widely covered transgressions of Aaron Hernandez of the New England Patriots, famously awaiting trial for three murders. Hernandez scored a 1 in social maturity [1] and his test responses suggested he “enjoys living on the edge of acceptable behavior.” These tests use algorithms that take into account past behaviors and compare scores with guys who have had problems in the past. They provide insight into a player’s potential to learn and to stay out of trouble.

Not surprisingly, as player costs rise, NFL teams are looking to build the best “selection system” possible. Sounds similar to what you are trying to do, doesn’t it? It’s not much different. The NFL measures the physical attributes. You look at the resume and training. They look at college game film. You get references. They test players on the field – you may use technical and clinical skill and knowledge assessments. They perform extensive interviewing of prospects. You use structured, behavioral interviews. Finally – you both integrate behavioral assessments designed specifically for the situation. Theirs are designed for athletes. Yours are designed for front line staff, nurses, physicians or executives.

Remember, there is no magic assessment that is 100% accurate or ideal for every situation. The New England Patriots still drafted Aaron Hernandez, after considering all of the “selection data” but some teams passed because of his potential for behavioral problems. A test is one important component, but you need the right test and you need to know how to use the data.

Reducing Turnover in Healthcare 

Bryan Warren Bryan Warren was the former Director of Healthcare Solutions at PSI. He was responsible for developing and promoting tools and services designed specifically for the unique challenges faced by healthcare organizations.