A new era for psych testing

by HRD08 Mar 2017
Psychometrics as a science may have its roots in Cambridge as far back as 1886, but today psychometric tools and assessments are helping businesses navigate a rapidly changing world

“If we’re going to emerge from the worldwide economic slump, entrepreneurs will lead the way.” That was the 2012 prediction of Sangeeta Badal and Joseph H Streur of global consultancy Gallup.

For those who view entrepreneurialism as something that thrives in start-ups but flounders in larger organisations, think again. Although entrepreneurship has been hailed as a crucial engine of economic growth, the concept of an entrepreneurial mindset does not just apply solely to business owners. Entrepreneurially minded employees, sometimes referred to as ‘intrapreneurs’, are shaking up established norms across all business sectors.

But how do you know if you or one of your team has the traits of an entrepreneur? The search for individual differences between entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs, and between more and less successful entrepreneurs, has to this point produced an inconsistent body of research with limited empirical evidence.

Enter a psychometric instrument known as the Entrepreneurial Mindset Profile (EMP). The original goal of the tool was to identify and measure a set of variables that clearly distinguished between entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs. The EMP takes less than 10 minutes to complete online, and the report it generates, while comprehensive, is easy to understand. The normative data enables individuals and teams to compare their results with those of entrepreneurs and corporate leaders across all industry segments. The report also includes constructive strategies to promote the entrepreneurial skills of both managers and individual contributors.

The EMP is one of several psychometric assessment and diagnostic tools offered by Talent Tools.

Fit-for-purpose tools
The core purpose of the field of psychometrics remains largely unchanged. It can include the measurement of innate traits, such as personality characteristics and behavioural traits, as well as innate skills, such as strengths in numerical or verbal abilities, values, attitudes, bias, and much more.

Sharon Hudson, founder of Talent Tools, says the range of psychometric assessments and diagnostic tools on the market today is much wider and deeper than it once was. “Computergenerated reports made the real difference to usefulness of psychometrics in the workplace,” she tells HRD. “The days of completing a form and turning the page to see how to add up and apply the scores, or turning to the page with your result in the accompanying booklet, are long gone.”

However, identifying the option best suited to your needs can be daunting. Hudson says it’s critical to firstly choose a tool that is fit for purpose. In the workplace environment, she adds, this cuts down the contenders very quickly. “The majority of instruments on the market are aimed at ‘whole of life’ with relevance to your work,” she says. “What you need is a product specifically designed for workplace applications, which will also have relevance away from work.”

From there it’s critical to assess both the validity and reliability of tools.

“When we talk about the validity of a tool, we are talking about how closely the questions/choices correlate with the test intent,” says Hudson. “For example, if I’m assessing social reasoning then mathematical equations are unlikely to yield any useful data. Are we testing what we say we are testing?”

The reliability of the instrument means ensuring that if the assessment was done on the same person, under the same conditions, on several occasions over a period of time, the results would be either stable (reliable) or erratic (unreliable).

Hudson suggests there are three components of any assessment that need to be run through a validity and reliability check to ensure it’s a rigorous tool:
  • The questionnaire, the ‘instrument’ used to collect the data. 
This can be a challenge, because different assessment purposes and outcomes require different initial data input. Hudson explains: “For example, if I want to get to your unconscious natural self, say for a personality or behavioural diagnostic, to get past your conscious mind’s filter and get to your unconscious level I need a tool which is low in face validity. This is where it is not obvious what the outcome is going to be from considering the question and the available answer options. If the assessment is like Strengthscope [see box above], which wants your conscious response and is searching for what energises you, then an instrument with face validity is more likely to get accurate responses to analyse. The instrument is paramount, because once the data has been gathered, that is what is going to be analysed and used to populate the report. The data cannot be improved upon, only analysed and presented.”
  • The analytics, the algorithms and intellectual property that does the analysis of the data collected. 
“This is a great unknown as it is never seen nor shared to any great extent. A good indicator of a rigorous analysis is whether the system has an inbuilt safeguard to not provide a report if the data does not meet strict consistency protocols or standards, ie garbage data in, no report out.”
  • The report: its contents and presentation.
“Does it provide the information you need to fulfil the purpose for which it was obtained? This goes to author Stephen Covey’s advice to ‘begin with the end in mind’. Even then, it is not difficult to design aesthetically appealing reports that are easy to read and contain seemingly relevant content. But regardless of how good the report looks, if the original data is poor and the analytics weak, it could be inaccurate and misleading.”
 
THE POWER OF POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY
Peter Drucker was one of the first business thinkers to identify that organisational success is built on the collective strengths of those in the organisation. He stated: “It takes far less energy to move from first-rate performance to excellence than it does to move from incompetence to mediocrity.” Indeed, research shows that over 80% of all employees don’t get the opportunity to do what they do best every day, which subsequently has a negative impact on engagement and execution. Strengthscope, also offered by Talent Tools, enables employers to discover the strengths of their employees individually and collectively and understand how these combine with skills, knowledge and experience to unlock peak performance. “Strengthscope is the key for employers to identify your own strengths and play to them every day at work, and then identify employees’ strengths to create a positively engaging workplace™,” says Hudson.

Big data in psychometrics
Hudson adds that a solid ‘foundation tool’ can ensure that HR decisions can be made at the individual, team and organisational levels throughout the employee life cycle – thus negating the need for a different product each time specific individual or team data is required.

She believes the best foundation tool is Extended DISC’s groundbreaking FinxS System.

Once the individual’s data is collected through the online questionnaire, which takes around 12 minutes to complete, the system uses sophisticated algorithms to analyse the data and provide the results compared to a continually growing database of workplace competencies. At last count there were approximately 1,500 competencies available.

This enables the company to determine the relevant measurements for the role and to measure against those same competencies for recruitment, onboarding and performance management. This consistency is often lost in organisations when they use one set of competencies to recruit, another in their performance assessments, and yet another in their 360-degree feedback initiatives.

Using FinxS enables the organisation to use the same competencies throughout its assessment processes.

Psychometric tools such as FinxS are also utilising insights gleaned from big data. Employees with a certain profile warning signal can be identified throughout the organisation. For example, someone with a high consciousness and high need for autonomy profile, but who lacks clear direction from management, will be performing below their capability. Low job satisfaction and disengagement typically follow. FinxS can mine the organisation’s talent data to identify profiles that meet this criteria, enabling management to take corrective action.

“This is a real breakthrough in talent management, especially in multinational organisations where this issue can easily go unnoticed,” Hudson says.
 
THE ENTREPRENEUR IN YOU
The Entrepreneurial Mindset Profile feedback report provides scores on 14 discrete scales that fall within two broad domains: the personality characteristics and motivations that often distinguish entrepreneurs from non-entrepreneurs; and the cognitive and behavioural skill dimensions that indicate how entrepreneurs typically approach tasks and the abilities they demonstrate. Examples include:
• Independence: the desire to work with a high degree of independence
• Preference for limited structure: a preference for tasks and situations with little formal structure
• Non-conformity: a preference for acting in unique ways; an interest in being perceived as unique
• Risk acceptance: a willingness to pursue an idea or a desired goal even when the probability of succeeding is low
• Action orientation: a tendency to show initiative, make decisions quickly, and feel impatient for results

Time for a training session?
Market-leading suppliers conduct ongoing research and longitudinal studies to identify patterns and trends in the worldwide data collected by their instruments. From this they can pose and test hypotheses and make new discoveries.

“Becoming accredited and staying abreast of developments is really important to getting the most from your investment,” Hudson adds.

Talent Tools accreditation training takes a blended approach, usually consisting of one or two days of training – including selfpaced online learning via a learning app – and then a training workshop or live online learning. Talent Tools practitioners also enjoy ongoing support and regular system and application updates.

TALENT TOOLS
Based in Brisbane, Talent Tools has been providing scientifically validated workplace assessments for every stage of the employee life cycle throughout Australasia for over 10 years. Talent Tools is a one-stop shop for workplace diagnostic and developmental reports, training resources, accreditation training and in-house workshops. To arrange a free, no obligation 20-minute strategy session, email: team@ talenttools.com.au or call 1800 768 569 or 61 7 3103 0177.

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