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  • Assessment 101

    (October 18, 2001) We've been struggling for months to arrive at a working definition of "assessment". It seems strange, doesn't it, that with all of the companies in the game and the myriad of schools pumping out Industrial Psychologists there isn't even basic agreement on core terminology. Hopefully, we're going to start helping with the problem.

    For our money, here is a definition that works:

    "Assessment is the measurement of the congruence between an organization's intention and its subcomponent's ability to execute."

    That definition points out a number of key things about Assessment:
    1. Assessment isn't decision making. It involves the development of data for decision makers. It is best understood as a gap analysis.
    2. Assessment is most effective when used systematically. That is, meaningful results are best delivered in the context of a clearly defined and measured organization.
    3. It can, however, be used in a naive way with some positive results (the Myers Briggs test is a good example of this.)
    4. Like all measurement systems, assessment works best when used as a continuous tool rather than as a static (or Gateway) device.
    In addition, It is very clear that the tools used to assess an individual or organization cluster in several areas:
    1. Suitability
      1. Physical Characteristics
      2. Personality Traits, Tendencies and Aptitudes
    2. Development (Trainable Attributes)
      1. Hard Skills
      2. Soft Skills
    3. Optimization
      1. Social Dynamics
      2. Fit
    It is easy to imagine this as a pyramid, similar to Maslow's Hierarchy:

         5. - Social Dynamics
         4. - Soft Skills
         3. - Hard Skills
         2. - Personality
         1. - Physical Characteristics

    Fit, of course, is an incremental question that changes in scope and intensity as an employee migrates from outside the organization towards its strategic core. You don't fit if you flunk the drug test. You don't fit if you're personality type X. You don't fit if you are not a lawyer. You don't fit if you can't work in teams. You don't fit if you cant master the political environment.

    Some technical skills, most soft skills and all social dynamics skills are shaped by the culture of the organization. In other words, "fit", as an issue, increases in intensity the closer an employee gets to the strategic core of the business. In that relatively self-contained universe, the skills and techniques required for success are organization specific.

    We hear lots of confusing talk about the integration of Assessment with an Applicant Tracking System or a Workforce Analytics package. Without some sort of simple framework to facilitate an understanding of what is and isn't delivered, the claims are meaningless. It's sad that the Assessment industry hasn't bellied up to the challenge of making it clearer.

    In the coming months, we'll fill out the details of this admittedly sketchy framework. Surprisingly, the development of something this simple took hundreds of hours. (The complicated version didn't take long at all!!).

    What we know for starters is that the influence of organizational culture (which may be shaped as much by the industry a company is in as anything else) has a heavy influence on the relative importance of this structure.

    Over the medium term, the systems that we are building in this industry will be used for the deployment of Human Capital over the life of an employee's relationship with the company. There is no question that the next large innovations in our business will involve the real implementation of assessment systems working to supplement and augment Workforce Analytics.

    - John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

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    Materials written
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    © TwoColorHat.
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