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The Wacky and Perplexing World of HR and Personality Testing

The wacky relationship between HR and personality testing is an intriguing one. It’s a perplexing one as well. How perplexing it can be was confirmed in a recently released SHRM poll about the use of personality tests for the hiring and promotion of employees.

According to poll of nearly 500 SHRM members, the majority of HR professionals (71%) indicate that personality tests can be useful in predicting job-related behavior or organizational fit. Only 14 percent disagree.

Pre-Hire Personality Assessments

Pre-Hire Assessments Reduce Time and Cost to Hire

But then again, if you believe in the 80-20 rule, where 20 percent of the businesses earn 80 percent of all the success, maybe it isn’t so surprising.

A 2011 study by The Aberdeen Group, Assessments 2011: Selecting and Developing for the Future, lends credence to my presumption.  A significant but common theme differentiating Best-in-Class organizations from the laggards in their industry is that these Best-in-Class trust the data coming from pre-employment and personality tests in the talent decision making process. (Best-in-Class companies represent the top 20 percent of aggregate performance scorers and demonstrate their dominance in their industry.) That finding is huge because as any proponent of pre-employment testing can tell you, management and HR’s denial of any validity or reliability coming from personality testing is often an insurmountable roadblock in improving the managing of talent in many organizations.

Participants in the research were asked about the importance placed on assessment data for critical decisions in four areas:

  • who to hire,
  • who is deemed high-potential, 
  • who to interview, and
  • who is promoted. 

The report reveals that across the board,

“Best-in-Class companies place greater value on assessment data as part of the decision process. The one decision point with the greatest gap between Best-in-Class and laggards was in helping understand future potential.  The top performing companies know that it’s not enough to just understand the employee’s current capabilities, but what they may be able to do in the future.”

The report also says,

“finding ways to quantify, evaluate, and help make better decisions for the future based on potential is a priority for top performing companies.”

The research offers some very compelling and convincing data for the reluctant executives and managers who run the 82 percent of organizations that don’t use personality tests for hiring and promotion. There’s nothing like good research to wake up a laggard.

Best-in-class organizations set the talent management bar high with the following scores:

  • 19 percent year-over-year improvement in hiring manager satisfaction.
  • 69 percent of key positions have at least one willing and capable successor identified.
  • 73 percent of employees received a rating of “exceeds expectations” on their last performance review.

Compare those scores with the laggards that experience:

  • 1% year-over-year decrease in hiring manager satisfaction
  • Only 15% of key positions have at least one willing and able successor identified
  • Only 16% of employees received rating of “exceed expectations” on last performance review.

Best-in-Class organizations are also 62 percent more likely to have automated assessments as part of the recruitment process, integrating with their Applicant Tracking System (ATS or APS) or career portal (47 percent to 29 percent for the laggards.)  The study found “this automation is yielding impressive performance management improvements in key hiring metrics, including improved hiring manager satisfaction and greater reduction in both time and cost to hire.”

Comments (5)

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  1. Bob Philpin says:

    Superb set of stats for companies who havent yet seen the benefite of a reliable personality assessment to support their HR decisions.

    With an increasingly mobile workforce and the race for high-potentials becoming ever more competetive, having that little bit more objective information about your employees’ and managers’ behavioural styles and personality preferences, gives organisations a “headstart”. Using an assessment helped me become a better people manager and meant my people were treated like they wished to be treated, which, in turn, meant that they were more motivated, more engaged, and actually enjoyed coming to work to be part of the team.

    Managing the employee lifecycle effectively is made so much easier with the support of an objective assessment. Having a scientifically validated tool to help with day-to-day management also gives managers more confidence in making people decisions and makes for a much more people-centred approach to management.

    The Aberdeen report is definitely worth a read if you are looking to dip your toe into personality assessments for organisational development. Thumbs up for the article too!

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