BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Measuring a sufficient number traits in behavioural assessment

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The following information is an excerpt from the whitepaper ‘Best Practices in Talent Assessment’ by Dan Harrison, PhD, of Harrison Assessments International ©2008 Harrison Assessments International.  For a copy of the full report, please email us.

It is not practical to develop a separate behavioural assessment for each job or even each job type. Therefore, nearly all job behaviour assessments assess people using one questionnaire and then try to evaluate the answers for different jobs. However, our research has shown that less than 25% of the traits measured in a behavioural questionnaire relate to job success for any one job. Therefore, to be effective, a job behaviour assessment needs to measure many different traits in order to have a sufficient number of traits that relate to job success for any one given job. Most behavioural assessments measure only 10 to 30 traits. They try to overcome this problem by measuring norms of different types of jobs. For example, they do research that identifies managers as having certain traits, like “energy” for example. This is merely a distraction from the real purpose, which is to identify the traits that relate to performance. 

There is no benefit to hiring people who fit the profile of an average manager, especially when more than 75% of the traits are completely irrelevant to job performance. I have helped thousands of companies assess employees and I have never had a single customer that aims to hire average employees. They would be very unhappy if they knew that an assessment at best would them to hire average managers and three quarters of what was being considered in the assessment was completely unrelated to job success.

In order to effectively measure job success, job behaviour assessments must measure at least 100 different traits and each job needs to have a formula or template of at least 20 traits that relate to performance. In addition, each trait must have its own formula regarding how different amounts of that trait impact performance. Finally, each trait must be weighted against the other traits according to its impact on performance. That is why the Harrison Assessments system measures 156 traits and is built on a body of research that relates to job performance.

The need to measure more than 100 traits creates a great challenge for job behaviour assessments. Measuring more than 100 traits would normally require more than a full day of testing. However, in this age of talent competition, few qualified applicants are willing to spend a full day for one job application. Harrison Assessments has overcome this problem by creating a high tech questionnaire in which there are 16 groups of 8 statements. In each group, the 8 statements are ranked against each other. In addition, each statement appears in 2 different groups, enabling the computer to cross-reference all of the answers against each other.

By comparing each statement to every other statement on the questionnaire, a total of 8103 comparisons are obtained. This is equivalent to 2,701 multiple choice questions and more than a full day of multiple choice testing!

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