Sheffield Haworth logo


Which Kind of Assessment Should You Use in Your Organisation?

Comprehensive leadership assessments and online psychometric assessment tools both offer value. The key is to know how best to use them.

Comprehensive leadership assessments and online psychometric assessment tools both offer value. The key is to know how best to use them.

By Gaëlle Pritchard, Head of Assessment, SH Leadership and Sue Colton, Associate Business Psychologist

In a world where the competition for top talent is becoming ever more fierce, more companies are turning to assessment to give them an edge. Yet there are different kinds of assessment. Some are overseen by qualified assessors, including comprehensive leadership assessments, while some psychometric testing takes place purely online.

Organisations seeking the best talent can potentially benefit from using both kinds of assessment, whether for recruitment and selection, integrating new employees, building strong executive teams with complementary skillsets and diversity of thought, or highlighting staff development needs. In this article, we discuss the potential benefits of assessor intervention versus a purely online approach, and where we think they best fit into an organisation’s talent goals.

Why use assessments?

Assessments have a range of benefits. Organisations use them most commonly for recruitment and selection where, amongst other benefits, they can help mitigate the risk of bias.

Companies can also use assessments to diagnose areas where individuals or teams need coaching or training, or for leadership teams to identify where they have gaps for future recruitment needs and succession planning. They might also help assist with due diligence and integrating teams as part of a post-acquisition merger.

In short, assessments help to build stronger management teams, to identify skills gaps for recruitment, to recruit the right talent, and to create greater collaboration within teams. They help to maximise the value of an organisation’s human capital and avoid making costly hiring mistakes. They are also increasingly being used to help promote diversity and inclusion, and improve synergy across remote working teams.

We are experienced assessment professionals. Between us, we have been carrying out psychometric assessments on individuals for a combined 30 years. Recently, we began to review some of the new online psychometric tools on the market to see how organisations can best incorporate these too. What follows is our review of the benefits of both.

The benefits of online psychometric tools

Online psychometric assessment tools are becoming popular amongst many organisations in multiple industries and sectors. It is easy to see why.

  • Ease of use and speed of execution

Online psychometric assessment tools allow for speedy assessment. For candidates, these tools are also easy to use. The tools are hosted online, and they can access them via their mobile phones in a few clicks. The assessment themselves are also designed to be intuitive and simple to navigate.

  • A less intimidating candidate experience

In a previous blog I discussed how to create a positive executive assessment experience. This is a challenge, as many candidates view assessment in a negative light. Allowing them to access an online tool using their smartphone whenever they like and providing a pleasing interface can make the whole process much less intimidating, easier, and less time-consuming.

  • Low cost

Using a digital tool could cost just half what it costs for a full one-on-one assessment.

  • Gives the option to share results

Some development tools offer the possibility to interact with other participants, as you can share your results via QR codes with other users of the same tool.

  • The best uses for online psychometric tools

In principle, an organisation can use online psychometric assessment tools for recruitment, onboarding, succession planning, and so on. However, from our analysis, we believe they could be most useful when used on a team to identify skills or behavioural gaps, and to highlight areas for coaching and development.

The cost-effectiveness of these tools comes into its own when applied to a team, and the algorithm-based feedback makes for easy comparison and diagnosis of any gaps.  

That said, online psychometric testing tools cannot yet replace a comprehensive leadership assessment that involves a qualified assessor. The computer-generated output these tools provide can sometimes create further questions that go unexplored.

Using a qualified assessor allows for a deeper level of interpretation and understanding when dichotomies occur or when certain results conflict with one another.

The benefits of comprehensive leadership assessments

Assessor lead leadership assessments offer deep behavioural profiles of individuals, and are useful when assessing the following:

  • An individual’s leadership style
    • Their approach to – and impact on – teamwork and culture
    • Whether they will be a good fit – or add much-needed diversity to – the culture of an organisation
    • Their personal motivational frameworks
    • Strengths and areas for development
    • Their ‘dark side’ – the traits that act as potential derailers

Comprehensive assessments like this capitalise on the human element that comes from interacting with the participant once completed. This step is arguably irreplaceable when assessing someone’s traits; nothing will replace a validating conversation to explain some of the findings or anomalies. 

As a whole, it is best for the generated data to be analysed, interpreted and fed back to individuals and the hiring client  so they understand what it means. Amongst other benefits, this helps the individual with their career development and increasing self-awareness. Only experienced assessors will be able to get the most out of this.

The main benefits of going into such depth are:

  • To reduce the risks of failed hires

Hiring the wrong person into a leadership role can cost a significant amount per hire when factoring in productivity, logistics and other associated costs. The impact on the team can be much greater still when considering the adjustments needed to try to accommodate an individual, only for them to leave and need replacing.

Our findings as assessors can also validate the findings of an executive search consultant or those of the client. When we come together at the end of our data gathering process we can validate each other’s findings, which helps make the entire selection process more robust.

  • To develop a robust skills framework for hiring a candidate

To create an accurate trait assessment entails predetermining the behaviours most beneficial and appropriate to the role and job specification. This often results in a much clearer competency framework against which to assess candidates, clarifying which skills and traits the role really requires.

  • A smoother onboarding process for the successful candidate

The results of a comprehensive leadership assessment are valuable to help an organisation set up development plans when onboarding new team members.

  • Improved communication and understanding between teams

Whether used for candidate selection, onboarding, individual development, or team building, a deep understanding of the key behavioural traits of the individuals on a team makes it easier to avoid conflict and manage change. This in turn encourages more positive team dynamics, enabling more effective collaboration and teams who are more able to hit key targets while minimising friction and delays.

Choosing the right assessment for your needs

While online psychometric tools and comprehensive leadership assessments are both potentially very valuable, it is important to use them wisely. Most organisations would benefit from both, depending on the context, although we would suggest that online tools work most effectively when used as a means to an end rather than an end in themselves.

As long as an organisation is clear about its goals and why it wants to use assessment, it can then work out what information it needs to find out, and therefore which form of assessment to use.

Assessment helps organisations to promote diversity, define and then identify the ideal behaviours of prospective candidates, and reduce the costs of potential failed hires, and it does so better in tandem with more traditional methods such as the face-to-face interview.

Whatever kind of assessment or test you use, make sure to check its credentials and accuracy. Above all, make sure you spend enough time to apply the findings.

About Sue Colton:

Sue is an associate business psychologist at SH Leadership. She is also the owner and director of SJC Consulting. A specialist in strategic HR management and occupational psychology, Sue is a qualified behaviour assessor and psychometric tester registered with The British Psychological Society (BPS) holding the EFPA accredited European Test User Certificate in Work & Organisational Assessment.  She has an MA in HR Management and is qualified as a Certified Principal Business Psychologist (CPBP) with the Association of Business Psychology (ABP). She is also a Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (MCIPD).

Prior to founding SJC Consulting, Sue worked at KPMG and NatWest Group.