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Why it pays to invest in Assessment

With 20+ years working with CEOs, boards, and senior teams, Annette Andrews says companies should see recruitment and selection as an investment, and assessment as a key tool for maximising the return on that investment

Introduction by Gaëlle Pritchard, Head of Assessment, SH Leadership

If every new hire you make represents an investment in the future of your business, doesn’t it make sense to also invest in making your selection process more robust? As an analogy, when you are about to buy an expensive house for instance, doesn’t it make sense to consult the data provided by the survey before committing to buying the property? 

This has been my point of view for years. It’s also the theme of today’s guest article by Annette Andrews. This is the third part of a series exploring assessment. (If you missed them, check out part one and part two.)

In this piece, Annette explores the many ways organisations can leverage assessment to maximise the value of a new hire, as well as offering some best practices for using assessment as part of the selection process itself.

How to use assessment to maximise the value and mitigate the risks of recruitment

By Annette Andrews

Many organisations talk about the costs of recruitment and selection, but far fewer talk about the process as a financial investment. Yet that’s exactly what it is. Every external hire and every internal promotion we make is a huge investment from a commercial business perspective.

To drive my point home, I’d like to shock you with a statistic published recently by a US-based global recruiter. According to them, if you hire a graduate, that’s a million-dollar decision. If you hire a C-suite executive, that’s a four-million-dollar decision.

Yes, when you hire talent you’ve got to consider the cost of their salary, their benefits, bonuses, etc., but that’s not what we’re talking about here.

It’s an investment because of the huge potential value they bring to your organisation – not just now, but over the next three to five years. You’re bringing in their skills, knowledge, and experience. It’s this value that makes a hiring decision worth four million dollars.

Looking at the other side of this investment coin, that means there is a huge potential cost if you get it wrong. That’s not just potential damage to the reputation of the business or the individual. Say you’ve brought someone in and they’ve started to make operational or organisational changes. They’ve started to build relationships with colleagues. If you take them out or they choose to walk away, that leaves collateral behind and a lot of rebuilding that you’ll need to do.  

Recruiting the right person for a key role is a big responsibility and a huge investment. Because it is such a huge investment, it is worth investing properly in the process to get it right.

This is why I am so passionate about using assessment, and why I would like to encourage you to invest more in your assessment too. Here are some pointers from my 20-plus years in the field that should help you really get the most out of assessment.

Think about what your business needs

Your selection process should begin before you even think about who you want to bring through the door.

You really need to start by thinking about your business. What does it have now and what is it going to need in the future? This is not just about skills, knowledge, and experience. It’s also about the behaviours, the diversity, the change leadership, the emotional intelligence.

Depending on the level you’re hiring for you might also have a leadership framework or a management framework. You need to work on all of these to look at what you need for the future.

Consider how all the your jigsaw pieces fit together

When it comes to hiring somebody, you can’t just think about that individual in isolation. You need to think of them as a piece of the jigsaw. You must also understand all the other pieces of the jigsaw to make sure that this person gives you an additional piece in your overall jigsaw.  If I’m hiring someone into an executive committee, I like to get psychometric profiles done for the rest of the team because you’ve got to look at the bigger picture; you also have this in place for the future and can add to it over time.

By the way, if you do team profiles for everyone, it’s also an investment. You can then use them for development and coaching; plus you can move the whole team forward, not just an individual. I also strongly recommend using psychometrics to help you develop a job description to ensure that you know what you are looking for and need. You could use Hogan for this, for example, or ECR.

Be honest about what you really want

It happens a lot during selection that a client says they want a certain kind of person for a role. Then when you start to put together long lists and short lists of candidates, they are disappointed and say the lists don’t fit what they want – even though those lists were drawn up based on the criteria they asked for.  

As a client this means you really must make sure that the job description is an accurate reflection of what you need for your business and your team. You also need to recognise what kind of change that may require within the wider team.  

Treat your recruitment provider as a partner, not a vendor

When you work with a recruitment organisation at whatever level, it needs to be a partnership. Your recruitment partner needs to understand your business, your strategy, and what you are trying to achieve out of this hire. They need to be able to touch and feel the culture as well. Without this, it’s much more difficult for them to find the right candidates.

Use psychometric assessment at the right stage

Psychometrics are hugely valuable. However, I recommend using them at the shortlist stage only – perhaps for the final three, for example. It’s just takes too much time and effort to do psychometrics for the whole long list – plus it is an expense.

Using psychometrics for your top candidates gives you a really good insight into them. It helps surface their values. If you use Hogan, it also looks at their bright side – how they act at their optimum – and their dark side – how they act when under stress. You get a truly holistic view.

That said, psychometrics should never be used as a final decision maker. Combining this data with interview information feeds nicely into some really searching questions for your final three.

The ongoing value of psychometric data

When you’ve got your final individual and you’ve hired them, don’t be tempted to put all of that psychometric and interview data in a bottom drawer and tuck it away. It will have multiple uses to help you get the biggest possible return on this investment.

As a first step, psychometric data is fantastic for helping to onboard your new hire. This is because different people deal with onboarding in different ways, just as we all learn and soak up information in different ways.

That psychometric data is also valuable for coaching and to support your new hire’s personal development plan. Just make sure the individual is comfortable with sharing their psychometric profile interview feedback.

Also – and this is the bit I love – all of that information can really help with team integration. It’s very useful for building team events around – especially if you’ve profiled your entire team at the early stages of your selection process as part of creating your job description.  

This doesn’t just work when bringing someone into a team. It also helps when onboarding a new CEO. If you’ve carried out your multiple senior team profiles as part of understanding all your jigsaw pieces, you can share that data with an incoming CEO to help them really understand the team they’re inheriting from the point of view of behaviours and attitudes as well as skillsets and experience.

I absolutely have used profile interview data to support PRA / FCA approval for key roles (approved persons) too. The regulators love to see that you’ve collected all that data and used it to create a job description, an individual development plan, coaching plan, and onboarding plan.

When hiring goes wrong: avoiding common recruitment pitfalls

Despite all that investment and careful planning, a new hire may still not work out. It might be that the individual just doesn’t feel it’s the right role for them or their personal circumstances change. It can be that the organisation feels that who they’ve hired is not what they expected or that the fit just isn’t there.

You can help avoid this happening in the following ways:

  1. Take note if anyone tells you during any part of the selection process that a candidate “just doesn’t feel like the right cultural fit”.  That could be the result of unconscious bias, or it could be group think. The jigsaw puzzle may reject that new piece. You need to be careful that you’re not hiring oil and mixing it with water – that’s not fair and can cause problems down the road.  Really question if this organisation is ready for the change it has said it wants to see / hire!
  2. When you’ve done your onboarding and development plan, don’t put it all in the drawer. Keep monitoring progress and having ongoing discussions because normally, if it all does go wrong, the signs are usually there. So, keep supporting and look for the warning signs but also ensure that the organisation is maximising the strengths of the individual – that I why you brought them in!  
  3. As a business, if you want to hire different people because you want to be a growth business for the future, that will include neuro diversity, and people with different backgrounds and experiences. ‘Different’ can make people feel uncomfortable, so you need to do some preparation upskilling in the business for that change. You can’t just expect your new hire to magically land and for everyone in your organisation to accept it. Good preparation can make the difference between acceptance and rejection.  

Spending on assessment may seem costly, but the costs of getting it wrong are far greater. When it comes to recruitment, onboarding, and team dynamics, it really is worth getting it right at the beginning. After all, you could have upto a four-million-dollar investment on your hands.

Read part one of our series on the benefits of assessment: The Benefits of Using Trait Assessment for Candidate Selection and Recruitment.

Read part two of our series here: How Assessment Helps to Promote Diversity and Inclusion.

About Annette Andrews

Annette is an executive coach and HR consultant supporting individuals and organisations globally to achieve their full potential.

A former Chief People Officer with 20+ years of experience working with boards and executive committees around the globe, Annette has worked with CEOs, boards, and senior leaders in regulated organisations including Ford Motor Company, Lloyds Banking Group, and Lloyd’s of London.

During her career she has developed a deep knowledge and expertise across talent management, including leadership development, recruitment, reward, and succession planning.

MBA qualified and a Fellow of the UKs’ Chartered Institute of Personnel Development, Annette is also a qualified executive coach and mediator. She was installed as the Master of the Guild of Human Resource Professionals in October 2020.