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Going Beneath The Surface: How Leaders Can Strategically Use Assessments To Facilitate Employee And Team Growth

When an employee’s traits, skills and interests don’t align well with their job, challenges will likely arise, including ongoing interpersonal conflicts, disengagement and flight risk, leading to increased turnover, financial loss and instability for your organization.

That’s where employee assessments can help. If used correctly, employee assessments, such as those centered on emotional intelligence, personality traits and conflict styles, are an effective way for business leaders to facilitate growth for individual employees and their teams.

Companies are increasingly recognizing the value that talent assessments can provide. A 2018 report by SHL, a provider of talent acquisition and talent management tools, about assessment trends around the world found that 60% of respondents “reported using assessments for development” and 93% were using assessments for hiring purposes.

Not everyone is on board, however, with using assessments for hiring and retention, particularly personality assessments. There are valid concerns. One major criticism, for instance, is that personality tests “like Myers-Briggs give people labels” which are “often taken at face value and used as a fundamental aspect of a person’s identity,” as organizational psychologist Benjamin Hardy explained in Psychology Today.

So, how can we get to the source of what is motivating our people?

As the founder of a consulting firm that helps employers implement various assessments as one of its service offerings, I’ve seen firsthand that when employers approach these assessments with the right mindset, they can learn how to best support and unlock a powerful avenue for employee and team development (assessments have their purpose in hiring, too, but for this article, I’ll be focusing on using assessments for existing team members).

Here are the key ways employers can strategically use assessments to help their employees flourish.

View Personality Assessments As Tools To Realign Employees With Their Strengths

Employee engagement is vital for organizational success. Consider research by Gallup that found that low “engagement teams typically endure turnover rates that are 18% to 43% higher than highly engaged teams” and “companies with engaged workforces have higher earnings per share.” According to researcher William A. Kahn’s work, psychological safety, psychological availability and deriving meaning from work are the key components of employee engagement at work.

Now, while realistically, people can’t always be 100% engaged with their work, the majority of the time, they need to feel driven, motivated and valued as part of the team. When employees are in roles that align with their personality traits, skills, priorities and interests, they are more likely to succeed. Every human being has value; the secret is finding the specific ways each person’s value can best shine. Sometimes, employees are on the right bus (your organization)—but sitting in the wrong seat (their current role).

Rather than going down the path of quiet firing, you can use assessments to find, develop and strategically amplify each employee’s strengths to advance your organization’s mission.

For instance, say you designate a senior-level staff member to lead a strategic initiative. You do so for obvious reasons—because of their job title and day-to-day responsibilities. However, after several months, you notice they haven’t provided you substantial updates or had much progress with mobilizing the necessary cross-functional teams.

After you administer assessments to your employees, you learn that this senior-level staff member is energized by independent, stable and clearly defined projects—ambiguity and teamwork cause them to show up inauthentically and become distressed. They may be better suited for the quantitative part of the project. So, to help this leader thrive, you work with them to redefine their role on the project. Guided by the assessments, you can then start unlocking the potential of other leaders on your team.

Remember: No one leadership style is right or wrong. The goal is to create alignment between different leadership styles based on your organization’s objectives.

Implement a Three-Step Process For Using Assessments

From experience, I’ve seen that the most successful assessment strategies have three steps: assessing, coaching and evaluating.

Begin with defining your goals. Doing so will help you choose the right assessment. For instance, if you want to increase emotional intelligence on your team, an assessment focused on emotional intelligence will provide more tailored information on that front, as opposed to a more general employee survey.

After you have assessed your goals, it’s time to assess your employees. Create psychological safety by mentioning that the assessment is meant to help them at work and outside work. At my firm, we believe that an assessment is a gift of insight. I like to tell people, “This assessment is not only for your job; it’s for your life.” Additionally, tell them that they should answer the way that naturally comes to their mind rather than selecting the answers they think are socially desirable.

At my firm, every time a client finishes taking an assessment, we schedule a private debrief of their results to help them interpret the report and identify goals they would like to work on based on the new insights.

I recommend you take a similar approach. When the results come in, schedule a debrief with each employee to learn how the information is resonating with them. Be curious and ask open-ended questions such as, “What parts of this assessment stood out to you the most?” and “How do these results show up in your work style and relationships?”

Asking open-ended questions helps you show up as a coach.

Coaching, which is unfortunately undervalued and underutilized in the workforce, is a powerful tool to help your employees overcome behavioral and perceptual barriers to success. Coaching is a means of unlocking each employee’s full potential and evaluating how you can build on their strengths so that they are feeling supported, valued and rewarded.

While you’re coaching employees, it’s also important that you evaluate and celebrate success along the way.

Evaluating and checking in on established goals is a great way to build relationships and support the growth of each employee. Employees want to feel like they are living a purpose-driven life, and this includes work. Knowing that they are contributing to the success of the company builds esteem and fosters a sense of belonging.

Use Assessments As Benchmarks

Think of assessments as benchmarks that tell you the different opportunities each employee is currently best suited for—and their best areas for growth—instead of as static markers of who they are.

Humans are diverse and complex and are more than just a label. Understanding what culture, work and approaches bring out the best in employees helps us cultivate environments where they can successfully contribute and thrive.


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