What Assessment Should I Use?

Tom GibbonsPreference AssessmentsLeave a Comment

If you are reading this then perhaps you are trying to navigate the sea of assessments that are available to you and trying to figure out just which one(s) might be best. Well, that is not an easy task and unfortunately there is not any one ‘right’ answer. But there are some questions to ask of yourself, ask about the assessment and ask of the people or organization that provides and/or uses the assessment. This post will give you that framework of questions and then at the end we will answer those questions about our own assessments.

First some basics.  By far the majority of assessments that are used in organizations fall into 3 categories:

  1. Psychometric or preference data. These assess some aspect of the ‘psychology’ or ‘preference’ of an individual. They are typically used to develop awareness of self and others and to improve performance through this awareness.
  2. Performance perspectives data. These are typically referred to as 360 or multi rater assessments and gather data from a variety of people other than, and including the individual being assessed. This data provides the individual with the perspectives of others about how they are performing against the constructs being measured and it is assumed that by acting on these perspectives performance will be improved. The majority of these types of assessments are individually based but there are team and organization wide ones as well.
  3. Skill data. These assess a specific skill that a person may require to perform a job and are typically used for placement purposes or to assess skill development after training.

So the first critical question to ask of yourself is:

What am I trying to accomplish with the use of assessment data’?

This may sound obvious but often this question does not get asked and an assessment gets used that is not appropriate. The most common mismatch is a psychometric or preference assessment being used to assess skill. Unfortunately this happens a lot with assessment companies and practitioners claiming that their assessment can predict future performance when it really cannot.

This leads to the next important question you will want to ask once you have determined what you are trying to accomplish:

Is the assessment researched’?

Typically you want to know that the assessment has been well enough researched that you are confident that it is measuring what you want it to measure to accomplish your goals. There are numerous aspects to research so when you ask this question you should be pointed to the actual research data. The most common research criteria are reliability and validity.  Ask to see the data about these 2 areas. You may not read it all but you want to know it’s there.

In the case noted above, if someone says that their assessment can be used for recruitment or placement purposes ask to see the data on Predictive Validity. If it is not available then the assessment simply should not be used for these purposes.  It is important to note that establishing predictive validity is quite difficult and very few assessments are backed up by this kind of research so be very careful here.

The kind of research noted above is expensive to do and takes a lot of time. Some assessment companies simply do not have the resources to do this. This does not necessarily mean that their assessment is bad or should not be used. It is a caution however.  Researched or not another key question to ask of the company or the practitioner is:

Has this assessment been used to accomplish what I am trying to accomplish’?

Don’t settle for a simple ‘Yes!’ Ask for examples, descriptions and results. Ask if there are people you can talk to that have experienced the assessments use in similar situations. The responses you get to this question will go a long way in helping you decide.

Typically at this point you now want to have a sense of cost. There are a few key questions here:

  1. ‘How much does the assessment itself cost?
  2. ‘How much will it cost to have it administered and debriefed?
  3. ‘Can I/we be trained to administer and debrief it?

Quite often a practitioner will combine the first 2 questions in a cost and this can make a lot of sense since the administrative and debrief process may require considerable analysis, preparation, additional material etc. It also keeps a proposal simple and easy to understand. Keep in mind as well that the actual cost of the assessment is usually the smallest cost of an initiative using them, or in most cases it should be!

Question 3 is an interesting one. If you are talking to actual assessment company, and they require certification of some sort to use their assessments then the answer will be ‘Yes” and you can then talk about the cost of this and the cost of the actual assessment.

If you are asking a practitioner who uses an assessment this is a tough question, since although the answer is indeed ‘Yes”, they may be hesitant to respond since it often means they will lose business. What you hope for here is that the assessment company has some process in place to deal with these situations with practitioners so what is commonly called ‘internal certification’ does not result in immediate lost revenue.

If you are thinking of certification you want to be confident that you will be using the assessment enough to make it worthwhile.

A note on cost. Like most things you usually get what you pay for. If you are using a free assessment from the web you can be virtually assured it is not researched, has no support in helping you understand how to apply it or what it is actually measuring.  But it is free! Some assessment companies will let you complete their assessment for free to see what it’s like and this can be a good strategy for both you and them.  Ask what kind of support you will get in understanding the results and the response will be a good indicator how serious they are in having their assessment used well.

There is a great range of cost of assessments but here are some broad guidelines:

Psychometric assessments – $35.00 – $300.00 per report.

Performance perspectives (individual and small team 360) – $250.00 +. The variable with these types of assessments is how many respondents are actually completing the questionnaire.

Performance perspectives (organization) – You should expect $1000.00 + and usually more, a lot more. The variable here is often what is called ‘data cuts’ and the more you want the more the cost goes up.

Skill – The range here is huge. A well researched skill assessment specific to a certain job in an organization can be very expensive and are quite uncommon. Common skills such as sales or some technical role assessments can be found for much less.

Another key question you will want to ask is:

What kind of support will I get in using this assessment’?

If you are asking this question of a practitioner then this is a very specific question regarding how the practitioner does their work.  How well an assessment is used will often be the most important determinant of its value so have a good conversation about this.

If you are asking this question of the assessment company, you are usually talking about being certified or accredited to use the assessment. In addition to many of the questions above the following are some good questions to ask:

  1. What is the accreditation process like and what learning options do I have?
  2. What support material (i.e. PP slides, debrief designs, handouts, videos etc) will I have access to.
  3. How will I be supported after I’m accredited (i.e. is their phone and email support)?
  4. Do you provide ongoing learning opportunities such as web meetings, conferences etc?
  5. How are the assessments actually administered? How complicated is this?
  6. If I leave my company is my accreditation still valid?
  7. Can you support me if I use your assessments internationally?

Hopefully the above helps you in your decision in finding the best assessment for you to use. As noted on our New To Assessments? information, often the reason an assessment is being used is preference or familiarity or that some senior person had a good experience with it. These are usually not good enough reasons. Ask the questions above and see if you are indeed using the best one for what you are trying to accomplish.  You likely have many more questions so contact us and we will do our best to answer them. We know our assessments are very good, and we know we use them exceptionally well; but we will be as objective as we can in helping you decide which assessment is best for you. After all, our first objective is for you to meet your objectives in using an assessment.

As for our responses to the questions above:

  • Our assessments cover the first 2 categories; psychometric and performance perspectives. See our Assessments page for more information. We do not have skills based assessments as defined above.
  • We would be happy to talk to you about what you are trying to accomplish. We have extensive consulting experience so work with clients all the time to answer this question. See TMS Consulting for more information in this area.
  • Our assessments are fully researched. We will send you the articles on reliability and validity if you would like to see them for any of our assessments. You get access to our extensive research data once accredited or can purchase a copy if you want.
  • TMS assessments generally are in the mid range of cost. As for certification; we call it accreditation and yes you need to be accredited to use our assessments and yes we do that.  See our Accreditation page for more information. And yes we do have a process for dealing with practitioners that get asked about internal accreditation by their clients.  Each scenario is dealt with separately between us and the practitioner (we use the term Network Member).

The short answer to the support question is ‘Amazing!’ Both if we are working with you as a practitioner or if we are accrediting you. In terms of the specific questions:

  1. What is the accreditation process like and what learning options do I have? Public or internal workshop and distance with phone coaching. See Accreditation .
  2. What support material (i.e. PP slides, debrief designs, handouts, videos etc) will I have access to. We have pretty much everything you will need, including how to run virtual sessions. Once accredited you have access to our Network Member Resources section of our web site.
  3. How will I be supported after I’m accredited (i.e. is their phone and email support)? You can contact us anytime with questions and you will also be part of our online Network Member group on our web site. 
  4. Do you provide ongoing learning opportunities such as web meetings, conferences etc? Yes, web meetings, monthly LinkedIn group discussions, Twitter and FB posts and our blog. Plus we can connect you with other Network Members. 
  5. How are the assessments actually administered? How complicated is this? We are one of the few assessments companies that do your questionnaire set up for you. 
  6. If I leave my company is my accreditation still valid? Yes, it is you that is accredited. 
  7. Can you support me if I use your assessments internationally? Absolutely! TMS assessments are translated into many languages.

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