Jordan Harlow, Occupational Psychologist at Shirley Parsons on psychometric tests and his role in developing a new tool aiming to go beyond traditional processes.
Psychometric tests exist to aid in quantifying psychological processes and experiences such as intelligence, behaviour, personality, or beliefs.
Their origin goes back to the days of anthropometrics in the 1800s with inspiration from the works of Darwin and Galton. They were developed by psychologists Weber, Fechner and Wundt – with Wundt creating the ‘thought metre’ to measure an individual’s thought processes.
With most of the quantitative statistical research creating the backbone of the field’s validity – centuries of research have been carried out into their use, validity, and challenges.
Sharp tools have since been standardised and developed to allow for insights to predict performance that are usually immeasurable qualitatively.
Myers-Briggs, DISC, EPP, GMAT, CCAT and SHL all things you might have heard of or completed during an application for a job. These are tools used by companies or individuals to help understand a person on a deeper level.
Advantages and disadvantages
Like all approaches in science, there are clear positives and negatives that must be accounted for.
Psychometrics gives us insight into an individual’s intelligence, behaviour, personality, or beliefs in an objective measure. These look into mental processes that may be difficult to identify through interviews or daily interactions. This has led to the popular use of tools such as Myers-Briggs, DISC, and others in order to place an individual’s personality scales, creating a profile of the individual.
However, this does lead to issues. Firstly, an individual taking a test for an organisation might answer in what they think will reflect the best for their image rather than their actual feelings. This is known as response bias. Secondly, while a purely quantitative approach such as a personality profile is clean and informative, humans cannot be simply placed in boxes.
The simple answer to both is to take the human approach to psychometric use.
Use the tests to gain base insights into the personality or style of work that the individual uses, and then follow up and interview them on how they see the tests as reflections of themselves.
At Shirley Parsons, I was involved in the development of the Return on Talent Investment (RoTI) tool. It combines the psychological quantitative statistics of researching a person and the qualitative reflection of an individual – allowing both validations of the results and for them to clarify their experiences. It then gives managers insights into their employees that might take months to uncover.
Aspects such as how to best approach an employee with information/criticism or how they best function in a team can all take a long time to learn, however with insights already gained from testing and discussing with them, you can more smoothly integrate them into a team.
Assisting that discovery phase and giving them insight into themselves also gives them more space to grow and improve on those aspects, creating even higher performing individuals, discovering and focusing on points of growth.
Humans are complex and that complexity must be accounted for if psychometrics are to be used appropriately.
A human level of management
The RoTI programme takes the quantitative aspect of an individual’s psychometric profile and then delves into their thoughts, and aspirations and talks to them on a person-to-person level to discover how they interact and work.
By taking that human level of management you meet your employee at a personal level, attempting to understand their aspirations and motivators, creating longer lasting motivated employees and reducing the risk of quiet quitting. While this may sound obvious, it can be difficult to even the most conscientious of leaders to come across these elements.
In some cases, more quiet individuals may be lost in processes, but by taking the time to learn and explore these elements through both psychometrics and personal contact you can gain insight that can drive both you and your employee to be the best they can be.
Companies that have adopted the system that underpins RoTI have experienced a 48% reduction in turnover and have seen their hiring success rates improve by 52%. Individuals can also be 29% more productive once they understand their aspirations.
Psychometrics have issues but they aren’t the scary fortune cookie some people think they are. When applied correctly they can be deep-diving tools giving important insights that are crucial to management in the modern workspace.
Read a whitepaper from Shirley Parsons on the topic of psychometric tests here.
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