The Dos and Don’ts of Using Psychometrics for Workplace Development
Psychometric tests are powerful tools for workplace development. They offer safe, quantifiable and scientifically dependable analyses that provide huge insight into how we work. But only if you use them right.
People are sometimes a little sceptical about psychometric tests. Managers fear that employees won’t like being asked to take them, and employees fear that the results will paint a negative picture of them for their managers.
But if you look at the kind of tests that are available, and the value they offer to both employees and managers, the vast majority of people are very happy to do these assessments once they understand how they work.
The vast majority of people are very happy to do these assessments once they understand how they work.
I spoke about using psychometrics for recruitment in a previous post. But these tests are also very useful as a development tool for employees and leaders. So let’s take a look at the big questions people have about psychometric tests for development — why should we use them? Which tests should we choose? What types of tests are available? And how do we use them effectively?
Why Use Psychometric Tests in the Workplace?
In a nutshell — psychometric tests are a really safe and quantifiable way to learn more about yourself, both from the people around you and as a self-reporting tool.
Learning from Others
For example, if I say to one of my staff members, ‘Hey, can you give me some feedback on me as a leader?’, we can guess the kind of answer I’ll receive. Something like ‘Ah, I don’t really have any feedback’ or they might comment on something that happened this week like, ‘when you sent that email, that would have been better as a phone call’.
It’s not overly useful. Why? Because the request was far too broad. There’s no specificity there, and people don’t really know how to give that kind of unstructured feedback.
However, if you ask employees to answer a full set of questions about different areas of your leadership, it provides a safe way for them to give you feedback and also for you to receive it. It gives you a ‘360 view’.
Learning from Self-Reflection
You can also use psychometrics to self-report, which means that you answer a set of questions about yourself. This is also incredibly useful because psychometric tests are essentially an organising principle for the information you’re analysing.
Even though you have probably reflected on yourself many times in the past, you may not have thought about particular components of yourself and your psychology. Psychometric tests work through behaviours and qualities in an organised and comprehensive way so that you can reflect and develop further.
A psychometric test also offers a chance to quantify the information. It lets you say ‘okay, this is where I am compared to others’, particularly for benchmark tests. You can compare your qualities and behaviours to other leaders, and also to track your development. If you redo the test later you can see if you have improved.
Which Tests Should You Use?
When choosing a test, there are a few issues to consider.
Mirror or X-Ray?
Think about your purpose for testing — do you want a mirror or an X-ray?
- Mirror Presents things as they currently stand. Psychometric tests can be used to organise information for easy analysis. You put in the information, and the test results provide an organised way to assess that information.
- X-Ray Offers a deeper psychological analysis. You may want a deeper and more involved exploration, offering information on things like emotional intelligence.
Another thing to consider is your past experience with psychometric testing. If you have never done a psychometric test before, you may find them a little confronting because this may be the first time you’ve reflected on how you see yourself, or how others also see you. You might decide on a test, or a testing method, that takes these sensitivities into account.
On the other hand, if you have done a test before, you can use the opportunity to either build on your previous results, or seek out a test that will give you results in a different area.
Role Being Tested
Another consideration is the role of the person you’re testing. For example, if it’s a leadership role, you may want to use a different test, or test for different qualities, than another role.
Reliable & Valid
There are many tests available to fit different purposes, but two features you should look for no matter what kind of testing you’re doing are reliability and validity — these ensure the results are dependable from a scientific standpoint.
- Reliable Tests that are repeatable. In other words, if you take that test today and then take it again in a week’s time, the difference between the results is not going to be statistically significant.
- Valid Tests that adopt a scientific method. In other words, they test what they say they’re testing.
You Get What You Pay For
The best way to get tests that are reliable and valid is to pay for them. There are plenty of free tests on the internet, you can easily Google them. But I’m a bit of a sceptic when it comes to free psychometric tests. I think there’s a real danger in using something if you don’t know the scientific foundation to it.
So it’s important to make sure that you’re using something reputable. Any reputable test will provide information on its reliability and validity. Most of the time you must pay for reputable testing, but it’s not overly expensive.
How Much Does Psychometric Testing Cost?
Of course the cost depends on the test that you choose.
- 360-view If you’re asking multiple people to rate someone, it’s obviously going to be more expensive. You can expect to pay around $500, because there will be lots of inputs into creating a report.
- Self-report Generally these can be done for less than $200, sometimes even around the $100 mark, depending on the report per person. That’s just for the report, not the debriefing.
Types of Tests
Again, there are many options around the types of tests you can choose. At Amplify HR, we like to use a couple of options that I’ve described below.
Whole Brain Thinking
This system essentially takes the way that you think and organises it into a profile. The report produced is called the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI). LIke a lot of psychometric tests, it uses colours and looks at analytical and operational relationships, as well as creativity, but there’s a lot of nuance within this.
Whole Brain Thinking is a great starting point for people who have never done a psychometric test before because it gives an understanding of your personal thinking style. There’s no right or wrong, it just looks at who you are, and the lens through which you see the world. And it shows how your lens may not be the same as other people’s lenses.
It helps us to understand not just ourselves, but also other people. It improves communication, problem solving and innovation within teams, customers and suppliers.
Another one that’s really good if you haven’t done a test before, is DISC. Like Whole Brain Thinking it works with colours, and has four quadrants. The difference between them is that DISC focuses on behaviours and the way that you do things. Whole Brain Thinking focuses on thinking preference, which can lead to behaviours, but that’s much more of an internal process.
The only caution I would raise about DISC is to be careful of the version you use. The psychologists who created the theory, and later the test, didn’t patent the name so anybody can create a test and call it DISC. This is okay, as long as the test is reliable and valid. But not all DISCs are the same.
Personality tests include things like Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and Occupational Personality Questionnaire (OPQ), which are arguably more reliable and valid.
Personally, I’m not a huge fan of personality tests, because there’s not a lot of agreement within the social psychology community about the definition of personality anyway. But for some roles, like sales, these can be quite useful.
We see MBTI used a lot with sales teams, because it can help the sales people to understand prospects and where they may be coming from, and learn how to build a better relationship with them based on that personality type. I would consider them as a base level assessment, and a good as a starting point.
Life Styles Inventory
Life Styles Inventory (LSI) looks more at leadership and uses a circumplex that only has three colours — we do like colours with assessments! This is more of a developmental tool.
With Whole Brain, DISC and MBTI, the focus is on who you are, the strengths and weaknesses of that, and what you can understand about your profile.
As you step up to this developmental level, you begin to look beyond where you are, and start looking at where you should be. Developmental assessments offer much more detail about areas where you can improve, and because of this they can be more confronting, especially if this is the first psychometric test that you do.
Emotional Intelligence Tests
Emotional intelligence tests are great for emerging or current leaders, because having emotional and social skills is very important for leading effectively.
Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT) is one of the more popular emotional intelligence tests. To my knowledge, it’s the only ability-based intelligence test that is scientifically validated. There are also tests like the Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQI), which we use quite a bit at Amplify HR as a self-reporting tool, though it does have a 360 option.
The Profile XT (PXT) test takes the role that you have in your business and benchmarks it against others, essentially saying, ‘Well, here’s the type of profile that a successful person in your role should have.’ And then you test yourself against that profile. It allows you to see areas for potential development in your particular role.
How to Use Psychometric Tests
It’s worth checking on a few points before signing up for psychometric testing.
Before choosing a psychometric testing organisation or consultant, make sure the person who’s doing the debrief is qualified or certified. In some cases, it’s important that you have a qualified psychologist.
Many commercial assessments marketed to businesses do not require qualified psychologists, but some do so. It’s important to know if you need this kind of support, or just someone who is certified in the tool.
Essentially, what that means is that they’ve done training, and they’ve had experience within the tool and they understand how it works and how to debrief someone safely. Even the simplest assessments can be confronting for some people, so it’s really important to have an experienced assessor who knows how to conduct a safe debrief.
Remember that the assessment results are always confidential unless permission is given to disclose them. Even if you’re doing a big workshop, say you’ve got 20 people in the room and you’ve all done a DISC assessment together, you still need to protect people’s privacy. A good facilitator who’s certified in the tool should say ‘Hey, after this break, we’re all going to be sharing our results, so if you don’t want to do that, please speak up now’.
It’s really important that people understand that the results are theirs, and confidential to them. So as a leader or a business owner, you cannot save the reports or look at them without permission to do so.
Review and Redo
If I’m using psychometric assessments to develop my team, how do I know they’re developing? The answer is to review and redo the tests.
The frequency of testing depends on the assessment. Tests like Whole Brain Thinking, DISC and Myer Briggs are self reporting on who you are and the pros and cons of your profile. You may not redo these very often, but you should review them.
At Amplify HR we recommend that you only redo the report if you have had a major life change, or if it has been a number of years since you did the test. Otherwise you just need to review it. For example, you may schedule some points, perhaps every six months or 12 months, where you have a team meeting and bring out everyone’s reports. And then you can discuss how to leverage the results as a team.
If you’re doing a developmental assessment, like the LSI, or an EQ report, or PXT, then it is best to redo the tests after a period of time so you can gauge the improvement in your development.
Delivering Psychometric Tests
Hopefully, that’s given you a little bit of an insight and an overview into what’s available out there. And how you can use psychometric tests in the workplace. Here’s a round-up of how to plan for psychometric testing.
- Identify what you would like to develop Do you want to understand yourself better? Or your whole team? Do you want to develop your leadership capability? Or is it that you want your team to be more innovative? Think about your who and what you want to develop.
- Look at the options for assessments Keep in mind whether people have had experience with psychometric testing before and their role.
- Make a plan for delivery Will you do a team workshop? Or an individual development and debrief session?
- Talk to the facilitator Discuss the way you will communicate with the teams or the individuals.
- Explain your goals When you introduce these tools for development, it’s very important to clearly explain why the organisation is introducing these tools, the benefits for individuals and how their information will be used. Make it clear that the results will be confidential.
Listen in for more on psychometric testing for development
For more discussion: listen to my FIND. GROW. KEEP. podcast episode on psychometrics for development with more tips and examples.
Have your say
Have you tried psychometric testing in your organisation?