First Published Jan 23rd, 2022 in HotelExecutive
Odds are that your organization has relied on – or presently uses – two traditional business tools: (a) Psychometric Assessments for hiring, training, and development with mission-critical roles, and (b) Annual Team Member Surveys to monitor the engagement of organizational talent and the effectiveness of its leadership. However, many organizations do not suitably link these two approaches in a way that promotes operational excellence. This article therefore reviews the aims of these tools and suggests a simple step-by-step implementation that produces a crafty self-reinforcing loop of ongoing calibration based on real-time data.
Assessments for Business Intelligence and Action
It has always been challenging to efficiently identify competent individuals who also fit one’s organizational culture. The pandemic world of working from home has only compounded this issue, as now teams must work in new ways to stay as informed and connected as when in-person interactions were the norm. This means more than merely becoming adept with technologies like Teams, Zoom, or Webex to get work done remotely; the best leaders are those who can align and motivate their teams during times of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, or that require adaptability (i.e., VUCA model).
In other words, the ability to sustain one’s effectiveness and resiliency in the face of ambiguity and change is critical. Moreover, it is imperative for leadership teams to balance the personal accountability that comes with taking individual initiative against the humility that is needed to mine and leverage the collective wisdom of the team. How do organizations find and develop such leaders, know what skills sets or perspectives are needed to fill existing or new gaps, and measure outcomes of these leadership initiatives? These are big questions that can be addressed with three specific tools or tactics that we outline next.
As technologies have improved so have the statistical foundations, predictive algorithms, and user experiences of standardized assessments. Today’s psychometric tools greatly improve on the inherently limited and risky area of “personality testing” to pinpoint behavioural issues underlying actual performance in service-driven cultures. This is the domain of execution, people, and cognitive skills, which are traits, tendencies, and attitudes that can be trained and developed.
Such psychometric assessments have the advantage of providing objective and legally-defensible information about a person’s current capabilities and future potential. Organizations that continue to hire only on “gut feelings” (i.e., emotional-reasoning) or “behavioural interviews” (i.e., useful but can be gamed by well-prepared interviewees) are missing out on the critical insights and information that come from standardized assessments focused on skills-testing versus personality-profiling.
Professional recruiters and executive search firms routinely use these tools to help assess both for culture fit and technical competency, because studies in organizational psychology consistently demonstrate their predictive value. Better still, psychometric tools can often be completed conveniently by applicants on their mobile devices.
Psychometric Team SWOT Analyses
Assessments that focus on attitudes and behaviours over personality traits have the added bonus of being able to characterize the current dynamic of a given team. Particularly, individual assessment results can be statistically aggregated to show your team’s mind-set and behaviours. As a result, you can see how the team functions as a “single entity” or system; thus, it becomes instantly clear which characteristics, attitudes and knowledge areas are low versus high within the group. This set of strengths and weaknesses reflects your current “team dynamics.” This core information can be used for fun and productive team-building exercises, but the aggregated data also offers so much more.
The information from an evidence-based model of a leadership team’s working dynamic can easily be extrapolated for a classic SWOT analysis to improve team alignment and effectiveness. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats and is a time-tested method for breaking down key performance and market variables into clear, manageable themes, which leaders subsequently use to define goals, set strategies and track outcomes. This analysis is often reserved for shaping business practices, but regrettably it has been underappreciated as an effective exercise for shaping people practices within specific teams, e.g., boards of directors, corporate leadership, etc. Time for this to change.
Indeed, a Team SWOT exercise is a great way to monitor “team health,” set corresponding team performance or development goals, and identify gaps in the team’s competency set that can be filled with new members whose psychometric profiles complement that of the broader team.
Team Member Surveys
Company cultures are neither static nor rigidly-fixed ? instead, they are malleable and often reflect business directions and market conditions. In other words, aspects of an organization’s “Mission, Vision, and Values” can vary in importance depending on necessity or available resources. Companies routinely use employee opinion surveys to employee satisfaction and engagement. But these initiatives should monitor more than employees’ “warm and fuzzy” feelings for a company.
Effective surveys gauge the alignment between a company’s business practices (i.e., empowerment, resources, and accountabilities) and people practices (i.e., integrity, development, and partnerships). This means paying attention to a company’s internal “brand personality” via a leadership culture and core value set that demonstrate support and empathy for its primary brand ambassadors. In short, achieving and sustaining an engaged workforce requires leaders who treat teams fundamentally as their number one customer. Employee engagement must be an integral part of an organization’s culture for it to be authentic and sustainable.
Success or failure in this goal can entail long-term survival of a given business, since a disengaged workforce corresponds to multiple financial repercussions, including lack of productivity and the cost of unwanted employee turnover. Conversely, engaged employees exhibit greater loyalty and motivation due to their own great brand experience. Such employees actively deliver on external brand promises and thereby drive stronger consumer satisfaction or net promoter scores.
Building a Feedback Loop (i.e., Tool Alignment in Principle & Practice)
The three business tools discussed above can be linked in three straightforward steps to create an ongoing feedback loop. First, an organization must understand the competency set and working dynamics of its current leadership team via a Psychometric Team SWOT. Second, the insights and information from this exercise should be used to increase bench-strength by guiding (a) the team’s ongoing development and (b) the hiring of additional or new leaders as needed. And third, the effectiveness of this leadership alignment and development work should be routinely monitored and calibrated using Employee Engagement Surveys to obtain constructive feedback on what is working as intended or not. Any corresponding calibrations can then be cross-checked with a subsequent Psychometric Team SWOT – with the feedback loop set in full motion.
Of course, feedback loops can be structured in various ways, depending on a company’s maturity, specific needs, or nuances in its standard procedures. Human resource professionals or external consultants are certainly great business partners to help companies select the best tools. But the idea is to capitalize strategically on assessment data that traditional tools can now deliver efficiently and on large scales. Do not think of these as independent tactics but rather as an integrated system of internal market intelligence. Plus, the usability of optimized assessment tools equates to larger sample sizes for increased validity of the results that define the follow-up action items.
“Performance Management” as an Intentional Process, not a Magic Potion
Mobile technologies have streamlined data collection more than ever but knowing how to link and act on that business information is the key here. Leaders should therefore not assume that near-instant learnings always entail fast solutions or outcomes. On the contrary, there is a psychological phenomenon known as the “speed-accuracy trade off,” which implies that one can do things “quickly” or “correctly” but usually not both simultaneously.
This means that organizations are well advised to start thinking early about the feedback loop, the information that they are interested in gathering, how they plan to use it, and the process (and time) it takes to build and develop such data. For example, in a market like today’s – in which attraction, retention, and the development of talent has been further complicated by heightened competition and a tough operating environment – a company that is not using any of the above-mentioned business intelligence tools might not want to do everything at once. Chances are, wanting to do too much too quickly might result in “stressing the system” or, worse, inefficient or incorrect collection of (potentially irrelevant) information.
Instead, these organizations should think about conducting a psychometric SWOT analysis first, potentially already coupled with a team member survey – thereby establishing the status quo, as well as setting a comparison benchmark for future initiatives measurements. At the other end of the spectrum, in the instance where organizations are seasoned and mature as it relates to the usage of business intelligence tools, one might want to focus on ensuring that information gathered through different system or processes actually complements one other and that data is properly integrated.
In either case, there is reason to act now – organization must be prepared to implement the right action items or calibrations with focus and discipline. To be sure, the three optimized tools of Psychometric Assessment, Team SWOTs, and Engagement Surveys work best when implemented with intentionality.