Applied Psychometrics, Vol. 2: Supporting Personal Development


With a new year comes new beginnings; or so the saying goes. For many, it is a time of (self-)reflection. Having spent the holidays unwinding, often, people have gained a new perspective on things.

At times, a certain distance helps to see things in a new light. It is not always easy, though, to be truly objective about oneself. When discussing career development programs, Aethos™ often talks about the importance of a personal board of advisors – individuals who know the person in question from different walks of life. They can speak to professional as well as personal strengths or challenges. Besides mentorship programs, organisations can, however, also support their employees through other means. Psychometric assessments are often deployed by them during the talent acquisition process – less often as part of an ongoing personal development program. Yet, their insights can help executives to better see themselves, to build on, or proactively foster, their strong suits, whilst also identifying areas of personal development.

Aethos’ proprietary 20|20 Skills® is a normative assessment tool based on item-response theory and focuses on contextual performance. It is based on competencies and an individual’s behaviours which predict job performance in the hospitality industry. Results can be used, like those of other assessments (although preferably not personality-based [as personality, given its fixed nature, does not lend itself for employee development]), to build PDPs.

In an earlier article, we looked at a fictitious hospitality executive’s 20|20 Skills® Assessment (click here for details). At the time, we explored how an organisation can use the intelligence obtained as it relates to the individual’s contextual performance to select the right career development path for the person in question. Here, we are looking at the same assessment (see Figure I below) to ascertain potential areas of personal development.

Task Orientation
One of the three areas that are being explored by the 20|20 Skills® Assessment is an individual’s task orientation – in other words, how does this person tackle problems and how do they get ‘stuff done’. The executive’s scores highlighted that the person is very structured, and process-driven, looking for clarity and well-defined targets. They will have well-formed opinions and have a tendency for fact-based decisions. It was also highlighted that the executive appears to be very proactive and driven, with a high degree of pragmatism and threshold of engagement. Knowing this, an individual may reflect and ask themselves:

  • Am I open to feedback and other people’s opinions – or does my methodical and ‘rigid’ thinking potentially result in me being stubborn, or inflexible?
  • Does my black-and-white thinking, coupled with my eagerness to progress and deliver quality results, potentially cause me to be too stern, or harsh, with those around me – am I pushing through the right decisions without securing buy-in first?”
  • Am I open to creative or innovative ideas; potentially too quickly dismissing them in favour of tried and tested solutions?
  • Am I at risk of delaying decisions or a process because I require the right evidence to move ahead?

People Skills
The 20|20 Skills® Assessment equally explores an individual’s emotional intelligence. How do they operate within a team setting? How do they interact, motivate, or communicate with those around themselves – both up and down the organisational chart? The fictitious executive had shown to be very focused on outcomes and results; someone autonomous and independent who values efficiency and productivity, who sets (and expects) high quality standards, and who is very transactional in the way they communicate with others. Looking at this through the prism of self-reflection, the individual in question may ask themselves:

  • Am I doing the team and organisation a disservice by keeping a laser-focus on productivity – instead of also considering other factors which might not necessarily drive outcomes in the here-and-now but that might build and develop competencies which can boost outcomes in the future?
  • Am I stressing the system too much by setting very high standards without taking the necessary time and resources to help others to get to where they need to be / without keeping an open-door policy so that others can seek advice and learn from my experience?
  • Am I potentially isolating myself too much in the decision-making process – thereby running the risk of not taking the most optimal decision as team members have  a limited platform to share ideas, or criticism?
  • Am I running the risk of being (perceived as) too aloof and too business-minded, unnecessarily upsetting others or being inconsiderate of their needs or comfort levels; thus alienating important stakeholders, diluting buy-in, or destroying alignment?

Cognitive Abilities
Being able to see the bigger picture, whilst simultaneously possessing the ability to dive into the minutiae, is helpful for any executive to keep their calm – in any situation. The 20|20 Skills® Assessment looks at both, an individual’s strategic acumen as well as their detail orientation, analytical skills, and tactical abilities. A person’s cognitive abilities are thus the third column upon which the 20|20 Skills® Assessment results are based on. In the scenario given, the executive may reflect on their outcome by asking themselves:

  • Does my detail-orientation and strong focus on facts and figures blur my vision of the people-side of things – in other words, am I forgetting that business is ultimately not only about the right strategies and tactics, but about the ability to align those with an organisations HR capital to deliver an optimal outcome?
  • Does my quick wit and ability to keep the bigger picture in mind without losing sight of the details cause me to set too high expectations of others – am I forgetting that potentially not everyone around me has had the benefit of past experience, exposure, or mentorship which has allowed me to get to where I am today?

Considering the continued pressure on the HR-side, and the widely discussed fight for talent, organisations would do well in keeping taps on their internal talent management strategy. Rather than potentially focusing too much on financial rewards, have they explored other (more cost-effective) ways to support their next leaders in their ongoing personal and professional development?