The forgotten psychometric data: why it’s valuable far beyond hiring

Nelson Furtado | 18 June 2024

Organisations are increasingly using psychometric testing when hiring new staff. Despite providing useful insight on an individual, the data is often forgotten about once a hiring decision has been made.

Nelson Furtado, propositions and innovation director, explains why this insight should be considered throughout an employee’s entire professional journey.  

Many businesses are already familiar with the process of psychometric testing. Behavioural science enables us to better predict whether a person is right for a company and role. It can be used at scale to sift through large numbers of applicants, or at a senior stage to assess which leaders are the best fit for an organisation.

There are two common ways of using psychometric data in the workplace to inform hiring decisions. The first is understanding the person/organisation fit: would they fit into the company culture and work well with the team? The second is to understand the person/job fit: do they have the competency, skills, and attributes to carry out the role effectively?

Several different assessments are used to find this information. Online psychometric assessments help us to understand an applicant’s work style or personality profile. Skills assessments can look at whether someone knows how to code, or sell, or learn to do so.

In both cases, the aim is to generate information that will help to predict whether this person is right for this opportunity; will they show up and hit the ground running, or ramp up in the way the business requires?

This focus can lead to tunnel vision around the assessment data; it is only looked at in the context of a hiring decision. Coupled with the high cost of hiring, and particularly of hiring the wrong person, this is completely understandable. But it’s also limiting its potential to inform future business decisions.


Turning abandoned insight into practical tools

Psychometric assessments provide information about an individual’s attributes, and their potential for success. However, this knowledge is suddenly shelved once the employee has been hired. The data tends to sit in an applicant tracking system and gets forgotten about.

Revisiting the data can provide valuable insights into how well the employee would respond throughout major milestones in their career, and can help organisations to effectively manage change.

The onboarding process is one example. Every person is unique and we all have our preferred ways of working. If you have that insight on a new colleague and revisit it for the rest of the team, you can explore any potential clashes and facilitate conversations about how they can work well together.

This also applies where an employee is moving teams within an organisation, to ensure a smooth transition. For instance, some people are happy with a rough idea of a project’s goals and how to get there, and others thrive with clearer direction broken down into individual tasks. Using the psychometric data that already exists on file can help us to create the best possible plan for a cohesive team, considering everyone’s behavioural tendencies.


Driving self-awareness in the workplace

Being self-aware is an important starting point for these conversations. Some people are more prone to reflecting on their own behaviour, where others may benefit from facilitation to dig into their own reactions in the workplace and beyond. Using psychometric data, employees can understand themselves a little better – and gain new understanding for their colleagues, too.

Unfortunately employees don’t always receive feedback from psychometric tests. Providing a feedback output on the findings, framed around individual development, would highlight anything they may want to reflect on in their own journey.

It’s important to make clear that any points of interest identified are not meant to be criticisms. Rather than a skills or knowledge issue, it’s simply understanding our own way of thinking. The data provides an opportunity for open and transparent discussions that build strong teams.


Unearthing hidden leadership potential

At senior levels of an organisation, psychometric data can be useful in succession and critical role planning. The hiring, training, retention and performance management of senior employees can be informed by pre-existing insights.

Taking succession planning as an example, there is a tendency for leaders only to look at their direct reports as having the potential to step into their shoes. They have the most exposure to these individuals and may not think outside of that pool.

In an ideal world, these decisions would be made on potential to meet the organisation’s goals rather than just position in the hierarchy.  If you know what skills and attributes the next leader will need to succeed, looking at psychometric data can help identify the unknown voices that could be the ideal choice, with the right development plan and upskilling.

Identifying these hidden candidates helps companies to move from slow and reactive to proactive and agile in their succession and critical role planning.


Trusting the data

There are real and understandable concerns around using pre-hire assessment data for workforce insight and planning. Have candidates responded to these assessments honestly? How long are these results valid and useful? Are we even allowed to use the data this way?

While most modern assessments have mechanisms to mitigate for candidates trying to ‘game the test’, we see opportunities for organisations to be clearer with their applicants about why and how these tools are used – and importantly, how they can be an enabler rather than a hurdle to getting a job. Where the organisation and candidate are engaging earnestly, with both seeking a shared view of what to expect and transparency from the organisation about how the data will be used (e.g. per GDPR), it provides valuable insight beyond the hiring process.

And while attributes like personality traits aren’t expected to change radically in adulthood, it’s critical to recognise that pre-hire assessments are just one snapshot of a person. As colleagues demonstrate their competencies and skills through their work, organisations can build additional insight over time, with ongoing touchpoints to form a holistic view.

If you trust the data enough to let it inform hiring decisions, then you should be confident that it can inform people management decisions later in the employee’s tenure. Organisations need to harness the potential of forgotten psychometric data.

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