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Behavioral and cognitive assessments

Predicting people performance

Appropriate tools help us collect the right people data, to interpret what the data means, and to recommend actions to optimize organizational execution. Many tools exist, but not all are equal - Not only in what they are designed to achieve, but also in their efficacy, and in some cases the risk they can manifest.  

Performance fingerprint technology apply to roles where quota attainment and or quantitative KPI(s) reflect performance. Where numbers of employees in a role are significant at 30 or above they offer another level of job fit evaluation, precisely identifying what combination and weighting of traits drive performance.

Here you can see a model person: head, heart and briefcase. When you think about evaluating someone to determine where they will be most effective in an organization, people are very quick to look at the knowledge, skills and experience someone brings to the job. This model represents that as the briefcase. We typically look at someone’s resume to find out about these things, and we dig a bit further in an in-person interview.

The heart represents things like values and interests that someone has. What are they passionate about? Will they be a good fit for our company culture? We uncover these things, or at least we attempt to uncover these things, during an interview.

The heart and the briefcase change over time. Someone’ skills and knowledge grow with experience, and values and interests can also change over time.  But at the top you see the head, which in this model represents a person’s innate drives and cognitive abilities. These things tend to remain stable once someone matures. Your behavioral drives and the rate at which you learn new things stay constant. And this is where data helps you evaluate these critical aspects of a person.

You can find out about these things using validated assessments - Behavioral assessments measure behavioral drives, and cognitive assessments measure cognitive ability. The combination of the two provides valuable data and insight that can help to predict someone’s behavior and performance. When used together, these two assessments can be powerful indicators of job success, but are just part of the whole - trying to understand how productive someone will be at work, helpful data, but certainly not the whole story. The reality is the whole person turns up - head, heart and briefcase.

The hiring and career-pathing process in many companies miss the insight gained from validated assessments. By omission, they lean a lot more on intuition, gut instinct and subjectivity.

Behavioral Assessments are used to assess candidate fit for a job, and for people development.

- The assessments provides a view into how a candidate’s drives align to a specific job’s behavioral requirements.

- It helps to prioritize which candidates to interview and which interview questions to ask

- It provides guidance around how a candidate’s drives will impact the existing team

A Behavioral Assessment is also a key tool for people development.

- They can be used as a self-awareness tool for all employees and for career pathing

- It helps managers to understand the needs of their employees and to manage them how they want to be managed

- It improves on-one-one relationships.

- And it’s used for developing high performing teams

There are myriad assessments that can provide insight into people behaviors and propensity to perform. Purpose, and effectiveness differ, as do validity and proven results.

A cognitive assessment should be tied to the cognitive requirements of a specific job. It isn’t necessarily required for all jobs though. There might be some jobs where cognitive ability isn’t as important as for other roles.

Also, more isn’t necessarily better. If someone has enough cognitive ability for a job, then they meet that requirement. Having a higher cognitive score isn’t going to make them a better candidate, or may even become a disadvantage if too high.

Cognitive assessments are used to:

- Evaluate how a candidate’s cognitive aptitude aligns to cognitive requirements of a job

- Prioritize which candidates to interview

Just like the behavioral assessment, is not used for:

- Making final hiring decisions without considering other data points

- Making final internal talent decisions

The difference between a high and lower cognitive score is the time it will take that person to learn in a complex environment. The more complex the work environment, the more the organization could benefit from a person who can understand complex ideas, adapt to the environment and learn quickly. So depending on the job and the environment, this is something to take into account.

Drives and Behaviors - traits, attributes and human qualities drive outcomes

The 100 years of cognitive research shows us that cognitive ability is a strong predictor of job performance, but it has to be looked at in the context of what is optimal for the job role.

Throughout the last century hundreds of studies have been conducted comparing cognitive ability with job performance. These studies have been aggregated together using a statistical method called Meta-Analysis. The results have shown that Cognitive Ability consistently predicts job performance better than any other assessment tools available. In fact, it explains 42% of job performance. It has been shown that there is a higher correlation between cognitive ability and job performance than there is between ibuprofen and pain relief - but remember it's job related.

Let’s dig deeper into assessments and the drives they measure.

Why do people behave as they do? People have been asking that question for a long time.  This simple diagram describes one of the important underlying concepts of behavior.

Actions begin with drives. Some drives are born in us – for example, everyone has the drive to survive. That drive causes us to feel a need to eat food every day. The need to eat food - being hungry - results in the behavior of walking across the street to get a sandwich. The drive creates a need, and the need results in observable behavior. Some other drives are the result of heredity, experience and learning. Drives create needs, and our behavior is a response to a need.

Another need maybe to stop at the same sandwich shop every morning to grab some coffee. Every morning there is a table full of senior citizens talking and laughing. They meet there every morning for companionship, community, and a sense of belonging? They have the same behavior, but…a different need.

So let’s look at a model that helps to explain how to think about understanding someone’s drives, needs, and behaviors.

We recommend the book Non violent communication, authored by Marshall Rosenberg as a great source to discover more on the topic of the undeniable power of "drives" and impact to all humanity.

Important to recognize while we can observe behavior, as we described, the same behavior can be the result of very different needs.

If we only see someone’s behavior, we are guessing at their drives and needs

It's possible to predict need and behaviors if you measure drives. As noted earlier, the whole person turns up to work- head, heart and briefcase. Missing the insight gained from validated assessments can have a detrimental impact by leaning too much on intuition and gut instinct.

Much scientific research in this area concludes that Intuition and subjectivity results in very poor selection decisions. Also results in bias related to race, gender, and pedigree. Still many leaders and hiring managers fall prey to this human condition believing they have a innate sense that supersedes data.

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