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Assessments: Friend or Foe for Employee Experience?

What’s top-of-mind when you think of using assessments in your workplace?

That’s what I asked a group of client managers. Top of mind sharing revealed a spectrum of views: some were curious and interested, others readily saw opportunity to gain insights and make better decisions, while still others shared some skepticism. A common thread in their views was a primary focus on value to me, the manager.

As we continued delving into the tool, use cases, and the managers’ personal assessment insights and applications, views expanded to helping employees and teams give their best efforts at work.  The managers were closer to envisioning how using assessments can enhance the employee experience (EX) and moments that matter, along with supporting their talent decisions that matter.

If your organization is using behavioral assessments or considering doing so, how might your approach become more of a friend vs. foe to creating an employee experience that helps people bring their best to their work and increases value for your customers and investors?

According to Dave Ulrich, organizations and leaders who focus on satisfying three personal needs of employees: Believing, Becoming and Belonging, create an employee experience that leads to better cultures and business results. He makes the case for caring for these needs as talent increasingly has greater flexibility for where and how they work. Read about his deep dive on Employee Experience and his more recent Call to HR leaders to rise to today’s opportunity facing the workplace.

In a nutshell, Ulrich builds upon a strong research foundation to describe these three needs as:

  • Believing: when an employee’s personal values derive from and align with the organization’s purpose and values
  • Becoming: when an employee is enabled to learn and grow by the organization
  • Belonging: when an employee has personal identity and develops relationships due to the organization

So how can organizations and leaders use assessments as a friend in serving these employee needs? Here are three starters to consider:

1. Reinforce belief with a strong assessment foundation.

Establish transparent assessment purpose, principles, and practices and ensure alignment with organizational values. When probing a few manager concerns with using assessments, topics such as – how will the assessment data be used, how well can I trust the data insights, and who has access to my data – typically are topics of interest. Assessments best serve EX when their applications align to your organization’s strategy, values, and when users can trust in the tool, process, and outcomes.

As a best practice, I recommend sponsoring leaders communicate purpose and guiding principles for an assessment process with policies for data privacy and usage. For an excellent reference with case studies on governance and excellence with people analytics see co-authors David Green and Jonathan Ferrar’s  “The Four Responsibilities of People Analytics in the Consumerisation of HR”

As HR and managers often “own the employee touchpoints” using assessments, they greatly benefit from partnering and training to understand and use assessments as intended. While these efforts require front-end investment, the returns of assessments serving as a friend vs. foe to EX can be significant.

2. Enable becoming with valuable assessment learning and development.

I am grateful for my work helping clients interpret assessments for their context and goals. After completing assessments, individuals often ask, “how did I do?” For example, if we’re not offering newly hired employees assessment feedback and development, a critical opportunity or moment that matters is missed to support more self-awareness and growth during their onboarding.

Both TQ colleagues and clients who use assessments during their selection process report valuing a manager, HR or consultant debrief experience as part of their onboarding and ongoing development support. They appreciate gaining insights to strengths assessed and areas for continued learning and growth that accelerates bringing their best to work.  Some gain validation of personal identity, increased confidence for a new role, and specific ideas for development action that they carry forward.

3. Support belonging with employee, manager, and team assessment insights.

According to Ulrich, belonging pulls from attachment theory – with strong emotional attachment to a person or organization, personal well-being increases.  Assessment technology with insights can aid managers in better understanding employees, coaching with empathy and motivation, and developing supportive relationships.

Just as newly hired employees can learn and grow with assessment feedback, they can discuss similarities and differences with their manager and team to form team insights and agreements for how to communicate and work better togetherFor remote workers and onboarding the value of assessments can substantially improve the experience and accelerate mutual understanding as reported by one of my global colleagues hired during the pandemic.

In recent months, employees have been leaving their jobs at rates never before seen.  The extended ‘pause’ has given them the rare opportunity to reflect on their job and understand how it aligns with their values, development goals and relationships.  If their employer is not addressing those basic needs, they are leaving for employers who will.  Behavioral assessments are an effective tool for both managers and employees to uncover these insights.  This insight not only improves employee experience, but it may also reinforce an extended stay with your organization.

Learn how data from behavioral assessments can provide additional value to your employee experience

Dr. Schrage is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist and an Executive Consultant at TalentQuest. Having served the bulk of her career inside the business in talent leadership roles, Dr. Schrage’s experience leading organizational development, talent management, and learning teams spans big technology, global restaurants, financial services, and the non-profit sector. Since joining TalentQuest in 2018, Marsha partners with clients to deliver customized talent management and leadership development strategies, facilitate employee engagement and learning solutions, and provide executive assessment and coaching services.

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