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Barry Bloch
Barry Bloch

Global Partner for Board and Executive Leadership

Published 24 November 2022

Advanced assessment vs. off-the-shelf assessment tools: Finding the right fit

Off-the-shelf assessments may seem like a quick and easy way to assess candidates and individuals, but do you really get what you pay for?

Advanced assessment vs. off-the-shelf assessment tools: Finding the right fit

At a glance:

  • Selecting the best talent is essential for realising the return on this investment.
  • Advanced assessment processes are very valuable to assess talent, and far more effective than the use of psychometrics alone.
  • Through the process advanced assessments give clients more assurance around senior appointments opportunity to learn and grow and to fit with the team and culture.

For most organisations, people-related costs are their greatest expense – accounting for as much as 70% of operating costs for many organisations. Not only are people a major cost, but investing in the right people is also a significant factor in organisational success and sustainability.

Advanced assessments are increasingly being used to determine the most suitable individuals for appointment, development and talent management. Here we ask Barry Bloch, Global Partner for Board and Executive Leadership, five critical questions to gauge why advanced assessments deliver the best long term outcome, and the greatest value for both clients and candidates.

What are advanced assessments and when are they used?

Advanced assessments are a holistic, data-driven alternative to off-the-shelf psychometric testing, often used to support the delivery of Executive search and selection, individual and team development, and talent management.

“While there is no such thing as a perfect measure of a candidate, advanced assessments give organisations greater assurance and confidence in making business-critical talent decisions. Equally importantly, they help to reduce the risk of the wrong decision being made,” says Barry. “Because advanced assessments are performed independently of the interview process, they also bring neutrality to these decisions, and separate data points outside of the search process.”

How do advanced assessments differ from psychometric testing?

Five critical differences separate advanced assessments from psychometric testing alone.

Multiple data points

Unlike psychometric testing, advanced assessments have multiple data sources, that can include psychometrics as well as utilising deep structured behavioural interviewing and deep structured, qualitative 360-degree feedback.

“By drawing on multiple data points, we help clients to understand the many factors that will likely shape a candidate’s success as a leader,” says Barry. “Working with multiple data points also helps us to match candidates against the specific requirements of the organisation and the role, to determine both competence and fit – mapping that traditional approaches alone does less effectively.

Customised reports and deep discussion

Psychometric testing increasingly tends to produce computer-generated and standardised reports, but according to Barry there should be nothing mechanistic or computer-generated about advanced assessment reporting. “These reports are designed to facilitate in-depth conversations with decision makers. They are also customised to the role, and to the unique culture and strategy -needs of each client,” he says.

Predictive validity

Very few psychometric tools are validated with the level of rigour and discipline required for Executive assessments. “There are thousands of ways for clients to purchase what appear to be easy tick box approaches to psychometric testing, but these solutions have what we call ‘face validity’ without sufficient ‘predictive validity’,” he says. “Advanced assessments should include the most predictively valid measures of leadership that are currently available, and those that are significantly more valid than interviewing, reference checking or psychometric testing alone.”

In-depth debriefing

Not receiving any actionable feedback is a common complaint Barry hears from candidates, despite investing their time and effort into being assessed. “Psychometric debriefs are often brief, non-contextual and one-sided, but in contrast advanced assessments involve detailed de-briefs for both clients and candidates as part of a transparent, genuine and respectful process,” he says.

“Having an in-depth de-brief process gives clients greater assurance and confidence around selection, talent management and development decisions,” he continues. “This part of the process can also be incredibly insightful for individuals and teams, and provide insights for their own learning and growth.”

Context

While advanced assessments are performed independently of search and selection, they can also be contextualised within the specific needs of the organisation and role – a factor that Barry describes as essential. “If we are delivering the executive search, we already have a deep understanding of what the organisation context is and what the leader is looking for in the search,” says Barry. “As both individual and team development is most successful within the context that leaders are in, the more that our assessments, advice and coaching can be contextualised and customised, the more effective these services will also be.”

What can advanced assessments reveal about candidates?

There are over 140 independent behavioural factors that can be examined when delivering advanced assessments, especially at senior leadership levels, spanning areas like: skills and experience; mindset; values and values alignment; beliefs; behaviours; coping mechanisms; responses to change; responses to others; influencing style; leadership style and approach; engagement; empowerment; decision making and risk orientation.

“More broadly we are exploring the ‘value chain’ of leadership to understand more clearly how an individual goes about solving problems; influencing others; leading change; and delivering results,” says Barry. “Underpinning all of this data, we then look at how they approach these areas from an executive reasoning perspective. This gives clients a far more holistic and integrated view of an individual that allows decision makers to consider how effective the individual would be, both as a leader in the role and within the team and organisation.”

Does experience matter?

Barry urges organisations undertaking any form of advanced assessment to consider the value the advisors’ experience can bring. “Having been Executives and Non-Executives; hired, developed and led Executives and Executive teams; been part of running organisations, and trained in psychometrics and psychology, our experience base is largely unique,” says Barry. “It also spans the delivery of over 1000 advanced assessments at the Executive level, for more than 50 clients internationally.”

“Our focus isn’t one dimensional either,” says Barry. “Our philosophy is to help choose the best fitting leaders and we bring broad, deep and integrated experience to this process, beyond what an individual with a single specialism can expect to bring.”

Are advanced assessments worth the investment?

Barry answers this question, with another question. “What is the cost of failure, when the wrong appointment or development decision is made?” he asks. “I’ve seen clients turn to advanced assessments after making unsuccessful CEO appointments and losing competitive ground, so I would argue that investing in making better people decisions is money well spent.”

“We get what we pay for, whether we pay that price upfront or further down the line,” Barry reflects. “Through advanced assessments we bring the time, expertise and insights clients need to make better decisions, and to undertake better leadership development, the first time around.”

Need advice or help assessing executive talent? Connect with Barry, or reach out to your local Gerard Daniels team today.

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