The importance of assessing leaders for selection

Written by Lindsay K. Coy, Senior Consultant

“I have the skills.
I have the required credentials.
I have the years of experience.
I have … to take a personality assessment?
What? Why would I have to do that?
They should know that I have what it takes to do this job well based on all the information I have shared about my work history. I shouldn’t need to prove myself by completing an assessment.”

Sound familiar?

When applying for a job, candidates invest a significant amount of time tailoring their CV, writing cover letters, and filling out application forms. Therefore, incorporating multiple psychometric leadership assessments (also known as an ‘assessment battery’) as an additional step in your selection process could be met with scoffs of disbelief from high-level leaders.

While some candidates for leadership roles may feel an assessment is cumbersome and unnecessary, the reality is that assessments provide important data points to help inform and support critical decisions.

Even if a candidate doubts the assessment requirement initially, it is possible to gain their buy-in by effectively communicating the ‘why’ behind this short-term investment of time and effort. When the rationale is well explained, it could set your organisation apart from others the candidate may be considering. Additionally, the results can reap a number of long-term benefits for both the employee and the organisation. Below are three specific questions that leadership and professional assessments can answer about your candidate, which emphasise why it is crucial to properly assess high-level leaders before bringing them into your organisation.

1. What past workplace behaviours did the leader display?

Though you may have visibility into an individual’s career journey and experience, what you see on their CV or LinkedIn profile is only the tip of the iceberg. After all, it’s not about what someone has done in the past, it’s about how they’ve done it. For example, while a candidate may have worked as the Vice President of Sales for the last 10 years, that fact alone does not answer questions like:

  • What did it feel like to work with them?
  • Did they demonstrate emotional intelligence in leadership?
  • Did they make a point to empower their team and give them purpose in their day-to-day tasks?
  • Did they bring empathy and authenticity, strong relationship-building skills, and assertiveness to achieve results? Or did they focus primarily on their own objectives, demonstrating aggressiveness and rigidity in their leadership style?
  • When stressed, under pressure, or navigating through times of fast-paced change, how are they likely to show up?

By exploring one’s natural workplace behaviours and tendencies based on the output of valid and reliable assessments, organisations can make better-informed hiring decisions — especially when the data is complemented with what has been gathered from background checks and interviews.

Another benefit of leveraging hiring assessments is that these reports often include behavioural interview questions that are tailored to an individual’s assessment data. By leveraging such questions, organisations can be more intentional about what they are asking and the quality of the information they gather from their candidates with less manual effort.

2. Will this leader be a fit within your organisation?

At some point in your career, you may have walked into a new role with excitement, only to learn you weren’t a good fit with your manager, team, or overall company culture. Similarly, organisations hire high-level leaders only to learn they are a poor fit. According to Harvard Business Review, this can cost the company up to 300% of that employee’s salary when that individual resigns or is let go.

Statistics show that nearly 23% of new employees turn over within a year, so that’s a big financial gamble to take. Assessments can help reduce the risk of turnover and ultimately help prevent your organisation from these sunk costs by measuring for both culture and team fit in advance.

  • Will they be a fit with the company culture?

    High-level leaders wield substantial influence over an organisation’s culture, moulding it through their beliefs, values, and actions — whether positively or negatively. Cultivating a positive organisational culture takes years of effort, yet it can be jeopardised by even a few actions misaligned with the prevailing values. Therefore, the careful examination of whether they contribute to or impede the development of the culture is a critical step not to be overlooked.

    Many assessments can support an organisation with learning more about their candidate’s tendency to look in the mirror. This self-reflection ensures they are setting the behavioural example they want others to follow in alignment with the desired culture.

    There are also some assessments that specifically target one’s cultural fit and can shed light on potential alignments or misalignments with the company’s values. This information is instrumental in facilitating meaningful discussions during the hiring process, helping candidates gain clarity on their values and discerning whether they are likely to find long-term satisfaction within the organisation.

  • Will they be a fit within their prospective team?

    By increasing awareness of a leader’s tendencies as well as those around them, high-level teams can better communicate with one another and understand how each individual is likely to show up both when they are at their best and when they are most challenged.

    To support these efforts, some assessments offer coaching reports that aid HR and managers in understanding how a candidate might fit in with their team. Such reports can also serve as a helpful guide for managers, as they support a new hire and their teammates in understanding why they do what they do and what each individual’s work styles and preferences are.

    For example, the Caliper personality assessment sheds light into how an individual is likely to communicate, make decisions, interact, solve problems, and prioritise. Having such insights can help a team understand where there may be conflict with this particular leader and how to navigate through the conflict in a healthy and more effective fashion.

    3. What opportunities for personal development exist?

    Research shows that employees value and crave leadership and talent development opportunities, stating “employees in a well-structured onboarding program are 69% more likely to remain at the company after three years.”

    If an appropriate assessment battery is used in the hiring process, the data can be leveraged to create development reports (automatically generated or fully tailored by a trained assessor, depending on your budget) which can be shared with your newly hired leader as part of the onboarding process. These reports provide tangible benefits such as:

    • Increased self-awareness
    • Guided career goals
    • Tips to be better teammates and managers
    • Stronger performance results

    By presenting the assessment battery as a tool for personal and professional growth rather than a judgement or evaluation, you will increase the likelihood of participation. Thus, if receiving pushback from high-level leaders on completing assessments as part of the hiring process, it can be helpful to mention this output as a benefit (if offered).

Embracing assessments in leadership selection

While the inclusion of a comprehensive assessment battery in the hiring process may initially seem like an additional burden for high-level leaders, the long-term benefits for both the individual and the organisation cannot be overstated. Assessments provide crucial insights into workplace behaviours, cultural fit, team dynamics, and opportunities for personal development.

By exploring a leader’s natural tendencies and those within a team, organisations can make more informed decisions, minimise the risk of poor cultural fits, and foster a positive and productive work environment. Furthermore, the data obtained from successful leadership assessments can be instrumental in creating development reports, contributing to the ongoing growth and success of the leader within the organisation. Embracing the strategic use of assessments is not merely an investment in the hiring process, it is an investment in the future effectiveness, satisfaction, and cohesion of organisations.

Nine essential elements for modern leadership

The requirements to successfully lead in today’s organisations differ significantly from the past, and leadership hiring and development processes can only be effective if the attitudes, skills, and behaviours measured align with demands of the modern, complex world.

Optimise your leadership talent processes, and create an organisation fit for the unpredictable future with our tip sheet, which will help you to understand the areas your (future) leaders need to master for sustained success.

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