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Talent Assessment | 8 Min Read

Behavioral Assessments: The What, Why & How

What are Behavioral Assessments?

Behavioral assessments capture individual behavior in a simulated environment. They are extensively used in psychology to observe, characterize, explain and even predict behavior. Behavioral assessments are now applied beyond the psychological study. Education and workplace settings widely use behavioral assessments to make critical people decisions.

Behavioral Assessments in the Workplace

What is Behavioral Assessment in the Context of A Workplace?

In the corporate context, behavioral assessments refer to new-age tools to measure behavioral competencies in a simulated work environment. These assessments require individuals to demonstrate behavioral competencies in one or more activities relevant to their job role and resemble an actual organizational situation. Candidates are presented with a series of realistic work-related scenarios with possible actions to be taken. They have to select either the best option or rank the possible actions based on their effectiveness. Behavioral assessments are commonly used for recruitment and development initiatives to measure critical competencies required to perform on the job.

What do Behavioral Tests Measure?

Behavioral tests measure behavioral competencies. The combination of skills, knowledge and traits in an individual cumulatively form behavioral competencies. Behavioral competencies are a job’s components that reflect in behavior and are observable in the workplace. 

Behavioral competencies often vary across job levels and job roles. Having a comprehensive list of behavioral competencies that are important to your organization’s culture can help you to choose the right behavioral assessment test for better workforce planning.

How are Behavioural Assessment Tests Different from Personality & Cognitive Tests?

A behavioral assessment is more active and better at showing how people react to certain situations, whereas a personality or cognitive test evaluates how they think about things in an intellectual or emotional way. A behavioral assessment is also more likely to be based on observation of actions, as opposed to personality tests, which usually rely on how employees answer a list of questions.

Jon Hill
Chairman & CEO, The Energists

Why is Behavioral Assessment Important?

The workplace is continually evolving, and the ongoing pandemic has fastened its pace. Most employees are finding it challenging to remain motivated or manage their stress levels, which affects their productivity. Conversely, some employees have performed exceedingly well by demonstrating an exceptional drive to ensure growth. 

Imagine being a manager of a remote team during the early days of the lockdown. Your team needs a more streamlined process to accomplish specific tasks. Having a fair idea of who has the propensity to lead can help you push the right team member to take the initiative. 

Behavioral assessments help recognize the ‘how’ and ‘what’ behind a behavior, enabling you to hire the right candidates, develop the right employees and make informed decisions about your organization’s future leaders. Behavioral evaluations are outcome-oriented and match an individual’s behavioral tendencies with job demands, leading to extended associations and contented employees.

Knowing how your employees respond to specific triggers and behave in certain situations is a boon. Your employees’ behavior can profoundly impact your business’s trajectory. It is therefore implied that understanding your employees’ behavior from the onset safeguards your organization from potential losses, simultaneously boosting the development process by identifying growth opportunities.

A behavioral assessment measures how people perform and act both emotionally and professionally in common, everyday situations and interactions with others...It is important to identify the work culture behavior you want to track. For example, if you are looking for a collaborative work culture suite of behaviors as opposed to an internally competitive work culture, how people behave within these distinct work culture personalities is important.

Dianne Crampton
President, TIGERS Success Series, Inc

Behavioral Assessment Tests for Recruitment

Traditional recruitment practices often make it difficult to gauge or predict candidates’ ability to fit into the organization’s culture and/or fulfill job responsibilities as required. Employees are one of the most significant assets of an organization. A bad hire can often create challenging circumstances for an organization, economically and culturally. Traditional recruitment tools are neither objective nor reliable, and often prolong the time-to-hire.

Behavioral evaluation is a powerful tool to match candidates to job roles validly. They accelerate the hiring process by cutting down the time-to-hire while ensuring that decisions are grounded in data and are not instinctive. Behavioral assessment tests secure your organization from a bad hire.

Traditional recruitment often incorporates some form of behavioral interviewing. However, the interview questions are often based on resumes, which simply don’t provide the necessary information to make objective hiring decisions or even to ask the right questions. Individuals applying for a job will be different. They will communicate differently; respond to situations differently; thrive in different environments; react to various stimuli, and respond differently to distinct management styles. A candidate who is a right fit for the job and the organization will flourish and grow, while an unsuitable candidate might feel disengaged and frustrated. These things are difficult to measure through a simple interview. 

This is where behavioral assessments make their mark. They provide an in-depth understanding of the candidate’s preferences to predict if they are the right fit easily. Behavioral assessment tests help in screening and selecting the right candidates, thereby delivering an excellent user experience. Since behavioral assessment tests closely emulate the job-role and organization setting, they empower candidates to make the right choice, while marketing the organization’s culture and serving as an excellent branding tool. Combined with behavioral event interviews or competency-based interviews, behavioral assessments lead to a much more accurate representation of the candidate.

The success of any organization largely depends on its people. If you put the right people in the right jobs, they are more likely to perform well and propel the organization towards success.

Behavioral Assessments for L&D 

While domain skills are essential consideration factors at the time of recruitment, apart from cultural fitment, there is a more extensive application of behavioral assessment tests in L&D initiatives. Behavioral assessments provide an in-depth understanding of your employees’ strengths and weaknesses. This enables organizations and employees to collectively identify a roadmap for growth that caters to organizational needs and employees’ career plans.

Behavioral assessments can also play an important role in leadership development and succession planning. They provide a brilliant opportunity for organizations to reiterate their vision and values and identify employees who share them. The organization’s shared culture and goal is the foundation to build your behavioral assessment tests for employee development. Behavioral assessments can measure your organization’s core competencies, identify skill gaps, create a training plan, contributing to the goal of workforce optimization for future success. 

Behavioral evaluation helps identify high-potential employees who can be groomed to assume critical roles and create a pipeline of future leaders. An organization’s keen interest in its  employees’ development reduces turnover and improves its efficiency because of objective alignment.

I see behavioral assessments as being most valuable when you’re filling leadership positions, especially in the development of first-time leaders from within the company. I especially like in-box exercises for new leaders because they serve two purposes. First, to see how they’ll respond in certain situations and can give feedback accordingly. Second, they get a feel for situations they may encounter as a leader, which can be a valuable training tool.

Jon Hill
Chairman & CEO, The Energists

What are the Different Types of Behavioral Evaluation Tools Available?

Behavioral evaluation tools are often used together to assess the role-fitment. Often customized to emulate organizational setting and role challenges, these tools are an engaging way to choose the right people for the right job.

Behavioral assessments are an indispensable way to determine fit for the role, high-potential, promotability, and developmental needs. Best practices recommend that practitioners use multiple assessments to help triangulate and identify key strengths, opportunities, weaknesses, and potential derailers since these tools are all different, each with their own pros and cons.

Robert C. Satterwhite
Ph.D., Partner & Head of the Leadership Advisory Practice, Odgers Berndtson

How Do You Conduct A Behavioral Assessment?

Behavioral assessment tests can measure a plethora of behavioral tendencies. They include result orientation, teamwork, conflict management, establishing trust and work delegation, etc. A behavioral test probes specific behavioral dispositions with an understanding that behaviors can change easily. Behavior is adaptable and can be observed, meaning it responds and changes according to an external environment.

Here is how organizations can use behavioral tests in their hiring and L&D processes:

Competency-Tool Mapping

Competency-tool mapping involves creating an organization-specific competency framework or using an available framework to identify relevant indicators of behaviors and map them on available tools. Two or more tools are typically combined for a reliable and holistic overview of the test-taker. Competency-tool mapping considers job compatibility with the workplace behaviors required to succeed on the job and in the organization. For instance, caselets can assess business acumen and prompt decision-making, while a case study simulator may better evaluate an analytical and innovative mindset.

Tool Creation

Tools and questions are created based on specific job functions. They emulate the job’s realities, posing questions that reflect actual workplace situations.

Content Validation

Content validation is vital to obtain optimal results. Multiple iterations of the content in consultation with subject matter experts and the organization are the best practice to reflect the real essence of the organizational environment.

Test Administering & Report Generation

For online behavioral tests, organizations can opt for virtual assessment centers. They are easy to roll out, highly time and cost-effective, easily scalable and generate instant reports. Conversely, offline tools often involve one or more assessors observing the candidates at a physical or blended assessment center. The reports typically take longer because the assessors need to cull the results together.

Data Analysis & Individual Development Plans

The reports should provide a detailed behavioral profile of the test-taker, other than actionable insights and plans for recruiters and L&D experts. Data analysis can help organizations understand the key skill gaps and training needs at a group level. Individual development plans are customized for each test-taker to help them understand and work on their development areas. 

These are industry best practices and should ideally be employed for the most effective outcomes.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Behavioral Assessments

Advantages 

  • Behavioral tests are strong predictors of job performance.
  • Behavioral tests have high face validity because test content is based on a real job environment, providing practical insights into the applicants’ fitment. 
  • Using realistic content in behavioral tests evokes a favorable reaction from the test-takers.
  • The potential for adverse impact in terms of gender, age and ethnicity are lowest in behavioral assessments because of the use of job-relevant content. 
  • Behavioral evaluation tools are based on fictitious but real-life scenarios relating to the job and organization. Therefore, they are customizable as per requirement.
  • Behavioral assessments offer candidates rich insights into the organization and the role for which they are applying. They offer candidates a ‘realistic preview’ that can be used by them to better understand their likely experience at the organization and the organization’s attractiveness. 
  • It could also reduce turnover in the longer run, as the candidates are likely to have more precise and more realistic expectations about their role.

Disadvantages

  • Given their context-specific nature and in-depth analysis, they are more time-consuming than generic assessments. Developing bespoke behavioral assessments requires job analysis, identifying critical incidents, developing the test content and establishing content validity, etc. However, online behavioral assessment tests are comparatively quicker than offline tools as the latter requires multiple stakeholders, while the former can be easily conducted virtually.
  • Due to the same reason, behavioral assessment tests may incur a greater expense, although they are often associated with higher ROIs.

How Mercer | Mettl Can Help?

Mercer | Mettl has a vast repository of behavioral tests and tools that can be used across an employee’s lifecycle, from selection, promotion, upskilling, progression and continual development:

Our behavioral tests can be combined with a rich library of tests – personality, aptitude, and domain – for powerful insights on recruitment and development. You can choose to administer any combination of these tests, based on your requirements, through Mercer | Mettl’s virtual assessments and development center to ensure continuity in your talent management processes.

Mercer | Mettl’s behavioral assessments are recognized for their:

  • Validation: Strong correlation with on the job performance
  • Reliability: Highly reliable results as assessments are based on realistic job scenarios
  • Customization: Customized as per your organizational requirements
  • Extensive Repository: A vast array of content for each job role, job-level and industry

Originally published December 4 2019, Updated August 6 2020

Bhuvi Kathpalia

Written by

Bhuvi is a content marketer at Mercer | Mettl. She's helped various brands find their voice through insightful thought pieces and engaging content. When not scandalizing people with her stories, you’ll find her challenging gender norms, dancing to her own tune, and crusading through life, laughing.

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