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Psychometric Guide   | 4 Min Read

Chapter 5: Understanding the Science behind Psychometric Tests

Written By Nishant Muralidharan

Psychometric tests provide people data more than what can be heard or visually observed in most cases. In fact, it’s an insight into different facets within an individual, but in a more objective manner.

Understanding the Science behind Psychometric Tests

There is a lot of importance in weighing psychometric tests when put to the balance. An employee’s true sense is likely to emerge in stressful or rather severe organizational situations. It could be the stress that comes from meeting deadlines, collaborating as a team, negotiating deals or having to make heavy but emotional decisions.

When it comes to cultural fitment, it isn’t merely about employee-company compatibility, but of a deeper sense of how an employee is able to react because of the organization in question. Likewise, it also makes the case for how an employee reacts despite organizational culture.

how-an-employee-reacts-despite-organizational-culture.Advanced metrics urge us to consider test technology, especially psychometrics to optimize different aspects of the employee life cycle. Similar statistics prove that people interaction reveal about 10% or a third of the traits that directly impact both individual and organizational performance.[74] The numbers are perhaps worse when experience is weighed in as a factor on both ends.

understanding-iceberg-model

Practitioners of organizational psychology and psychometrics firmly believe that culture is a critical component to determining business success. As you may well know however, culture as a topic is at times - if not all the time - difficult both to manage and grasp.

No matter the involvement of psychometric tests in the employee lifecycle - be it recruitment, performance evaluation, learning & development, leadership planning or more as discussed extensively in [Title 4], there are two layers to every employee. It’s safe to say that his/her evaluation through the lifecycle is incomplete without considering both layers. What are the layers?discernible-trait-vs-indiscernible-trait-layer

SOURCE: Culture in Business Process Management; Schmiedel, Brocke, Recker[75]

Science behind Psychometric Tests- Iceberg model

The reason we enter this discussion is to open room to understand the world of competencies, and how utilizing it can be made efficient .

understanding-competencies-that-make-the-iceberg-model

The Iceberg Model is most efficiently is defined via use of competencies - components of a job that are reflected in behavior observable in a workplace. Skill, aptitude, ability, knowledge, and personality all factor into performance computations at work. Even with psychometric tests that measure all the necessary factors in the most ideal situation, not often do they actually discern what’s necessary.

  • Knowledge: Identifies learning and information within a person.
  • Traits: Physical characteristics and consistent responses to information or situation.
  • Skill: Ability to perform certain tasks.
  • Motives: Emotions, physiological needs, impulses, desires that prompt action.
  • Self Concepts & Values: Attitude, self image and value.

This is an indication to the fact that within these factors exist various definitions, but with little difference between them.[76] It’s easy to argue that the only common denomination between them is observable behavior in the workplace, but not all competencies predict or measure performance to begin with.

The concept is better explained with an example. A surgeon requires intricate knowledge of the human anatomy along with the necessary skill to perform a surgery. But that doesn’t exempt the individual in question from factors such as self-confidence or personal belief, values required to masterfully complete a complex surgery say. Perhaps interpersonal orientation is what motivates said surgeon to work well with other members of the operating team. No matter how irrelevant in mind, traits also weigh into professional skill. Good eyesight is required of a surgeon, after all.

How often are these measured together rather than observed?

How is a competency different from the factors mentioned above or how these factors amalgamate to form a competency?. It would be better to define competency and then develop that concept for the organisations

The criteria of a competency are effective and superior performance, and it is better yet divided into two essential categories:

  1. Threshold Competencies: Essential characteristics that would make an employee minimally effective; this doesn’t distinguish average from superior performers.
  2. Differentiating Competencies: Distinguishes superior from average performers.

For any organization to remain competitively ahead of its competition, it becomes all the more important to utilize new technologies, psychometrics under the bracket of technology included.

Within the concept, core competencies transcend business events within an organization also. Projects have the capacity to become persuasive or massive, ensuring that no specific individual holds simultaneously all the competencies required to see it through completion.[77] Organizations are therefore recommended to identify, manage and develop core competencies that drive enterprise critical projects.

As a measure of direct impact, not all organizations may require an identical set of core competencies. The theory holds true likewise for large projects, but this does foreshadow a brighter future for those who utilize psychometric tests within the realm of these subtleties.

building-a-complex-based-modelModels are something built to represent a phenomena closest to reality. Some may resemble simulator or real-world physical or roleplayed situations, while others a meagre job description. Both categorically fall into branches of models, albeit differently.

A competency model could by definition resemble a descriptive tool that identifies competencies required to operate within a specific role - industry, organization, occupation or job.[78] It is  behavioral job description that is best described by each occupational function and job.

As this reading continues, you’re likely to find certain similarities between descriptions around psychometric tests and competency based models. It’s because they’re closely interlinked, to the point that one develops from the other. One researcher identifies with competency models as something adhesive or glue like, necessary among elements of an organization’s human resource management system.

It implies that competency models help companies with a more coordinated, or rather unified, approach to structuring the human resource management system.[79] This would cover hiring, job designs, employee development, performance management, succession or career planning, and compensation mechanics.

In fact, investment in competency based models benefits beyond the usefulness of the results in Human Resource Departments (HRD) also, showing valid impact in business outcomes as a consequence of the former. Let’s take a look at the numbers based on a study that covered around 373 U.S. companies, of which 20 have been labeled the best for leadership:

leadership-competency-trends-among-us-companiesSource: Hewitt Associates on Leadership Development | 373 U.S. Companies

 

Furthermore, competency models translate to the following advantages:

  • Excellence in Performance Management: By standardizing the development criteria, it becomes easy to bring coherence and structure to the performance management function.
  • Unification of Corporate Culture with Business Units: Some of the best companies manage this, utilizing culture to unify employees in decentralized corporate environments.
  • Identifying Training Needs & Employee Development: These are easier to identify with competency models, enabling the development of comprehensive learning plans that encompass broad perspectives across learning platforms outside traditional norms.
  • Augmentation of Recruiting Process: It helps with the creation of a more robust hiring process, matching candidates to opportunities based on data-driven analytics. This would lead to improved consistency in talent selection and the recruitment process.
  • Improvement of Employee Development: It links development activities to corporate goals, serve as development targets in terms of succession planning, and the organization of talent areas of development and strength.[80]

In simpler terms, a competency based model identifies what it takes for an individual to evolve into solid contributor roles at a workplace. This would translate to enhanced learning, snowballing into performance on par with the desired competence for organizational or career success.

correlating-competency-score-to-on-job-performance

One of the reasons for this discussion hinges on business value or output. Question is, why would organizations reassess present scenario for newer technologies in psychometrics, test technology or competency based models. Return on Investments are best assessed by correlating competency scores to on-job performance.

The Model of Effective Job Performance specifies that effective action that translate to performance occurs when three critical competencies - job demand based, individual based, and organizational - are most consistent. [81] Inconsistencies in one or more competencies in relation to the other simply breaks down to ineffective behavior or inaction.

one-or-more-competencies-in-relation-to-the-other

In accordance with this model, individual competencies reflect on what an individual brings to the workplace in comparison to the responsibilities of the job itself. On the other hand, these responsibilities represent the demand side of the competencies. And of course, effective action is possible with consistent alignment to the organizational environment - policies, conditions and procedures.

It’s within the walls of this delicate cross-section that an individual fully contributes to an organization, signalling effective action. At the same time, it’s important to understand that competency scores are approximations and nothing definitive; best taken with a grain of salt.

Here’s a table that can probably explain what that implies:competency-table-comparision

It’s an easy way to summarize data, but bear in mind to not take this format too seriously. Now, for Shreya scoring a 4 - the highest total - doesn’t necessarily make her a better choice than Shubham despite a lower total score of 3. This is marked by her failure on a required and essential competency. The same can be said of a comparison between Deepesh and Shubham, with both holding identical scores of 3, but only the latter meeting all required competencies.

The scaling uses three segments to dissect candidates or employees based on a combination of test results, tactical exercises and interaction.[82] It could be used in the event of a job interview to filter high potential candidates from the rest of the crop, gap analysis to make an employee with low scores on certain competencies improve, and to even appraise performance.

challenges-in-using-competency-based-modelGiven all the information and everything that’s been said, there is no denying that competency models hold their place legitimately in human resource practices. But the models themselves cannot become the sole solution for every hiring, selection decision, education, appraisal, training needs or other managerial functions.[83]

In actuality, framing competencies as an outcome to most decisions ignore the personal or mental processes utilized in developing and exhibiting skills.[84] What does this mean? A variety of things that might include idiosyncratic competencies that could contribute to individual performance or the competitiveness of the organization overall.

These competencies hold a high chance of being overlooked against decisions that rely entirely on competencies within the model devised alone. For example, several researchers argue that it is unwise to select staff that solely fit the competency model over relying on developmental resources that facilitate the acquisition of missed competencies where a gap exists.

However, despite the shortcomings, a competency model scientifically augments the decision-making process in an organization pushing toward improved success.

For gaps in competency acquisition, learning and development is one option to aid in the acquisition of desired behaviour, skill, trait or knowledge.[85] In fact, allowance for some less important or required competencies may perhaps help enrich the talent pool; especially if these are subtle competencies that actually improve the model itself.

Competency models are assistive; it helps organizations invest on individuals, or rather help focus on current competencies while enhancing necessary competencies. These models are a positive add overall, ensuring that with appropriate knowledge and use - the information contained within such as strengths or weaknesses - an employee might direct to future job or career success and opportunities.

a-simulated-example-of-competency-models

 

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Topics: Psychometric Guide

Originally published January 24 2019,updated February 03 2019

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