The quest to understand and improve employee performance and organizational dynamics is crucial. Nobody can dispute that. Assessments play a critical role in this endeavor, offering insights into employee skills, competencies, and potential areas for growth. However, a common pitfall many companies encounter is the temptation to develop their own assessment tools in-house. While this approach may seem practical on the surface, there are numerous reasons why it’s not advisable. I’m sorry, HR friends. Please don’t take this personally.

Three Reasons Why You Shouldn’t DIY Your Own Assessment Tools:

Reason #1: Lack of Expertise

One of the primary reasons companies should avoid DIY assessment tools is the expertise gap. Robust assessments are not just questionnaires; they’re surprisingly sophisticated tools.  Crafting effective assessments requires a deep understanding of psychological principles, measurement theory, and statistical analysis. Organizational psychologists and assessment specialists undergo rigorous training to design assessments that are reliable, valid, and free from bias. When HR departments take on this task without proper training or experience, they risk creating assessments that lack scientific rigor and may produce unreliable results.

Reason #2: Impact on Employees

Ad hoc assessments developed by HR professionals may inadvertently harm employees. For example, poorly designed 360-degree assessments, intended to gather feedback from peers, managers, and subordinates, can backfire when not implemented correctly. Employees may feel uncomfortable providing honest feedback if they suspect their anonymity is compromised. This reluctance to speak candidly can undermine the purpose of the assessment and deprive leaders of valuable insights for growth and development. Additionally, when you create your own assessment tools, you run the very real (and likely) risk of introducing your own bias into the assessment, which can cause real harm. It’s important to ensure that the assessments you use have been validated and tested to make sure everyone is being evaluated fairly and objectively.

Reason #3: Business Impact

Moreover, DIY assessments may fail to align with business objectives and key performance indicators (KPIs). Professionally developed assessments often undergo rigorous validation processes to ensure they measure relevant constructs that directly contribute to organizational success (in other words, a good assessment is thoroughly tested to make sure it’s measuring what you think it’s measuring). Without this alignment, companies risk wasting resources on assessments that do not provide actionable data or meaningful insights.

Further, you run the risk of serious legal issues. If a candidate feels that they’ve been unfairly evaluated, they may decide to take legal action. This potential danger can be avoided by using standardized assessment tools that have been validated and tested to ensure that they’re legally defensible.

Best Practices in Assessment Usage

When it comes to using assessments effectively, there are several best practices to keep in mind:

    • Not Just for Feedback: Assessments should never be used to give feedback without guidance. Far too often, companies have employees complete assessments and then they give the employees the results without the benefit of interpretation or recommendations. Assessment outcomes are never “one size fits all” and if you’re going to invest in the tool, then invest in having a trained professional talk with your employees about their results so that they know what they mean, what might be beneficial areas for development, and how to engage in development.

      Developmental Purposes Only: Assessments should never be used as the sole basis for making decisions about hiring, firing, or promotions. Instead, they should be used for developmental purposes, helping employees and leaders identify areas for improvement and growth. (At Baroncini-Moe Executive Coaching, we use a couple of assessments to help our clients assess top applicants for cultural and team fit, which does get into “hiring” territory, but these assessments are never used as the sole basis for hiring.)
    • Different Tools for Different Reasons: You want to choose the right assessment for the job. At Baroncini-Moe Executive Coaching, we offer several assessments for various purposes, including:
      • A personality and aptitude assessment, which we use for anything from talent selection to creating development plans to helping our coaches understand their clients very quickly.
      • A 360-degree assessment, which we use for leadership development in key ways that are strategically tied to real-world, business outcomes.
      • An assessment for toxic teams, to assess what’s causing the toxicity and so we can fix it.
      • And several more that assess things like leadership skills, business judgment and reasoning, how well teams work together, and more.
  • Leverage Existing Tools: With a myriad of high-quality assessments available on the market, there’s little reason for companies to reinvent the wheel. By leveraging existing tools developed by reputable assessment providers, companies can benefit from validated instruments backed by research and expertise.
  • Leverage Experts: While your HR team may be well-versed in the assessment landscape, there are so many great tools out there and they may not know all of them. Further, with so many responsibilities on their shoulders, they may not have the time to become coaches who can interpret the results, make recommendations, and offer guidance to team members. It’s well worth investing in a trained expert who can lead your team through their results, help them integrate the new information into their development process, and coach them to relevant levels of success.

While HR professionals play a vital role in talent management, creating assessment tools, interpreting the results, and coaching your team should be left to the experts (again, please don’t come at me, HR friends!) By relying on assessments developed by organizational psychologists and assessment specialists, companies can ensure the validity, reliability, and relevance of their assessment processes, ultimately driving employee development and organizational success.

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