Tools for tempting (and treasuring) talent 

Interviews are the tried and trusted tool for assessing new talent.  But how effective are they?  Let’s examine a tool that can help you dig a little deeper to understand yourself (and others) better.  One tool that’s useful in a variety of circumstances; very useful for recruitment, training and development or just allocating the right task to the right person so you get stuff done the way you want it done.

Many many many years ago I went on a management course for a week and as part of that course I was given my first exposure to what I’d call the powerful science of psychometric testing and others decry as hocus pocus.

At some point during the course we were asked to complete a 15-20 minute questionnaire with a bundle of paired comparison questions … A day or so later, this was pre internet (and pre computer!) and the results were presented.

The occupational psychologist, Helen was her name, I can still picture her face, exclaimed excitedly “Mark, you’ve got one of the most extreme profiles I’ve ever seen”… “Fantastic” I responded.  “No” she said, in a very hushed and serious voice.  (You can actually see the profile chart below, I still have it, checkout the date, 1987!)

She went on to explain that the test was based on previous answers to the same questions by what was called the “scientific and managerial norm”.  What this meant was most of the people that I was being compared against we’re pretty cool people with pretty cool jobs.  Positions and jobs I aspired to.  And my results were more extreme than most of these “normal” people.  She went on, I was less questioning than 99%, I was less detail conscious than 99%, I was less traditional than 99% and I was less worrying than 99% but also, worryingly, more optimistic than 99%.  Helen went on to explain the implications; she suggested if I did nothing, I would wander through life ‘happy as Larry’ whilst people around me dug big holes, I’d fall in the metaphorical hole and those same people could be piling in the brown smelly stuff on top of me and I’d still be happy!  That took me back a bit. I thought if she’s only half right I probably need to do something about it.  That was my introduction to psychometric testing.  I’ve loved them since; they did me the world of good and woke me up to what otherwise might have been my fate.  So, with my boss at the time, Pete Davies, great bloke, we went about addressing some of the issues and since which time I’ve also done a lot of work on myself.  I think it’s paid off, others may disagree!

Obviously, like anything they’re not perfect, no one test can tell the whole story but they provide an incredibly useful background to how people tick. 

So, what are the different types of psychometric tests? 

There are a number of different assessment tools suited to different purposes and outcomes and these tests fall into four main groupings or categories: 

  • Aptitude tests measure cognitive abilities, things like verbal reasoning, numerical reasoning, abstract reasoning, logical reasoning and few others
  • Behaviour testing looks at how a candidate will act and communicate
  • Personality testing explores traits and how a person might fit with a particular role or culture and
  • Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence has been in the press a lot over recent years, the theory being that if a person is highly emotionally intelligent they will be much better equipped to recognise their own emotions and therefore those of their staff and colleagues. They are then able to use that information to inform their own thinking and behaviours.  Very useful on the basis of; you can’t change others, but you can change yourself and how you react and interact to others.   

And who provide them?

There are a variety of tests available from a variety of reputable organisations, I’ve listed a few below:

The tool that we use on a regular basis is Talent Dynamics. 

The Talent Dynamics Profiles 

We hit upon Talent Dynamics for no better reason than it’s the one my coach, Marco, uses and he has intimate knowledge of how to apply it.  Personally, I also really liked the idea that the profiles were based on what people call ‘flow’, which can be thought of as the path of least resistance, where someone adds the most value and get the most done because they are in their “zone”.

There are eight profiles, each of which represents a different mix of energy, thinking and action styles. The profiles are not “fixed” or cast in stone, but simply a starting point to understand yourself (and others) in terms of how people act and think as well as the types of roles that they might be suited to.  At interview, or any ongoing career discussion, they can be referred to to identify particular issues that may, or may not, be supportive to the position or role being considered.

It is not that any profile is better or worse than another it is simply that we all find our “flow” in different roles and situations;

  • Some people are big picture thinkers, some people love the detail
  • Some people have a task focus some people have a people focus
  • Some are extraverts others introverts

Talent dynamics is all about understanding a persons preference and when they are in flow and when they are not.  As a result, each of the Talent Dynamics profiles will have its own strengths and challenges.  Using the Talent Dynamic tool you can begin to understand why certain tasks and roles drain you, while other jobs excite and energise you. 

But more than simply understanding yourself or another individual in more depth, it is in the team environment where the profiles become extremely useful to help a team understand one another, gel better and spot potential opportunities to allocate work the person most likely to be in flow.  As each of the Talent Dynamics profiles has its own strengths and challenges, they can be used together in a team setting to cover potentially challenging tasks and ensure that each team member gets into and stays in flow.

Let’s now look at the individual profiles.

The Creator

Creators are the best at getting things started and although quick to create chaos, they can also be surprisingly creative at finding ways out of trouble. Always put them in charge of new projects but move them on to the next project once their job is done.

The Star 

Stars are the best promoters and need to lead from the front. Give them the chance to shine and give them the space to deliver results without tying them down. Give them support and they will be the best spokesperson for the group. Discourage them and they will be the biggest critic.  Stars often make the best salespeople.

The Supporter 

Supporters are the best leaders but don’t expect them to come up with the plan themselves. Build a plan and set the goals with a Supporter and then let them lead the team towards the plan. Let them set their own management style and their own agenda. Always give them an environment of fun, variety and celebration.

The Deal Maker 

Deal Makers are the best peacemakers and will leave everyone feeling good. Don’t expect them to go out cold calling as they thrive on building the relationships they already have. Work with Deal Makers to nurture the relationships within the team. When things get too hot, Deal Makers will cool it down. A Deal Maker lives in the present.

The Trader

Traders are your best negotiators as they are looking for balance and fairness. They will always get you the best price, in both what you buy and what you sell. Traders will have their ear to the ground in your market and your team and they will always look for harmony and equality in the team.

The Accumulator

Accumulators are your best ambassadors. They are reliable, get things done on time and don’t make rash decisions. Accumulators make the best project managers, when a task or a project needs to be delivered reliably on time and budget. They are the reliable organisers in the team.

The Lord 

Lords are your best analysts. Give them the space to study the detail and to deliver the data. Don’t ask them to go out and network, as they are strongest when focused behind the scenes. When you need to keep count or keep score, give the job to a Lord. They will always be the most reliable to keep track.

The Mechanic 

Mechanics are your best completers. They will wrap up the process and find smart ways to do it better next time. Don’t ask a mechanic to start from scratch but give them an existing process or product to improve on. They work fine on their own and often find social situations uncomfortable.  They are perfectionists, which is why they cannot resist finding ways to do things better

How does this fit with my management system? 

You need the right people with the right attitude doing the right things at the right time, for your firm.  In “standard speak” it’s about having the right people with the right competencies and the right awareness of what they need to do.  It’s about balance.  You need the people In the organisation with the right technical “skill set”.  You also want a balance of people the right “flow” set.

Each of the common management system standards (Quality – ISO 9001, Environmental – ISO 14001, Information security – ISO 27001 and Health and Safety – ISO 45001) all require companies to manage and develop the competence of their staff.  Psychometric testing helps.

Conclusion 

Regardless of your management system, in order to grow and develop your company you will want the right people in the right seats on your bus.

However, a word of warning, somebody once said something like “If all I did was concentrate on developing my weaknesses when I die, I’d have a very strong set of weaknesses, but I’d be miserable and my weaknesses would still be weaknesses.”  In order to fly, at Statius, we think things like appraisal systems which concentrate on developing weaknesses have things the wrong way round.  We’d all be far happier and far more productive by concentrating on making our strengths stronger and have somebody else who strong at the things that we are weak at pick up the slack.  Certainly as in my own case if things are dire something needs to be done however, this often overlooked approach is a much better strategy.  Psychometric testing it’s part of the toolkit that allows you to do just that.

As a result, psychometric tests can be used in a variety of ways to tempt and treasure talent; during recruitment to pick apart the flow set required and ensure the relevant elements are brought out in the advert and job description to attract the right people, at interview to ensure people are a good fit culturally.  And also during development and team working to balance the flow set as well as the skill set in order to ensure there are no blind spots. 

Psychometric assessments at the selection stage mean we can identify more about a person; their behaviours, values and even intelligence levels all of which are key to determining whether someone would be a good fit for a job or company.

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