The Value of Assessments

Do you remember having your IQ taken, going to high school and then hopefully on to university or trade school? I do. You see, I wasn’t a great student so of course I remember all those things. Fortunately I had parents who cared and although there wasn’t much money, they found the dollars needed to get me help with reading and writing.

By the time I reached high school, I had made my mind up to become a teacher – "can’t do that without a university education" - I was told. So I studied hard and hit the books, achieved passing grades and set out to become to a teacher. Well, it didn’t go too badly until I reached grade 12 – that’s the end of high school on the Canadian prairies. I sat for the tests and one day my guidance counsellor, Mr. H., called me in and gave me the news. The university did not feel I had the qualifications! I was devastated! Totally, absolutely, devastated!

Mr. H. was a wise man …. as tears welled up in my eyes, he looked at me and said, if you really, really want this, just go for it - someone will take you. I listened, went home heartbroken and decided to give his advice a try.

I applied, was accepted, and went on to earn my degree and teaching certificate.  Eventually, I went on to become a teacher and loved every minute of it.Girl at college

What I learned from my own experience is that assessments, while important, are not the be-all and end-all. Had I been judged on high school marks alone, I would never have gone on to become a teacher. My passion for the profession and determination to succeed overwhelmingly proved to be far more important factors.

So when we apply this lesson to the workplace, it's important for us to realize that, important as they may be, assessment results are only one of the factors we should be taking into consideration when it comes to deciding who to hire, promote or even let go.

Assessments have their place - there's no doubt. The good ones help provide insights into a person's character, strengths and inclinations - traits that can eventually be used to identify their aptitude for different types of work and how well they are likely to respond to different situations. At my company, Dimension 11 – the Regina, Canada office of Career Partners International, we use a variety of tools to help make these determinations. InnerView comes to mind. Besides providing useful information to us, it helps individuals to develop a better understanding of themselves.

When we first started to use InnerView, we took it to one of our clients, a large insurance company, and they did a sampling of the tool throughout their organization. Afterwards we asked those who had taken the assessment how close they felt it pictured them. Eighty-four percent of those that had taken the assessment felt it reflected an accurate portrayal. Of colleagues, coworkers, friends and spouses, the results came back at ninety-two percent!

So we're big believers in the power of assessments, and yet, even with this ringing endorsement, we respect the limits of what assessments can tell us about a person - no matter how thorough!  As a tool that can assist in helping employees become more effective, assessments are great; but as a means to weed people out of a position (or organization), they are ineffective.

Do I take assessments personally? You bet! True, my marks in high school were less than exemplary, yet I refused to let them hold me back. I studied hard, completed all my assignments and in the end, managed to succeed, in spite of what the assessments might have suggested.

At the end of the day, I was able to make a difference in the lives of many young people who might not otherwise have been able to benefit from my contributions had my career decisions been shaped solely by the results of an assessment.

 

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