Ryan Daly at Hogan Assessment Systems, did a fantastic job providing an in-depth view into Assessments, how they should be used, and culture bias issues. I enjoyed learning from Ryan . The Interview is below:
First of all, please tell us a bit about Hogan.
We are a global provider of personality assessments and consulting services. Founded in 1987, our company pioneered the use of personality assessment to improve workplace performance. Twenty-five years later, we are committed to the same spirit of innovation and attention to science that helped us grow from a four-employee test publisher to one of the most successful and well-regarded assessment providers in the world.
You created an award winning product that measures soft skills, which is administered online. So share a bit more as to how that is possible and how Reflect™, by GMAC, powered by Hogan, was created?
When it comes to predicting career success, decades of research show that cognitive ability (IQ), background, education and technical skills are only part of the story. What really matters are people’s emotional intelligence (what we call EQ) and interpersonal skills. Yet, as effective as they are at teaching hard skills – math, science, etc. –students are not adequately prepared when it comes to developing their interpersonal skills.
We teamed up with the Graduate Management Admissions Council, the organization that designs and administers the GMAT, to design a state-of-the-art tool that measures and coaches students’ soft skills. We use the same personality assessments used at more than half of the Fortune 500 to measure participants’ EQ and interpersonal skills, which we plug into a 10-scale competency model. The Reflect platform helps users create a custom development plan and tailor a library of resources to suit their needs.
Although we designed the tool with MBA students in mind, the competency model is universal. In other words, no matter the industry, organization, or job level, leaders need these 10 competencies to succeed. Many companies have caught on, and are using Reflect to provide their high-potential employees a low-cost, high-impact development resource.
Tough Question: One of my personal concerns with assessments is the issue of cultural bias when testing to competencies. How do your products address this issue or do you limit the use of products to specific geographies or demographics?
This is a complicated question so I’ll answer it in multiple parts.
First, our assessments are designed not to discriminate. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 made it illegal for companies to use discriminatory hiring practices. One of our founders, the late Dr. Joyce Hogan, who was consulting for the U.S. Justice Department at the time, pointed out that although standard measures like IQ discriminated against protected populations, personality did not. Fifty years later, we employ the largest group of dedicated Industrial-Organizational psychologists in the industry to develop, test, and monitor our assessments to make sure that they are fair and accurate. In all of our years in business, our assessments have never been successfully challenged.
Second, we make sure people know howto use our assessments correctly. We require our customers to attend an intensive two-day certification workshop before they can use our assessments. Making sure our clients are using our assessments correctly and appropriately is one of the reasons they are the most effective in the industry.
Finally, our assessments are available in 56 countries and 43 languages, so assessing across cultures is absolutely a challenge our multinational clients face. We address this in a few ways. First, we rely on a network of trusted partners and distributors to ensure that our assessments are locally supported. Second, we use a combination of forward and back-translation to ensure congruence between the original and translated forms of our assessments. Next, we adapt our assessment content by allowing local language and cultural issues to inform the translation process. Finally, we develop local and global norms for interpreting our assessments. Normative groups are samples of the general population against which users can compare participants’ assessment scores. For example, organizations interested in selecting job applicants inside the Czech Republic would be interested in how applicant scores compare to other Czechs instead of Americans or other groups. We develop local norms within cultures by collecting assessment data on the local audience. Multi-national organizations face a unique challenge. Many of our multi-national clients require a common comparison group to interpret assessment scores of job applicants from multiple locations. To provide an apples-to-apples metric for these comparisons, Hogan uses a multi-language norm comprised of data representing many languages and cultures.
Unfortunately, personality assessment is an unregulated industry, which means the marketplace is littered with assessments that cause cultural bias and adverse impact. For consumers, the best way to distinguish between assessments is to use a third-party assessment review like the Buros Mental Measurement Yearbook.
One of the goals of these tools is to bring in talent that will succeed in the receiving environment. What is an example of your best success story?
We worked with a multi-national financial services provider that was experiencing an increase in customer complaints, sinking morale, and turnover rates among its sales staff approaching 50 percent. Hogan’s consultants uncovered that even though all of the job candidates the firm hired were well-qualified, many exhibited poor person-job fit.
Hogan’s consultants revealed that the sales positions depended on social interaction, helping others, and accomplishment. By screening candidates for high scores on those three scales, the company significantly increased its success rate. Prior to implementation, the organization reported a turnover rate of 48 percent. After one year, they reduced turnover to 18 percent.
Tangent: You get to measure a lot about competencies. So if you were to advise a HR leader – what competency would you tell them not to spend any time on, and what competencies do you see getting lots of traction and resulting success?
Companies get caught up in their competency models, but we’ve identified four universal characteristics that matter for quality leadership:
Integrity – People need to know that the person in charge won’t take advantage of his or her position; that they won’t lie, steal, play favorites, or betray subordinates.
Judgment – Most businesses fail as the result of bad decisions that are compounded by an unwillingness to evaluate the decisions and change direction.
Competence – Subordinates see leaders who lack business acumen as empty suits, and are unwilling to follow them.
Vision – Good leaders explain to their team the significance of their mission and how it fits into the larger scheme of things. This vision clarifies roles, goals and the way forward, thereby facilitating team performance.