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Dear Workforce What Role Could Self-assessment Tools Play in Employee Development

Dear Not Sold:

Self-assessments typically are not valuable exercises for targeting development. It is like cutting your own hair: You just don’t have all the angles.

Studies have shown that inflated ratings are a problem with self-assessment. In fact, those who rate themselves the highest are generally the folks with the greatest development needs. Those who rate with self-awareness and honesty are more open to feedback and are likely to accurately target the areas they need to develop. Thus, the results may skew reality. It’s best not to use self-assessment data alone to determine an individual’s or a group’s development needs.

Self-assessment is useful and more accurate when coupled with feedback from a manager or others working closely with the individual. The real value comes from a discussion about the different perceptions that emerge, and an agreement on true development needs. Here too is where you can best communicate the importance of professional development. This does not need to be complicated. While numerous self-assessment and multi-rater tools are available, a simple piece of paper with a list of competencies and behaviors can facilitate this discussion.

Self-assessment alone can only be useful in a few situations. One is as an exercise to communicate and familiarize people with the competencies and behaviors expected of them, especially if these competencies are new to the organization. As long as you do not collect and use the data, it is a way to let people ponder their own personal development behind closed doors.

Another related use is as the first step to a multi-rater implementation. An initial self-assessment introduces the competencies to be rated in the future and lets people become familiar with the behaviors, the rating scales and the feedback tool. Again, do not use the data; just let people go through the exercise on their own as a warm-up.

Whether used as a discussion starter for development, a vehicle to introduce competencies or as the first phase of a 360-degree feedback process, make sure you clearly communicate your intentions for a survey. Any hope for honest answers depends upon it.

SOURCE: Jeff Eilertsen, Development Dimensions International, Pittsburgh, November 25, 2005.

LEARN MORE:How Could We Help Employees Develop Career Plans? Other information, including a reader’s forum, can be found in our Training & Development archive.

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.