What Data Should We Use for Assessments?

March 10, 2014

Dear Shed Some Light:

“Job evaluation” is a term traditionally associated with determining value for a given job, relative to other jobs within an organization. However, given your stated goal of ensuring opportunity aligned to individuals’ interests, I’ll answer your question with a more broad view. In any conversation regarding talent, there are two underlying elements that must be addressed. The first is the need to clearly define the requirements of the job. And second is the need to evaluate the talent of a person (or group of people) in a job or aspiring to that job. 

Assess the Job

Always start with the end in mind. Before you begin an assessment, clearly articulate first what it takes to be successful in the given job or role. When defining the job, first think holistically — resist the urge to focus solely on the technical requirements (certifications, education, etc.). Your analysis must also include elements of motivational fit, experiences and interpersonal and/or leadership behaviors/competencies. Second, manage complexity. Group jobs into families with similar scope and level of responsibility where possible. Identify mission-critical roles/jobs and leverage existing data that helps define the job requirements, rather than starting from scratch.

Assess the Person

Many methods exist for assessing individuals against target job/role requirements. While there isn’t a magic bullet assessment, there is value in combining proven approaches with which your managers can comply and that meet your needs. Each has its advantages and disadvantages under various circumstances.

1.     Self-/manager ratings, including multi-rater assessments, are ideal for assessing experiences and knowledge areas because they change rapidly and can be more easily measured reliably via surveys. Be careful, however, about relying too heavily on these assessments for competency-related data where raters may not have an accurate view regarding the individual’s actual skill level.

2.     Behavioral assessments (including assessment centers, tests/inventories) are most useful for future-oriented, competency-related behaviors. What better way to assess someone’s potential for a jump to the next level than to throw them into a “try-out” situation? Look to involve and calibrate managers to evaluate individuals against a set of job-related criteria after completing development assignments as well.

3.     Leverage technology. Most talent management systems offer modules to collect and warehouse data regarding each of these elements. This data helps match people to jobs more easily. But these systems are only as good as the data collected, so plan to keep the data up to date.

4.     Lastly, avoid over-reliance on performance appraisals: They are fraught with unreliability, often mistrusted and focused on current/past job standards.


Regardless of the approach you use, above all else, communicate. Share the goals of your program with your employees and let them know what they can do to reach their career aspirations. Don’t hide the definitions of success for jobs and let individuals know where they fall short and what they can do to develop toward their goals.


SOURCE: Mac Tefft, Development Dimensions International, Senior Consultant, Selection Solutions. Feb. 13, 2014