Using Behavioral Assessments: Do Not 'Hire and Forget'

Behavioral assessments can pay off if you remember what you’ve learned about the needs, strengths and drives of each employee after the hire.

“Fire and forget” is the military’s term for a weapon which guides itself to the target. A guided missile is a fire-and-forget weapon that requires no further input from the soldier who launches it.

Employers who are tempted to take a similar “hire and forget” approach to their use of behavioral assessments, however, are not getting the most value out of this data. The same information that provides insights in the hiring process is useful after the hire for motivation, engagement, retention and productivity.

Before asking job candidates to take a behavioral assessment (my clients use Predictive Index, or PI), a company should specify the ideal behaviors they want for the jobs they seek to fill. These job behaviors should be defined in the same language or measures that the assessment evaluates.

A typical machinist job requires that a person be technical, a specialist, formal, patient, and a team player.

After establishing this behavioral “target,” we recommend assessing pre-hire candidates early on in the hiring process. Many companies make the assessment part of their initial job applications (PI, for example, can be integrated into many electronic applicant tracking systems). Once you have the applicant’s assessment results, these should be analyzed for fit against the behavioral target.

The fit and gaps provide background and guidance for interviews and become an important input for hiring decisions. Benefits of this approach include an objective common assessment on behavioral tendencies among all candidates; less time invested in hiring because resources are focused on top priority candidates; and reduced risk that you will hire “good interviewers” rather than good candidates.

Don’t put the assessment data in a drawer after the hire is made. Your “on-boarding” practices can take advantage of the insights you gained.

A machinist with the pattern described above is going to take time to get comfortable with a new group of people. Decisions such as where to park their car, what to do at lunchtime and who to talk with on breaks can be quite stressful for newcomers. A tactic we often recommend in this specific situation is to assign newly hired employees a “buddy” who will accompany them during their first week on the job.

Imagine a shop full of the task-oriented and introverted machinists described above. Throw in the experience of the 2008-09 recession and subsequent cutbacks in hours and general austerity. Today, your surviving company and employees with valuable skills need a morale boost—what can be done? A valid, reliable behavioral assessment will provide insights on how best to motivate each individual in your workforce.

The machinists described here are experts who need specific feedback and recognition for their depth of knowledge and error-free work. Parts made to specification aren’t “what they are paid for”: It is what keeps you in business. Confirming their accomplishment in concrete ways (ideally with regular face-to-face “pats on the back”) can make a positive difference in attitudes.

Retaining strong employees by providing additional responsibilities is another way to get the most value from your assessment data. One of our manufacturing clients had a good hourly production employee who worked in the assembly area. This employee was a quiet, dutiful worker who showed up on time, did her work as assigned and played an effective role on the team.

Her PI results indicated her motivating needs were for independence and for challenges to solve problems in her own way. My client let her loose on the manufacturing floor and asked her to come up with ideas on how to more efficiently process the parts she assembled.

The results were helpful productivity: suggestions that built on this employee’s knowledge of the parts she had quietly assembled. She added great value in this process—she just needed somebody to recognize her for what she truly had to offer.

Behavioral assessments can pay off with improvements in your retention, leadership development and organizational planning if you remember what you’ve learned about the needs, strengths and drives of each employee after the hire.