Quantifying the Intangibles – What’s in it for HR professionals?

#Quantifying# the# Intangibles# –# What’s# in# it# for# HR# professionals#?#

Mankind has been trying to discover and explore the outer space world in the past few decades and hey, the next few decades may be a journey of expedition to man’s inner world. Yes, the human mind is still the most exciting and unraveled mysteries that we are trying to conquer.

The field of psychology has been evolving ever since Ancient Greeks, Chinese and Indians were trying to study the mind and its philosophies. However, Psychology which was a branch of philosophy until the 1870’s, then developed as an independent scientific discipline in Germany and the United States initially.

Today, the field of psychology is fast growing and is becoming a well researched scientific discipline with highly acclaimed research institutes studying the nuances of human brain and the concept of mind. Add to it, the advances in technology, internet and the social media, the science of gauging the human mind is growing leaps and bounds.  The field of Applied Psychology and Psychometric are soon becoming a fashionable thing as well among the corporate. So, what’s this all about? Read on for an overview of the field and how it can help HR Professionals and organizations as such.

What is Psycho Profiling and Psychometric?

Psychometric is the measurement (Metric) of mental attributes (Psycho). It is a scientific method of assessment of human mental attributes towards better self understanding and performance prediction.

What can we measure?

Most of the intangible attributes of mind can be assessed using specifically developed tests. Some of the areas include,

  • Personality
  • Behaviour
  • Skills
  • Attitude
  • Aptitude
  • And many other psychological attributes.

How do we measure?

Advanced Psychological testing like eye tracker, sweat analyser, brain analyser and other instruments are used in well known psychological labs and research institutions for understanding human behaviour and mental attributes. However, we are yet to have such sophisticated methods in India. Hence, most of our Psychological assessment methods include paper and pencil tests (or online version of the same) However, it’s very important that we measure psychological aspects only with Standardized Instruments.

Standardized instruments are reliable and valid and culturally calibrated.  For eg: How do we know that we have fever?  The easy method is to place our hand on forehead and know it. Yes, we realize that we have fever.  We may then decide to take a medicine or decide to go to a doctor. But when you go to the Doctor, he places the thermometer to measure the fever and then only prescribes the medicine accordingly. And the measure gives the temperature in units like degree Celsius or Fahrenheit, so that when the score is high, the medicine and dosage is different than when the temperature is low. Now, Will you trust your doctor if he also places his hands on forehead and prescribes medicine? No, right?  Hence, using a proper diagnostic tool that is calibrated and scientifically tested and norms created is very important for proper diagnosis.

How do we know whether the test is standardized?

Check if Standardization documents are published by the test provider. The standards and norms should be ideally published in credible academic journals as well.  The reliability coefficients and validity results are included in the statistical analysis of these documents. The rule is simple – higher the reliability coefficient, the better the test. Higher the validity, the better the test!  But, hey, in some cases, the most popular tests may not have these coefficients high as well.

Why and When should we measure? What is the ROI ?

There are different psychometric tools for different needs. A good psychometric consultant identifies the needs of the client and prescribes the tools as per the need. Some tools are paid and some are free. Yes, psychometric tests may be confusing and it is intentional. Regarding ROI it’s usually based on the need and outcome. You can equate an assessment as a laboratory test in a medical situation. The diagnostic tool helps in better handling of the patient needs. Psychometric tests are similar. Five star hospital conduct MRI even for ordinary cases ! But an experienced doc can diagnose it without costly tests. Similarly some of the tools are commercial and can be done even without. But yes, technology has enabled better psychometric test construction and administration. Let’s see some of the contexts where psychometric tests can be of great use.

  • Self development : One of the most important uses of psychological assessments would be self awareness , which is the first step towards personality development
  • Organisational Restructuring : Psycho profiling helps in understanding individual differences and also in re aligning the workforce towards better performance
  • Recruitment & Training: Psycho profiling also helps in identifying suitable talents for each position based on the required personality / behaviour/ attitudes for each position
  • Career Management: Career selection is one of the most important outcome of personality and other psychological assessment. Helps in eliminating career profiles which are not matching for the person.
  • Marriage and Life partner selection: In the near future, we can envisage psychological matching getting preference over traditional matching methods like astrology or other matrimonial matching. There are already certain websites providing dating services and matching services based on personality types .

Organizations worldwide are progressively using psychometric instruments to address behavioral changes for recruitment & selection, leadership development, succession planning, high performance identification, team allocations, etc.

In today’s confused and competitive world, we aspire for solutions to simplify our problems in some objective manner and most of the commercialized psychometric tools help us in solving such problems. Just like, when we are ill, we trust the doctors and are willing to undergo any kind of diagnostic tool! Similarly commercial psychometric tests are mostly for such critical needs. For eg: for a student confused about career, a career aptitude test can help. A personality test is normally administered for people confused about life. Bigger organizations with large number of employees may find it easier for standardising recruitment and training processes by using psychometric tests for eliminating unsuitable candidates from getting selected. Again, regarding the ROI in such cases,  the damage of a bad hire or bad training may be even worse. Most psychometric tools are of self diagnosis in nature and can be used for better training interventions. However we don’t advice it as a performance appraisal tool,though some companies use leadership assessments for choosing strategic management team from middle managers.

Dos & Don’ts

  • Always use locally standardized tools. Many of the highly popular as well as costly psychological tests need not standardized in the Indian context. So, is that problem? Yes, it could be. Most of the tests are designed by American psychologists considering the American population and psyche. Imagine an American wearing a saree or any traditional Indian dress. Of course, they look pretty, but they look different. Similarly, an American test, needs to be modified to suit the local culture and interpretation style of each test item. This involves further statistical analysis and an academic acceptance as well. Alternately, tests developed by Indian author could be statistically validated in the Indian context and could be a better option.
  • Always get expert consultation. Just like there are frauds in every field, there are quacks here as well! A minimum Post Graduation qualification in Psychology is a must to become a Psycho profiling Expert. Psychometricians are still a rare breed in India and they are experts who have designed their own tests or worked on standardization studies of tests previously validated in other cultures.
  • Psycho profiling should be done with a purpose – outcome should be positive and help in decision making like recruitment, training or performance appraisal and not as a tool for reprimand or employee lay off.
  • Psychometric instruments can’t be force fitted into an organisation’s context. Market trends and individuals comfort in using certain instruments dominate the selection of instruments today. The focus must be to evaluate what is relevant to the organisation’s context as well as relevant across levels. Hence, the purpose and behaviour that can drive the purpose within the organisation needs to be identified before selecting an instrument. There is no one size that fits all.

The future of Psychometrics in India

As told in the beginning of this article, the coming decades will be full of activities dwelling into human mind. The purposes could be many – trying to understand how the human mind functions to developing artificial intelligence or in the field of robotics , the science of assessment has immense possibilities. Just like each space exploration gives new insights, each attempt to study human nature gives newer perspectives.  In Personal and Organisational context, the application of psychometric properties in designing newer assessment methods will yield objective and measurable results.

A survey conducted by Tata Strategic Management Group suggested that adoption rate of psychometric could increase to 87 percent by 2016 in the Indian organisations.
About 52 percent of organizations are currently using psychometric instruments, which facilitate objective people decisions and reduces subjectivity for all levels, it said.

Similarly, Skill development is being discussed with great zest by everyone these days.  Thanks to the huge impetus  that is being given by nationwide skill development initiative like NSDC (National Skills Development Corporation) or state level initiatives like the KASE (Kerala Academy of Skills Excellence)  or the ASAP (Additional Skills Acquisition Program). With great dreams and large scale implementation methods, the mammoth challenge of skill development of the youth exists. But even greater challenge is the right assessment methods for training and certification. India definitely needs more and more skill development and assessment experts.   As an HR professional, you too can become an assessment specialist, by undergoing higher qualifications in Psychology and Psychometrics and applying the immense possibilities of the same in your work place.

To be continued.

About the author:  Ms. Chandra Vadhana R. (CeeVee)

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She is a Skill Development Specialist and HR Trainer based in Kochi. She possesses MBA, MSc (Psy)  degrees and is at the verge of completing her doctoral research in the field of Psychometrics from CUSAT. She is the Founder and CEO of 4Tune Factory, leading Training and Management consultancy ,  Founder of T4T – Trainers 4 Tomorrow , a Trainer competency enhancement initiative and the Founder of www.T4Trainer.com , India’s first Trainers marketplace to be launched soon. She has over 12 years of professional experience in management, consulting and psychological services. She has published research articles in several national and International Journals and is an invited speaker in many institutions.

She can be contacted on 9447233501 or email id : Chandra@4tunefactory.in .

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