February 7, 2019

Why We Assess Attributes: The ABCs of Success

The first post of this series introduced a simple and comprehensive model for making great talent decisions - "The ABCs of Success." We love this model at TSP, as it offers a full picture of the factors that influence who will be successful in a particular role.

Today's post breaks down the "A" - Attributes.

Attributes are what's in a person - think of it as what is "hard-wired." This includes things like personality traits, temperament, dispositions, preferences, tendencies, values, and motives.

Why are attributes an important part of making great talent decisions? There are several reasons, but two stand out.

  • First, attributes tend to be consistent over time. Stanford psychology professor Carol Dweck notes that our temperament begins to take shape when we are infants and provides the basis for other aspects (personality and motives, notably) to develop as we grow. This being the case, individuals' behavior is not determined by situational factors alone.  The specifics of future roles and responsibilities may not be known yet, but the consistency of attributes over time enables organizations to start investing in talent that is likely to produce the greatest return. This is why attributes are important to consider not just as part of hiring decisions for a particular role, but as part of high-potential programs and bench placement decisions.
  • Second, attributes influence job performance. Many organizations who assess attributes as part of either selection or development processes understand that attributes do not determine job performance, but they provide important insights into who is most likely to be successful in certain roles. While it depends on which model is used (for example, the "Big Five" model of personality), generally the best case is that personality accounts for 20 percent of the performance equation. This may not sound significant at first, but given the large amount of time, money, and energy that organizations invest into making talent decisions, the possibility of taking out 20 percent of the risk is a game-changer.

One common push-back against assessing attributes is that it puts people "in boxes." Psychological assessments (those created for the workplace context) that are designed to shed light on a person's attributes, aren't about putting people in boxes, or even qualifying or disqualifying them for a certain position or spot on the bench. Again, attributes are just PART of the equation, as background and competencies are also important to factor in to talent decisions. However, being called upon to routinely carry out tasks that are not a natural fit may lead to eventual underperformance, burnout, and turnover.

At TSP, we leverage best-in-class tools to assess for attributes and help organizations make great talent decisions. Our team of Industrial/Organizational Psychologists works with clients to integrate psychological assessments into their hiring and development processes. Whether it's creating customized interview guides or providing hiring managers with powerful insights into candidates, we can help you take your talent to the next level—so contact us to learn more!

In our next post, we'll explore the next part of our ABC model, “Background.” We'll share some best practices to assess individual’s backgrounds that go far beyond a simple resume review, so be sure to check back soon!

Tags: consulting & assessment, I/O psych

Justin Long

Justin Long is a passionate industrial / organizational psychologist with valuable experience as both an internal and external consultant. His consulting background integrates the areas of executive assessment, leadership development, talent management, and training. Justin earned his Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. He also earned a Master of Theology degree from Fuller Theological Seminary, and a Bachelor's in both Psychology and Philosophy from the University of Delaware. 

Justin has lived in Atlanta, Los Angeles, Dallas, and now Temecula (about 60 miles north and inland from San Diego). 

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