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Assessment: What’s the value added?

Assessment: What’s the value added?

By: Elaine Saunders

Elaine Saunders is a consultant, and is registered as an Industrial Psychologist with the Health Professional Council Of South Africa (HPCSA).

Elaine Saunders can be contacted on about Competency-Based Assessment Workshops to be held in Cape Town, Durban, and Johannesburg in 2002.

1. Introduction

The purpose of this article is to justify the existence of assessment within the corporate context. I think that mistakenly, assessment is often viewed, as a means to an end rather than the powerful tool it can be to control business results.

What do I mean by this – well once again, the process is what is important and here I refer you to the model below.

When management decide upon a strategic direction for the business, they identify certain business results they want to achieve. In order to achieve these results they have to apply resources to the process, and one of these resources is people.

The people they employ have to play certain roles in achieving the strategy and they also need an appropriate set of competencies to take on these roles and to support the achievement of the results. These competencies can be brought into the organisation via selection or they can be developed, where appropriate in current employees. What matters however, is how accurately these competencies can be assessed in order to ensure that the organisation has the right resources to apply to the achievement of results.

If management decides to install a machine in the production line to support the achievement of production and sales targets – they will design the machine to produce a certain amount of product to support the sales targets. They will also carefully monitor that the machine produces this requirement, on a daily basis. Detailed production and productivity charts will be drawn up daily to track progress and to ensure that production is in line with the achievement of the strategic objectives.

However, what do organisations do to track the performance and results of people? Not very much really – we just assume that if we employ someone they will do the necessary work and produce the results. It is the one area where effective control mechanisms are seldom applied.

2. What is assessment?

Assessment is in essence, a mechanism, which controls the performance of people.

When people think of assessment they tend to perceive it in a somewhat myopic light e.g. as an instrument to measure cognitive or personality traits in a selection context. However, assessment is far more powerful than this and extends across a wide variety of human performance and business results. As the model in figure 1 shows assessment contributes to the measurement of human attributes in a selection, developmental and career planning and succession context.

Figure 1: The Role Of Assessment In Business

 

STRATEGY

 

 

People

Business

 

Roles

Competencies

Kpi’s

Results

ASSESSMENT

 

 

Recruitment & Selection

Development

Career Planning

Succession Planning

Performance Management

 

 

RESULTS

 

 

Let’s have a closer look at these different contexts:

# Selection assessment tells you whether you are ‘buying the right product’ initially, to put it in cold business terms. In a selection context we are measuring competency and we do so, unless we have internal candidates, without any direct exposure to the individual’s prior performance and experience. We rely on the honesty and subjective reports of others, to tell us about the candidate’s past.

The assessment methods appropriate in this context are:

> Psychometric assessment - for behavioural attributes and cognition

> Learning Potential Assessment - particularly where disadvantaged people and equity target groups are concerned

> Biographical Forms and CV’s

> Structured Interviews – based on competencies identified in the competency profile

> Assessment Centres, which include practical exercises, are an option at senior levels of the organisation

> Work samples - for technical and practical skills

Selection assessment is challenging in that we cannot rely on the accurate evaluation of past performance, which research has shown to be a very valid and reliable predictor of future performance.

# Developmental assessments allow you to compare the set of competencies of an individual with those required by a certain role, position or job and then to bridge the gap between the two through the application of training and developmental opportunities, where these are appropriate.

Appropriate assessment methodologies for developmental assessments are:

> The assessment of learning potential - i.e. will the person be able to grasp the concepts presented in training and benefit from the learning experience?

> Language assessment – does the individual have appropriate language skills for training – i.e. will he or she be able to understand the learning materials?

> Numerical skills – i.e. if numerical ability will be required as part of the training, for example in an advanced management program

> Psychological assessment applied as an instrument of self -awareness and learning

> 360-degree evaluation – incorporating self, superior and peer evaluation – as an instrument of self-awareness

 

The above methodologies create a starting point – a ‘this is where I am now’ scenario. This is then used as the basis for identifying a learning pathway against which progress can be monitored. Self-assessment and the gathering of information from team members and management are critical in enabling the individual to understand the differences in how they perceive themselves and how they are perceived by others.

# Performance Management assesses the results of human endeavour. In this sense it controls the achievement of strategic objectives. That is of course, if these strategic initiatives and roles have been embedded into the competency profiles in the first place. The methodology most often used in assessing performance outcomes is:

> Daily monitoring of achievement of targets on a daily/weekly basis. This is an integral element of daily operational management.

> 360-degree evaluation

> Structured Interviews

> Quarterly performance evaluation against strategic objectives

> Client Surveys – in customer/client focused environments

Performance management is a control mechanism in the business sense. It controls for business results. However, it is also a powerful developmental tool, when applied in a structured and consistent manner.

3. Competency profiles and NQF unit standards

The competency profile drives the assessment process as well as the control of results. It is the benchmark for the position. It also defines the standards of performance and business results required from the person in that position. Thus the development of the competency profile is crucial to the control of results. If we define what we want to achieve incorrectly in the profile, then we will not achieve the results, i.e. we will be measuring the wrong things.

The first step in any assessment process is to decide what is to be measured. A well-developed competency profile forms the basis of most human resource processes, particularly those mentioned above. Input to the profiles must come from the following sources:

> The company’s strategic objectives – people often look surprised when I ask them for this information – but how can we hope to achieve strategic results if we are not embedding these initiatives into the work that people do on a daily basis?

> The current incumbent of the position and the person the position reports to – it is surprising how different the two perspectives often are

> Existing position profiles (if any) – take care to ensure that these are not out of date in relation to current strategic and organizational development initiatives

None of these sources of information can be left out, particularly the strategic objectives. It is critical to ensure that the activities that people carry out every day and the results they achieve, are directly aligned to strategy. Traditionally the drawing up of job profiles was to simply write down a list of activities that the person performed, without including any element of change, stretch or cognisance of what that particular position contributes to the future growth and viability of the organization.

The competency profile must depict the following information:

> The knowledge, skills and behavioural attributes (competencies) necessary to perform the job

> The outcomes, or business results the individual is required to achieve

> The assessment methods appropriate for measuring these competencies and outcomes in a selection, developmental and performance management context.

This format complies with the requirements of a National Qualification Standard (NQF) Unit Standard. An example of a competency profile for the job of Human Resource (HR) Manager is shown in table 1.

Table 1: An example of a competency profile for an HR Manager job

JOB TITLE : HR Manager

Job Grade :

 

Review Date : (every year or when structure/roles/responsibilities are changed)

 

 

Competency

 

Activity

(answers the question what?)

Must be able to ….

 

Outcome

(answers the question why?)

In order to ………

Assessment Methodology

(Refers to a Recruitment, Developmental or Performance Management Context)

KNOWLEDGE COMPONENT

Guideline Only

 

HR Diploma and/or Tertiary Qualification

NQF Level 7/8

5 years appropriate experience

(t)

RHRMK001

 

 

 

Recruitment :

Cognitive Assessment Biographical Form

+References/Past

Performance Mgt Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

Competency

 

Activity

(answers the question what?)

Must be able to ….

 

Outcome

(answers the question why?)

In order to ………

Assessment Methodology

(Refers to a Recruitment, Developmental or Performance Management Context)

SKILLS COMPONENT

Language

(t)

RHRMS001

Must be able to read , write and speak fluently in English and Afrikaans

In order to –

  • Communicate effectively orally and in writing with all stakeholders, especially the client base
  • Be able to read and understand the relevant written documentation
  • Understand client requests clearly by utilising appropriate questioning techniques
  • Write professional documents for clients and service providers
  • Generally communicate effectively in writing
  • Compile professional management reports

Recruitment :

Structured Interview

Work Sample

+Performance Management

Review/Referencing

Development :

360 degree evaluation

Performance Management Review

Performance management :

Client Survey

Performance Management Review

360 degree evaluation

**Monitoring results

Numerical Skills

(t)

RHRMS002

Must have well developed numerical skills, i.e. addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, ratios and percentages

In order to –

  • Compile effective and accurate financial reports and analyses to the client base
  • Develop, implement and control the HR budgets
  • Do necessary calculations in compiling monthly reports
  • Understand and apply the financial viability ratios – i.e. productivity, profitability and return on investment

Recruitment :

Work Sample

+Performance Management

Review/Referencing

Development :

Performance Management Review

Performance management :

Performance Management Review

Client Survey

**Monitoring results

Attention to detail

(t)

RHRMS003

Must be able to produce

  • Accurate and timeous administrative work
  • Accurate and timeous management and other relevant reports

 

In order to

  • Control the accuracy and quality of work carried out in the HR department
  • Identify and respond effectively to areas of non-conformance in HR processes and results

 

Recruitment :

Paper and Pencil Test

+Performance Management

Review/Referencing

Development :

Performance Management Review

360 degree evaluation

Performance Management :

Performance Management Review

Client Survey

360 degree evaluation

**Monitoring Results

Computer Skills

(t)

RHRMS004

Must be able to use a computer effectively and understand and utilise the following software packages

  • MS Word
  • Excel
  • Email and Internet
  • Power Point
  • Payroll Systems
  • HR Systems technology

In order to

 

  • Utilise technology effectively for written communication
  • Compile management reports and analytical spreadsheets on Excel
  • Use Excel effectively for advanced calculations and graphs
  • To optimally utilise technology for presentations when required
  • Optimally utilise technology to improve efficiency in HR
  • Manage optimal outcomes from the payroll system

Recruitment:

Structured Interview

+Performance Management

Review/Referencing

Development :

Performance Management

Review

360 deg evaluation

Performance Management :

Performance Management

Review

360 deg evaluation

Client Survey

Technical Ability

(t)

RHRMS005

Must have –

  • In-depth knowledge of best practice Human Resources processes
  • A working knowledge of the Labour Relations Act, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, the Employment Equity Act
  • A working knowledge of payroll systems
  • A sound knowledge of conflict management techniques and processes
  • A sound understanding of wage negotiation processes

In order to

  • Effectively manage the HR Department
  • Maximise profits and return on investment for the organization
  • Communicate effectively to all clients and stakeholders about HR issues
  • Adhere to standard operating procedures and/or laid down policies and procedures
  • Develop best practice HR policies and procedures
  • Resolve conflict optimally in disciplinary and grievance situations as well as in negotiations with union/employee representatives
  • Optimise the company’s interests in wage negotiations
  • Ensure compliance with all relevant HR legislation
  • Develop and implement disciplinary and grievance procedures effectively
  • Assist with payroll queries where necessary
  • Ensure that all departments at ABC Company comply with Equity policy and targets
  • Ensure that legally compliant recruitment policy and procedure is in place
  • Ensure optimal policy and procedure is in place for the training and development of ABC Company employees at all levels

Recruitment :

Structured Interview

Work Sample

Performance Management Review/Referencing

Development :

Performance Management

Review

Performance Management :

Performance Management

Review

Client Survey

** Monitoring Results

 

 

 

BEHAVIOURAL ATTRIBUTES

Competency

 

Activity

(answers the question what?)

Must be able to ….

 

Outcome

(answers the question why?)

In order to ………

Assessment Methodology

(Refers to a RecuitmentRecruitment, Developmental or Performance Management Context)

Leadership Skills

(T)

RHRMBA001

Must have well developed leadership ability

In order to

  • Influence and motivate staff to high levels of performance
  • Develop optimal relationships with all stakeholders who influence the efficiency of the organization, externally or internally
  • Build strong team relationships which generate energy towards strategic achievements
  • Promote harmonious cultural diversity within the HR department
  • Develop and empower employees and promote an environment of continuous learning
  • Act as a mentor and counsellor in development issues at an individual and/or group level
  • Identify, recruit, develop and maintain appropriate skills levels aligned with strategic intent
  • Communicate regarding strategy and influence people to strive towards the achievement of the strategic objectives of the organization
  • Constantly monitor achievement of strategy
  • Display innovation and creative thinking in optimising the performance of the HR Department and the organization as a whole
  • Be a role model for all in regard to performance, values and commitment to the goals of the organization
  • Engage others in decision making, encourage consultation but be responsible for effective decision making
  • Build relationships with employees that promote and support trust, confidence and the achievement of mutual needs
  • Be a champion in supporting excellence in client service

Recruitment :

Personality Assessment*

Structured Interview

Assessment Centre

+Performance Management

Review/Referencing

Development :

Learning Potential Assessment

Personality Assessment

360 Degree Evaluation

Performance Management

Review

Performance Management :

Performance Management

Review

360 Degree Evaluation

** Monitoring Results

Interpersonal Skills

(T)

RHRMBA002

Must be able to relate effectively to internal and external clients, and all interested stakeholders

In order to

  • Interact effectively with all stakeholders, particularly the client base
  • Manage the optimization of client satisfaction
  • Influence stakeholders in achieving strategic initiatives
  • Negotiate optimal outcomes in establishing strategic alliances with stakeholders who can impact on the achievement of strategy
  • Build optimal relationships with employees which support motivation
  • Counsel employees with problems or performance issues
  • Handle interpersonal and/or inter-group conflict situations effectively and with sensitivity

 

Recruitment :

Personality Assessment*

Structured Interview

Assessment Centre

+Performance Management

Review/Referencing

Development :

Learning Potential Assessment

Personality Assessment

360 Degree Evaluation

Performance Management

Review

Performance Management :

Performance Management

Review

Client Survey

** Monitoring Results

Problem solving & Decision making

(t)

RHRMBA003

Must have –

  • well developed problem solving skills and analytical ability
  • an ability to think creatively and to be innovative in approaching problem solving

In order to

  • Be able to apply creative thinking and analytical ability in solving non-routine, complex problems in a context of numerous influencing variables and a lack of precedent to act as a guideline
  • Make and implement appropriate decisions in response to non-routine problems where solutions are not obvious and a number of influential variables are present
  • Analyse and interpret management reports as a guideline in identifying problem areas
  • Optimise client satisfaction at all times
  • Make optimal timeous decisions in relation to the implementation of solutions to problems
  • Constantly evaluate and monitor the profitability and market share of the organization in relation to strategic objectives

Recruitment :

Personality Assessment*

Structured Interview

Assessment Centre

+Performance Management

Review/Referencing

Development :

Learning Potential Assessment

Personality Assessment

360 Degree Evaluation

Performance Management

Review

 

 

Performance Management :

Performance Management

Review

360 Degree Evaluation

**Monitoring Results

Planning, Organising and Controlling

(t)

RHRMBA004

Must have sound management skills

In order to

  • Manage the achievement of targets
  • Manage optimal relationships with the client base
  • Manage the financial controls within the HR department effectively
  • Generate policies and procedures which are aligned with HR processes and procedures
  • Ensure productivity is maximised at all times
  • Prioritize tasks effectively between routine tasks and urgent unscheduled work requests
  • Ensure that standard operating procedures, quality standards and laid down policies and procedures are strictly adhered to at all times
  • Optimally process and/or manage administrative tasks where necessary
  • Ensure the expected outcomes from the HR Department are in line with the strategic intent of the organization
  • Ensure alignment of the department with all legal requirements

Recruitment :

Personality Assessment*

Structured Interview

Assessment Centre

+Performance Management

Review/Referencing

Development :

Learning Potential Assessment

Personality Assessment

360 Degree Evaluation

Performance Management

Review

 

Performance Management :

Performance Management

Review

Client Survey

360 Degree Evaluation

**Monitoring Results

Stress Tolerance

(T)

RHRMBA005

Must be an emotionally resilient individual who can cope with pressure and interact effectively in sensitive situations

In order to

  • Achieve departmental targets and objectives within appropriate time frames
  • Manage relationships effectively for staff and other stakeholders, within a context of diversity of culture

Recruitment :

Personality Assessment*

Structured Interview

Assessment Centre

+Performance Management

Review/Referencing

Development :

Learning Potential Assessment

Personality Assessment

360 Degree Evaluation

Performance Management

Review

 

 

Performance Management :

Performance Management

Review

Client Survey

360 Degree Evaluation

**Monitoring Results

* Psychometric assessment – must be supervised by a Registered Psychologist

‘t’ considered being a trainable competency

‘T’ considered being a competency, which may be difficult to train, and which would take some time to achieve results

** Performance Management Assessment: Monitoring Results

Refers to the day-to-day monitoring of short term results via one-on-one discussions or operational meetings.

+ ‘References’ refer to external candidates and ‘Performance Mgt Review’ to internal candidates

The term ‘client’ refers to both internal and external clients

Compiled by : E M Saunders

January 2002

4. Conclusion

So to answer the question, what value does assessment add to an organisation? It is essentially a control mechanism, which if applied effectively, ensures that the correct human resources are brought into the company up front and that these resources produce the required results in line with company strategy. It also ensures that where there are gaps in competency, that these are identified and addressed.

The competency profile is the key driver in an assessment process- it is the planning tool – if we get this wrong, then we get everything else wrong as well. For valid results from assessment, which support the achievement of business objectives, you must make sure the planning process is accurately carried out. No company can carry out effective assessment without a valid set of competency profiles for each position, across all levels.


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Gary Watkins

Gary Watkins

Managing Director

BA LLB

C: +27 (0)82 416 7712

T: +27 (0)10 035 4185 (Office)

F: +27 (0)86 689 7862

Website: www.workinfo.com
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