Back to Insights
Brain Science
Share this Article

How psychometric tests have developed to give a real insight to HSEQ talent

  • Publish Date: Posted 16 days ago
  • Author:by Jordan Harlow

​You always want to make sure you recruit the right person to the right position. It’s a given to ensure your HSEQ performance, efficiency and staff / internal customer satisfaction. But how do you identify the "right" person before appointing them to a position? Do you rely on gut feel at interview or do you use independent testing systems?

And during their career, do you check in on staff and ensure they are not ‘quiet quitting’ or have low morale?

​To help with this process, Shirley Parsons has developed a new type of psychometrics which goes above and beyond anything seen before.

Psychometrics is a scary sounding term for a simple tool - it is the methods, techniques and theories that measure psychological variables.

Jordan Harlow, occupational psychologist at Shirley Parsons, gives us an in-depth insight into psychometrics:

In brief

​Psychometrics exist to aid in quantifying psychological processes and experiences such as intelligence, behaviour, personality or beliefs. Such metrics can give us deep insights when applied correctly, especially with elements that may be hard to objectively transfer to paper through interviews or interaction.

The background and scientific backing to these tools is not widely known which, in the past, has led to personality style pop psychologists making a trend out of a tool they do not understand, or individuals criticising the very use of these tools with a misinformed view at their core. Here is a quick tour:

​The old way

​Myers-Briggs, DISC, EPP, GMAT, CCAT and SHL - all things you might have heard of, set a candidate to complete or completed yourself in the course of an application for a job. These are tools used by companies or individuals to help understand a person on a deeper level.

​Traditionally we have used psychometrics as a quantifying research tool - tick boxes for psychological processes and experiences such as intelligence, behaviour, personality or beliefs.

​It started in the days of anthropometrics in the 1800s with inspiration from the works of Darwin and Galton.

​In the late 1800s to early 1900s Weber, Fechner and Wundt set the foundation of the field of psychology as we know it today.

​Wundt created the “thought metre” to measure an individual’s thought processes and sharp tools have since been standardised and developed to allow for insights to predict performance that are usually immeasurable qualitatively.

​With a majority of quantitative statistical research creating the backbone of the field’s validity - centuries of research has been carried out into their use, validity and challenges.

We have seen the American Psychological Association form a committee overseeing the validity and use of these tests - and then the creation of the journals Biometrika and Psychometrika, the first journals focused on the application and use of these measuring tools.

With recent studies such as the 20 year long longitudinal study by Dr. Kolesnikova discovering that there is a high level of validity in the use of psychometrics to predict performance.

However, like all approaches in science there are clear positives and negatives that must be accounted for.

Psychometrics gives a look into mental processes that may be difficult to parse through interviews or daily interaction - tools have been developed to place an individual’s personality on a scale and create a profile of the individual.

​But it can lead to response bias. An individual is taking a test for an organisation, so they might answer in what they think will reflect the best for their image rather than their actual feelings.

​In addition, while a purely quantitative approach such as a personality profile is clean and informative, humans can not be simply placed in boxes.

​The simple answer to both of these issues in the use of psychometrics in business is to take the human approach to psychometric use.

​The new way

​Use the psychometric tests in order to gain base insights into the personality or style of work that the individual uses, and then follow up and interview them on how they see the tests as reflections of themselves. The new Return on Investment (RoTI) tool, developed by Shirley Parsons using the Criteria platform but tailored specifically for the HSEQ sector, combines the psychological quantitative statistics of researching a person and the qualitative reflection of an individual.

This not only allows validation of the results but allows for them to clarify their experiences and how aspects of the other end of any one scale might exist in their behaviour.

Someone who is a high scoring extrovert on a Myers-Briggs scale might enjoy relaxing on their own outside of when they are required to be social.

Humans are complex and that complexity must be accounted for if psychometrics are to be used appropriately.

The other benefit is that it gives more value to the individual who took the test - rather than finding out they are an INTJ in a broad sense with a blurb they fit into, it allows them to self-reflect on how they interact with others and how their unique approach might be of use to those around them. ​

How to apply psychometrics correctly in the modern office: Creating cognitively diverse workplaces

Hot button issues such as quiet quitting and the great resignation - both of which have increased greatly since the Covid-19 pandemic and led to a diminishing talent pool of people from a new generation, creating real fears of a dangerous knowledge gap developing in a number of sectors - can be solved through taking a much more human focused approach in how one manages.

Psychometrics, when applied with a well rounded profile of the individual, give managers insights into their employees that might take months to uncover and waste potential.

This combination approach can be powerful in recruiting, especially for recruiters, since they get a deep view into who it is they are dealing with and how to best onboard them.

Aspects such as how to best approach an employee with information or criticism or how they best function in a team can all take experience to learn, however with insights already gained from testing and discussing with them, you can more smoothly integrate them into a team.

Assisting that discovery phase and giving them the insight into themselves also gives them more space to grow and improve on those aspects, creating even higher performing individuals, discovering and focusing on points of growth.

In some cases more quiet individuals may be lost in processes, but by taking the time to learn and explore these elements through both psychometrics and personal contact you can gain insight that can drive both you and your employee to be the best they can be.

When looking at a team in this aspect it can uncover aspects in the team that might be missing, such as a team of all differential individuals who need a more assertive element to help drive them or a team of creatives who need a more conventional element to ground them in delivery of their ideas.

This cognitive diversity is crucial in creating modern high performing teams, having a diverse range of characteristics in a team creates balance in behaviour and allows for more tools to handle situations as they arise for the team.

The science behind it

At Shirley Parsons we strive for this approach in our RoTI Program taking the quantitative aspect of an individual’s psychometric profile and then delving into their thoughts, aspirations and talking to them on a person to person level to discover how they interact and work.

Issues like quiet quitting and the slow decay of performance can often be due to a drop in motivation, which can come from many points of decay.

But by taking that human level of management you meet your employee at a personal level, attempting to understand their aspirations and motivators, creating longer lasting motivated employees.

While this may sound obvious, it can be difficult for even the most conscientious of leaders to come across these elements.

Especially as every human is different in their behaviour and how that interacts with their motivators.

And going beyond this these tools allow for the creation of high performing, cognitively diverse teams when applied correctly from the very start into the longer running periods of their employment.

Psychometrics have issues but they aren’t the scary fortune cookie some people think they are, when applied correctly they can be deep diving tools giving important insights that are crucial to management in the modern work space.

For further information, please contact Jordan Harlow at jordan.harlow@shirleyparsons.com