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How do I know if a profiling tool actually works?

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There’s a lot going on in the world of technology, and in the world of HR.  And the two come together in many ways – one being profiling tools.  Or if you like, psychometrics.  Except that not all profiling tools are psychometrics.  That is, some tools that claim to measure human qualities haven’t actually been held up to rigorous testing.  Or to being reviewed by anyone other than the people who built them.  So what should you look for when picking a profiling tool for your workplace?  And what’s the difference between a profiling tool and a psychometric anyway?

We’re often asked by clients to help them in making decisions about which tests to use in their organisations. Here are our tips for making good choices when selecting a tool:

Okay then, what is the difference between a profiling tool and a psychometric?

Pretty much anyone can say that they have developed a tool that can provide information on human behaviour and performance, without proper testing or achieving any particular standards.  For a tool to be termed ‘psychometric’, it needs to have been developed in a way that makes sure it is fit for purpose. That it is reliable, valid and that it measures people accurately.  So you can trust the results you get from it.

So what is a reliable tool?

It’s one that produces the same or similar result over time and in different testing situations. To be sure you have a good test, it shouldn’t produce hugely varied results over time, or in different testing situations. That way, you know that you are looking at something pretty permanent in the person being tested.

What is a valid tool?

Well it means that a tool actually does what it claims to do. So if the authors of a tool say it can predict performance at work, what proof is there of that claim?  If a tool says it measures someone’s personality, exactly what does it mean by personality and how it is measuring that accurately?  If it says it can be used in for a particular purpose (like recruitment, or development), how much testing has been done to make sure it produces accurate results in those situations?

Okay, this actually sounds quite complicated.  So who enforces these standards – where do I go to make sure I’ve picked something that really works?

Fortunately, the British Psychological Society (BPS) does a lot of the hard work in this area.  The BPS has a set of standards accepted across the world that they use to gauge whether a test can be recommended for use based on its measurement (or psychometric) properties.  And if you go to their website, you can see which tests have achieved this standard. Using this method means you can be absolutely sure you are using a test that has been proved to be fit for purpose.

So our advice is to look carefully for evidence that a profiling tool actually works, such as Strengthscope® which has recently become the first strengths assessment in the world to achieve Registered Test Status with the UK’s British Psychological Society (BPS), and scrutinize that evidence before you choose to use it in your organisation.

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