Is Assessment Really So Horrible?

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Have ever asked yourself how long does it take for me to drive from home to the office? You might be able to say the approximate time for your trip, but more likely, you’ll ask yourself again the following questions: which way, what day of the week, and what modes of transportation do I take; because the answer depends on the conditions.

You might not realize that you have just applied an assessment activity, just by asking question or contemplating the duration of your trip from home to your office.

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Is Assessment Really So Horrible?

  1. 1. Is Assessment Really So Horrible? Have ever asked yourself how long does it take for me to drive from home to the office? You might be able to say the approximate time for your trip, but more likely, you’ll ask yourself again the following questions: which way, what day of the week, and what modes of transportation do I take; because the answer depends on the conditions. You might not realize that you have just applied an assessment activity, just by asking question or contemplating the duration of your trip from home to your office. How can it be? If we find some synonyms for ’assessments’ we find ‘evaluation’, ‘review’, ‘consideration’, examination’, ‘measurement’. But in a further category it implies ‘valuation’, as in ‘market value’, ‘worth’. So in summary the two together imply ‘taking a measurement’ and ‘drawing a conclusion from the measurement’. By asking and answering the above questions, you were measuring the duration of your trip from home to your office, under differing conditions, which would enable you to draw a conclusion. Assessment is an activity that we are all undertaking, but that strikes fear or hatred into the hearts of many employees. Rather than be nervous or resentful of the process, it can provide messages for us that stimulate us to change and make new use of our natural talents. In contrast ‘assessment’ in a company or organisational context should besystematic, documented, supported by policies and procedures, and well communicated. Our definition is therefore: a systematic collection, review, and use of information about recent condition for the purpose of determining individual or organisational actions. It’s interesting to note that many companies are striving to be ‘world-class’. In the Human Resource Management field, there are two factors that are consistently lead to the companies generally seen to represent ‘World-Class’ HR – those two factors are that World Class HR functions focus on measurement as a credo – seeking measures for every activity and endeavour, so that success and weakness may be accurately assessed. Secondly, World-Class HR Functions use technology to very good effect to support their activities. A thoughtful and informed approach to assessment, enabling use of measures for staff decision making, and using technology (Online Assessment, self or Multi- rater) are good examples of this. Just as our example of ‘routes to home’ above leads you to be able to select a route dependent on the conditions, the company or individual can select a course of action, depending on what is discovered in the assessment. Most people come across ‘assessment’ in organisational terms when they are applying for a job, being considered for promotion or transfer to a new role. Or maybe they are preparing an Individual Development Plan and need to set a ‘base-line’. Or when, as managers, they are asked to provide or organize ‘assessments for one or more individuals. In the past, assessments were limited to reasoning tests, to test how well you could string numbers or words together; manager appraisals, where your manager judged your results and attitude over 1
  2. 2. the previous 12 months; and occasionally psychometric tests, that had to be explained by a certified shrink at the end of the process. Today, assessments are getting cleverer and easier, and the results can be read easily after taking in a few guiding notes. While many companies are still setting up ‘assessment centers’ – that is, collections of assessments standards, tools and procedures, we find that the most recent ‘online’ questionnaires that assess individuals for ‘job suitability’ can be completed in about 20 minutes, at your home or in your office (they are online) have a ‘predictive reliability’ actually higher than interviews and assessments centre exercises. The reports that come back are as helpful to the individual as to the company, and can make you feel far more ‘in charge’ of changing yourself, and developing more effective work behaviours and management habits. Assessment also includes how we can get the information and data on the certain conditions that we want to measure. Data collection has to be done systematically using appropriate tools or methods. Referring back to the questions at the beginning of this article, where the duration of the trip from home to the office is the subject matter, several variables might determine the answer such as: - Location of respondents’ house and office – because the distance between the two is determined by the different location; - Route – the routes taken by respondents will also determine the duration of respondents’ trip from their home to their office; - Mode of transportation – the type of vehicle used to commute also determine the duration of the trip; - Departure time – the earlier respondents’ leave their house the faster they arrive at work or vice versa. These variables must be taken into consideration to get an accurate answer or series of answers to the question of how long it will take them to go from their home to their office. The result of this assessment becomes important because the information or data that we collected can be used to describe the current condition and as the basis to determine future action. In organisation terms, first there has to be a defined ‘target’. That would be the major characteristics of your current or prospective job. It might be called a Competency Profile, a Job Profile or a Trait template – all it means is someone has decided what are the important things a job-holder needs to do well, to be successful in the job. Second, there has to be an effective tool or method to take your measurements. Thirdly, there has to be someone whose job it is to describe to you the outcome of the assessments. The ‘outcomes’ these days are usually reports that compare you to the target job. Whatever the context – promotion transfer, new job or a career change… the reports can provide insights that can help steer your focus, and open new doors. Therefore, we need to bear in mind that before we conduct any assessment, we need to determine the purpose, the target, and the tools. If we are undertaking an assessment, be open to the feedback you get and use it for your benefit. Good luck with your assessments! By Kemala Hayati & David Knowles ------ 2
  3. 3. Sources: - www.education.vic.gov.au/studentlearning/assessment/preptoyear10/ - Assessing Academic Programs in Higher Education by Allen 2004 - Learner-Centered Assessment by Huba and Freed 2000 - Assessing Student Learning and Development: A Guide to the Principles, Goals, and Methods of Determining College Outcomes by Erwin 1991 - Writing & Assessing Student Learning Outcomes to Improve Classroom & Program effectiveness Facilitated by Dr. Tristan Utschig & Dr. Jonathan Gordon (University System of Georgia Faculty Development Workshop) 3

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