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Behavioural assessments – are they worth it?


Carolyn Sheppard gives DISC profiles a resounding thumbs up. Here she shares her experience of them with the community.

For the last four years I have regularly used DISC profiles which give you a snapshot of your ‘behaviours’ in a work environment. DISC is an acronym:

D =   Dominance-Challenge: How you respond to problems or challenges.
 =   Influence-Contacts – How you influence others to your point of view.
S =   Steadiness-Consistency – How you respond to the pace of the environment.
C =   Compliance-Constraints – How you respond to rules and procedures set by others.
The concept of DISC profiling is based on the work of Dr. William Moulton Marston who, in 1928, published ‘The Emotions of Normal People’. This book described the theory which is applied to nearly all the versions of DISC profiling available today. The profile is a behavioral assessment designed to accurately measure the four dimensions of normal behavior.
A few years back I completed a Level 3 ILM management qualification and  I chose Communications as my main project. For this I mapped all the preferences for the office staff using their DISC profiles and created a ‘how best to communicate with xx’ chart. It was used for many years, indicating communication preferences and styles.  It was a very simple and effective way to implement the results of our profiles and use them practically. Nothing more personal than communication preference was shared.
DISC profiles were used for recruitment and appraisal and with clients. The reports, which are created by answering very simple ‘most like’ and ‘least like’ questions, give a comprehensive summary of behavioural preferences. They are used by line managers, trainers, HR, recruitment and outplacement consultants.  
The value of using these profiling tools is not just in ‘input and output’ – you put in your answers and get your report – but what happens next. Many people will be open minded enough to accept the validity of the report, feel happy to internally challenge areas which they do not feel accurately match their perceptions, and even perhaps accept the areas which may indicate a need for self-improvement.
I recently took a different profile from the one I’d done for the last four years – this one was from The Trusted Adviser and followed a similar DISC format so it was not unfamiliar. The resulting report, however, was superior to those I’d taken before. The depth of information was far greater – the profile included more aspects and gave a greater analysis of my behaviours and preferences. Though every assessment is affected by variables (hence taking them annually), this one was definitely the most accurate I had ever taken.
Most importantly the language it used was more accessible – though probably still generated by an American English language programme, the terms and language used were easier to understand and I found much less to challenge than in previous reports. My next stage, importantly, is to go through the report with my coach.
The real power and value of behavioural assessments is how they are used to develop individual performance. The ideal scenario is that the report is not just given directly to the respondent but is reviewed by an appropriately qualified coach or manager who can then spend time going through the report with the individual and build a positive action plan. 
There are many ways in which assessments can be applied:
  • Recruitment: does the report reflect the right personality for the role they are being considered for?
  • Job hunting: the report may produce some excellent wording and highlight skills and strengths that the respondent can use in their CV or job applications
  • Appraisal: the line manager and respondent can work together (both may have their profiles completed) and improve working process and performance
  • Team building: pick members of a team who have the right mix of skills or who you know will work best together
In fact behaviour assessments can be used in many ways, for leadership development, trouble shooting, team development, sales skills, benchmarking; with the right training and understanding of the psychology behind how these reports are generated, they can become an extremely powerful tool for trainers, managers and the individual respondents.
Finally, the most important question - do they work? From personal experience, yes; impartially, one assessor I know performs over one million assessments per year – that’s just one provider! I think the proof is in the pudding, as they say.
Carolyn Sheppard is director of The Complete Trainer, a training resources ecommerce company. She has been in marketing for over 30 years and directly in learning and development for over five years.

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