Diagnostic Assessment Ensures Leadership Fit That Directly Impacts Business: Grant Thornton’s Ritika Mathur
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Diagnostic Assessment Ensures Leadership Fit That Directly Impacts Business: Grant Thornton’s Ritika Mathur

Grant Thornton
Ritika Mathur, Partner, Human Capital Consulting, Grant Thornton Bharat LLP

We spoke to Ritika Mathur, Partner, Grant Thornton Bharat LLP, about the paradigm shift that is happening in the assessment industry,  the role of assessment in training, retention and employee experience, and much more.

Could you give us an overview of the Indian assessment services market? How pandemic is reshaping assessment post-Covid-19?

Theoretically, the industry’s size was predicted to be around $750 million by 2021. Technical and competency-based assessments, which are very tangible in nature, have been prevalent in organisations, whether financial services or IT. These assessments, which evaluate IQ and skills, have seen a very high adoption rate. 

However, the industry has historically seen lower adoption of personality and behaviour exams. In the last few years, in my experience, the tide has turned in this case as well. The main reason is that B schools have introduced psychometric analysis, specifically the personality tests in their batch profiling. These tests, when used in conjunction with other tests, give a good understanding of the candidate’s fit. The corporates have been affected by this too. As a result, we are seeing a lot of organisations adopting psychometric analysis or personality tests as a part of their screening process, usually for extremely important roles.

Additionally, post-Covid, when the entire recruitment process moved to virtual mode, creating a comprehensive training program has enabled the adoption of psychometric analysis as well as a part of the overall evidence evaluation package. In conclusion, assessment tests have historically been used in India and have been primarily used for competency-based assessments. However, we see a demand notably increasing at the leadership level when organisations are hiring or promoting somebody, and there, the use of behavioural assessments, leadership style assessments, or psychometric analysis has seen an upward trend.

Across the spectrum of all the assessment areas, how much of it has become more digital now? 

The administration of tests has been digital. People are moving away from pen and paper, both on the technical side of things, as well as on personality tests. There are tools in the market that can even be customised internally to be able to administer these tests and surveys digitally, giving the flexibility to both employer and employee to be able to fill them out at their own pace. The data collation, part of the analysis, becomes a lot easier when it is administered digitally because then you no longer have to essentially go ahead and collate all of it. So, from an administrative standpoint, it’s a lot easier to do this digitally and then run analytics on the basic data that you’ve received. So, to answer your question, 90% of the time I have seen assessments being conducted digitally.

Also read: Psychometric Tests: Demystifying Assessments And Debunking Myths

For using assessment tools in hiring talent in senior leadership, where is the decision coming from? Is it that the company’s board is now expecting to use assessment tools?

The first is to have a general understanding of the key aspects of hiring leaders. Then there is the technical aspect. It’s also crucial to pay attention to factors like cultural integration. So, for example, a person who has always been an individual contributor, may not be an ideal fit for a leadership position where they have to interact and work with multiple team heads. The cost of making a poor decision at a senior level could have negative effects not just in terms of monetary aspects, but also disrupts the business. 

Therefore, as these screening mechanisms and processes become a lot more sophisticated, there will be an increasing reliance on these types of personality tests to ensure that the right path has been chosen from the beginning itself.

Some companies also use it for retention and training. Could you throw some light on how that works? 

We hear a lot about the millennial and Gen Z workforce regarding retention. So, we conducted a survey sometime back to understand total rewards, for example, how it goes beyond just compensation. The results showed that people want to feel satisfied at work.  

Earlier, if an employee was considering leaving, raising his/her remuneration would entice them to stay. But that trend is changing. Now, people are understanding that it is more than just compensation that drives retention, it’s basically the satisfaction that people derive from the kind of work they do.

In essence, these assessments help you understand people’s profiles, which then will help you evaluate their competencies. These tests will also assist in determining an individual’s leadership style, and the kind of autonomy they need, including whether they like working as an individual contributor or in bigger teams at the senior manager or mid-manager level.

Therefore, through these tests, employers are truly capable of understanding what management styles will fit particular groups of their employees. For example, if you choose someone who values autonomy highly, you put them in a very process-oriented role and you will see their satisfaction level go up. Hence, these assessments give insights into what is going to motivate and encourage employees which will eventually increase retention.

“First and foremost, people need to understand that these assessment tools are not appraisal tools. They’re not telling an employer about an employee’s performance on a specific task. They’re describing their personality and cognitive abilities the person has to be able to take on a particular role.”

Are these tests conducted periodically or during an exit interview?

For example, when someone moves from a mid-manager to a senior manager level, many of these assessments are administered at that time. However, during the course of the employment itself, they don’t need to necessarily be administered periodically because you are assessing the personality of a candidate, not the knowledge or information that they hold, I am talking about psychometric assessments specifically.

What is the role of assessment in training programs?

First and foremost, people need to understand that these assessment tools are not appraisal tools. They’re not telling an employer about an employee’s performance on a specific task. They’re describing their personality and cognitive abilities the person has to be able to take on a particular role. 

If I take on the role of a business unit leader, my assessment tool will tell me that I excel at client management and innovation, but there is room for me to do more on people management, which is where I’m scoring low. This means that these are some of the development areas that the test has highlighted, which will then be incorporated into my training plan itself. And that’s how typically organisations also end up using these tools to understand how people who are doing well in a certain role, how can they do even better. Therefore, these assessment tools work like diagnostic tools.

Attrition is one of the major issues we are facing right now. What do you think about tech-enabled businesses or IT organisations using this as a tool to spot the early signs of attrition?

This is getting utilised by organisations frequently to determine whether the fit within the organisation is appropriate or not. Like I said earlier, to manage attrition, it is important to ensure that people are motivated to do the work they’ve been assigned with. 

How can assessment effectively be used to enhance the candidate experience and employee experience?

At Grant Thornton, we are using these tools in a way that when somebody moves into a higher role, it will give the candidate a very clear understanding of what are the things that he/she needs to improve upon and help the panel, people who are assessing the candidate, to know if he/she is ready to get into the new role or not. This again is done to ensure leadership fit, which directly affects the business.

These assessments can truly be helpful because they provide insight into the preferences, personalities, skills, competencies, and other characteristics of each individual. And those insights will help you understand what genuinely motivates someone and how it influences the employee experience. It’s critical for an employer to make sure that the individuals they are hiring or promoting into a particular role are a good fit for that role. Otherwise, the training necessary for that role or the performance levels they are expecting won’t be met. Therefore, these assessment tools make it possible to evaluate applicants to ensure that they fit the profile for which they are being hired or promoted.

How can a company build a skill inventory of its tech talent?

Competency assessments help organisations do that by developing specific tests that allow for a very detailed assessment of the current competencies within the workforce. 

For example, how many people are good with things like coding or are proficient with excel. To find out, competency assessments will first create a library of those skills that are required in the organisation across multiple tasks. Then map the proficiency level of the workforce in each of these to know who are the strong performers for that particular skill. Hence, you’ll be able to identify the people who need training specifically for those particular skills. 

As a result, this contributes to both the training plan and any projects that may require a combination of the skills that you have mapped out in the library. They provide you with a ready database to determine who could be the best fit for a given project. So, before you actually go in and start defining your training needs, competency assessments play a very important role, specifically in a high-stake project, to quickly determine who in the organisation could be the best fit to deliver that project.

Also read: How To Assess A CHRO? Veteran HR Leader Prabir Jha Opines

What kind of business impact a solid assessment strategy can create?

In terms of the business impact specifically, we conduct detailed assessments every time someone moves from a role of an associate director to a director or a director to a partner because we want to ensure that people are ready to take on those responsibilities. These diagnostic assessment tools effectively give both the candidate as well as the panel a lot of insights in terms of what else they can do.

So at Grant Thornton, we are using these tools in a way that when somebody moves into a higher role, it will give the candidate a very clear understanding of what are the things that he/she needs to improve upon and help the panel, people who are assessing the candidate, to know if he/she is ready to get into the new role or not. This again is done to ensure leadership fit, which directly affects the business. So, this is how I think assessments can really help in driving a business impact, both in terms of employee and employer experiences, as well as in terms of the business impact itself.

It is utilised to drive accuracy, leading to a far more accurate screening process overall, rather than efficiency in terms of time. Therefore, I wouldn’t say that the business impact comes from reducing the time taken to onboard new employees; rather, the time you spend effectively to find the right candidate creates the biggest impact, as a result, lowering the costs associated with it.

Registered Name: Grant Thornton Bharat LLP
Year of Incorporation: 2000
Number of Employees: 7000+
Founders: Vishesh C Chandiok
Key Executives: Prashant Mehra, Siddhartha Nigam, Vikas Vasal
Business Line: Business consulting
Key HR Factor: good2Great Culture programme, Learning & Development, SuperCoach programme, Health & Wellness

 

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