The selection of new employees continues to be a challenge for both human resource professionals and small business owners. It is an expensive decision when we get it wrong and a great investment when we succeed in hiring a “keeper”.

So, it is not surprising that the person doing the hiring would be attracted to tools that could increase the odds of making a good decision.

The first thing to be clear about when choosing an assessment tool is that to be effective it needs to predict performance on the job. Has the tool been proven to demonstrate predictive validity?

Secondly, what are the skills or abilities the employee needs to have to perform effectively in the job and does the assessment measure these skills and abilities?

Wiley Workplace Learning Solutions, a division of John Wiley & Sons, Inc., a highly respected publisher in academic and professional circles, have found that there are three main areas that predict job performance:

  1. Cognitive Skills such as verbal and numerical skills – predict 40% of job performance
  2. Behavioural Skills such as assertiveness, sociability, strong-willed and factual – predict 40% of job performance
  3. Interests such as service orientation, financial or technical problem solving – predict 20% of job performance

DISC is a behavioural model so fits only in the behavioural skills area above. However, there is a trap here. DISC profiles are designed to measure behavioural “style”, not skills. For example, the Influencing style is typically enthusiastic, but that enthusiasm may not always be used skilfully. In fact, it could result in recklessness.

Most of the DISC profiles available in Australia are ipsative assessments and ipsative assessments should not be used for selection. All DISC profiles that utilise a 24-item forced choice questionnaire are ipsative assessments. Only the Everything DiSC® profiles which use adaptive testing technology use a Likert scale and is normative.

Ipsative personality tests are designed to measure how people prefer to behave. The ipsative approach does not allow you to directly compare applicants to each other as a normative test would do because it is measuring internal preferences. An example would be that a person might prefer to sing in a shower and does it all the time. That doesn’t mean they are skilful at singing.

Be Careful of False Claims from DISC Profile Providers

Some providers of DISC profiles claim that their profiles are designed and validated for selection. How can they be when these profiles are using an ipsative assessment methodology?

Some DISC providers also claim that the first and second graphs measure adaptive and natural behaviour. This is a myth. The British Psychological Society (BPS), in the early 90s, performed its own validation study on the 24-item DISC questionnaire and concluded that graph one and two were measuring nothing more than different views of self-perception. Current DISC providers continuing to make this assertion are working with outdated information and unsupported facts.

When a person is responding to the basic 24-item questionnaire they are simply focusing on their self-perception – a singular focus. The BPS stated that it is implausible to then believe they could get two different results such as adaptive and natural behaviour from that single focus.

Use a Normative Assessment that Measures Skills

Normative assessments allow the hiring manager to compare profile results with other candidates, and with a performance model or job profile which has determined the level of skill the job requires.

In March 2019 Wiley released a purpose-built selection tool, PXT Select, that measures all three areas that predict job performance – cognitive skills, behavioural skills and interests. It also comes with a library of over 150 performance models – proven job profiles that candidates can be compared to, to measure their degree of fit for the job.

The most important point I would like to leave you with is to firstly be clear about the skills the job requires, especially the cognitive and behavioural skills since they predict 80% of job performance. Then choose the most appropriate assessments that will measure those skills.

Keith Ayers
Intégro Learning Company Pty Ltd

Updated September 2019