If you use assessments in your talent management strategy, you might already be familiar with cognitive ability tests. Cognitive abilities are any brain-based skills that help us solve problems; they are essentially how your brain carries out any task from simple to the most complex. They dictate how you behave, interact with people, and react to situations, and therefore indicate how you might perform in a job role.
But even if you do use assessments and cognitive ability as a part of your talent management strategy, how confident are you in the tests or questionnaires you use? Do you know where each measure came from and who developed it? Is it proven to work? Is it fair and unbiased?
Talent analytics are big in the HR world and there are an overwhelming amount of assessment options available. When you invest time and money in assessments to build your organization from the inside out, you should feel confident that you are using the best tools available. While it has already been proven that cognitive ability is the best way to predict future performance (as it indicates potential), not all cognitive ability tests are created equal.
At hfi we feel very strongly about providing our clients with the best, and most accurate, people data. This passion has been the core thread of hfi for many years, all the way back to when Dr. Adrian Atkinson founded the company in 1983. Early on he decided to develop his own suite of tests and questionnaires to ensure that the tools he used for clients were the highest quality. Because of its predictive power, cognitive ability needed to be a pillar of all future hfi assessments. Adrian did an intensive review of existing cognitive ability tests at the time to see where they may be falling short. He found three key areas where most measures were not up to par, and sought to develop one that addressed these shortcomings. When you select a cognitive ability test for your organization, keep in mind the following three things it must do for you.
One of the most important things any exceptional intelligence test must do is differentiate between what Dr. Raymond Cattell calls Fluid Intelligence and Crystallized Intelligence1.
Fluid Intelligence is the ability to think and reason abstractly and solve complex problems. Fluid Intelligence is considered to be independent of learning, experience, and education.
“Fluid Intelligence is the ability to perceive relationships independent of previous specific practice or instruction concerning those relationships.”
Crystallized Intelligence is the ability to utilize your experience such as vocabulary, verbal skills and numerical understanding, mechanical aptitude, social skills, etc. to solve problems and come to valid conclusions. This ability is dependent on acquired knowledge, experience, cultural aspects and education.
When considering a candidate for a role, both types of intelligence are worth looking at. However, it is Fluid Intelligence that plays a large part in determining a person’s true future potential. If a candidate has strong Crystallized Intelligence, it is harder to tell if they are actually a strong, creative, problem-solving thinker, or if they have simply had years of practice in one field. Depending on the role, knowing the difference between Crystallized and Fluid Intelligence could make or break your hire.
In 1986, John Hunter published one of several now famous reviews of hundreds of studies showing that general cognitive ability predicts job performance in all jobs.
“General cognitive ability predicts supervisor ratings and training success. Much of this predictive power stems from the fact that general cognitive ability predicts job knowledge…and job knowledge predicts job performance, both at a correlation of .80 (1.0 is perfect correlation). However, cognitive ability predicts performance beyond this value verifying job analyses showing that most major cognitive skills are used in everyday work. [The evidence shows that] it is general cognitive ability and not specific cognitive aptitudes that predict performance.”
It easily follows that if you are interested in bringing people into your organization that will perform well in their role and drive success, a reliable measure of their cognitive ability will help you pick the right candidates.
More companies than ever have gone global. Cross-cultural leadership is a crucial topic in HR, and for good reason. It is just as crucial, then, to ensure that any psychometric assessment you use does not cast biases across any one cultural group. Only the best cross-cultural assessments will permeate cultural differences and will still give you accurate insights no matter which cultural background your candidate identifies with. A questionnaire can be translated fairly easily, but if only Brazilian candidates are taking the Brazilian questionnaire, and only Swiss candidates do the Swiss questionnaire, how can you compare their results fairly? A truly international norm base is the only way to fairly compare candidates across cultures and languages.
Fortunately for hfi and our clients, Adrian developed GRIT, the cognitive ability test used in our Executive Assessment and asked for by clients to this day. Here’s how it addresses the three issues discussed above:
What you don’t want from an assessment is to measure learned skills, because that information is readily available thanks to resumes, CVs, and LinkedIn. The questions included in GRIT have nearly no trace of a narrative, meaning there is nothing to interpret when people read answer the questions. Intellectual ability is a very stable measure after the age of 18 and the cognitive ability test developed by Dr. Atkinson was designed to be a measure of fundamental intellectual ability as defined by Cattell as ‘Fluid Intelligence’ and not affected by learning or practice.
In 2014, hfi conducted a study to see just how accurate GRIT and our assessments were at recommending the right candidates for the right roles. We found that of candidates we assessed and recommended for promotion, 1 and 2 years after the promotion our assessments accurately predicted the candidate’s performance. We even found specific personality traits and values that were strongly correlated with high performance ratings at the 1 and 2-year mark. You can read more about that study here.
To ensure that the assessment was internationally applicable from the get go, every item was scrutinized for potential linguistic and cultural biases and checked by people from eight different countries. It’s easy enough for test publishers to simply translate a questionnaire into multiple languages, but what hfi has done with GRIT over the years is build a truly international comparison group, so that people from different countries and cultures are fairly and objectively compared against each other account for cultural differences.
If you are interested in learning more about GRIT or hfi’s assessment offerings, contact us today!
1Cattell, R. B. (1971). Abilities: Their structure, growth, and action. New York: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-395-04275-5
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