Decisions, decisions...

Reprinted from HR Grapevine's Guide to Assessment and Testing, available in its entirety here.
Psychometric testing has provided valuable information regarding an individual's capability in the workplace since before the 1980s. But after decades of assessing the same old constructs, is it time to reconsider whether these are sufficient in the modern workplace? Or can we gain better insight by using 21st century psychological theory regarding decision-making and self-regulation?

Stuck in a rut

Commercial psychometrics fit into two broad categories, ability and personality. Assessment of these two constructs has remained more or less the same over the last 30 years, with arguably the only major innovation being the introduction of online testing. Yet, during this time, the demands of the modern workplace have become increasingly complex. Recruits need a wider range of individual 'abilities' on a daily basis to be proficient in their role, and the market dominance of the top two or three personality assessments means that their objectivity is reduced due to practice effects.
In order for psychometric assessment to keep up and remain useful in the workplace, we need to consider new approaches based on modern psychological research and theory which add benefit in modern business environment. Two related areas that can provide valuable additional insight are decision-making competence and self-regulation.

Decision-making and self-regulation

Decision-making competence is concerned with the tendency to make timely and considered decisions which maximise the likelihood of positive outcomes. Making quality decisions in the time available when there are many other demands on our mental resources is a key feature of organisational and personal success.

Self-regulation refers to an individual's capacity to maintain and manage mental resources, allowing them to override initial impulses or responses led by their beliefs, emotions and desires. Central to the concept of self-regulation is the idea is that it is regulated by psychological resources in the form of 'mental energy' that is (or is perceived to be) finite. Such energy can be accumulated and stored, and it can also be used and depleted, resulting in mental fatigue and a drop in performance.
These might seem like typical variables of human behaviour, measurable by trait-based personality assessment. While the consensus from modern personality theory suggests that people's personality remains stable over time on average, in reality we know that there can be considerable variation in exhibited behaviours from time to time and depending on the situation. This variation arises from our ability to wilfully control our thoughts, emotions and actions.

Relevance in the workplace

While it is obvious that decisions, once taken, can have profound consequences, it is perhaps less obvious that the way we go about making those decisions is equally influential on the outcome. For example, do we deliberate over decisions, or make spontaneous choices? Does an individual choose from the available options, or generate alternatives? Our confidence in our ability to make better quality decisions than other people leads to a range of potential outcomes. A lack of such confidence may lead to deferring to others inappropriately, while overconfidence can result in a sense of invulnerability, and dismissal of alternative decisions offered by others without due care and attention. People can also delay or avoid making decisions altogether.

Further, once a decision has been made, the way in which we regulate our subsequent actions can have enormous effect on the outcome. For example, our self-discipline to resist short-term distractions or temptations, and our tendency to procrastinate, are obvious factors. Our levels of mental energy and the resistance to its depletion will influence the extent to which we can focus on the task at hand without mental fatigue. Finally, the focus and motivation with which we carry out tasks, whether we pursue them with an eye on advancement or defending the status quo, are also important considerations.

Introducing the DASA

Hogrefe will soon publish the Decision-making and Self-regulation Assessor (DASA), the first commercially available psychometric instrument for assessing decision making competence and self-regulation. Based on the latest psychological theory, it explores the following dimensions: decision-making confidence, mental energy, option generation, spontaneity, deliberation, procrastination, decision avoidance, self-discipline, advancement focus and protection focus. The DASA provides users with new insights that can guide selection, development and coaching.

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