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Using psychometric assessment as a part of ‘high stakes’ assessment

Using psychometric assessment as a part of ‘high stakes’ assessment

High stakes assessment is where psychometric assessment is utilised in the decision-making process for critical business decision making such as redundancy, redeployment and restructuring. In other words, any situation which can have a critical impact on people and their organisations. Something Brexit and the macro economy might precipitate as clients become concerned with their performance.

The OPG advises clients regularly on projects such as capability reviews, redundancy, change readiness assessment and restructuring which Brexit and the economic cycle may determine. Mistakes can be damaging to all concerned and cost significant money and damage to the organisations culture. Too often clients tell us that change and restructuring projects have failed or that the wrong people outcomes have resulted from peace mill change based on dubious data or criteria.

Making high potential or high performing people redundant when less capable candidates survive is never a good idea!

Using objective psychometric assessment to gather better data for restructuring

Our analysis of `high stakes’ change shows that organisations who utilise psychometric assessment as a part, but not on its own, in the restructuring and redundancy process benefit from having a greater understanding of individuals and their potential. They also understand better the change readiness and capability of individuals and their motivation.

This rich source of data can make a huge difference to outcomes. This is because the data can help shape the future of the business in terms of culture, leadership and future strategy. This is more strategic and focused on the future as well as the present.

The Dos

  • Spend time aligning behaviours with business strategy. Too often people and organisational restructuring decisions are short term and not focused on what is needed over the longer term. Do you have clearly defined values, behaviours and cultural expectations from your people? What skills are needed in the next two years? Do you need to resource talent in new roles because our existing people are unsuitable?We advise clients to think before they act. Our work defining values, competencies and expectations is based on working with the board, HR and wider stakeholders.This point is important as engagement is critical across the organisation, not just with HR or executives.
  • Design a redeployment assessment process. This is fundamentally about designing a robust process which combines psychometric assessment with other objective data including current performance metrics to understand future requirements from a person, organisation and cultural fit as well as cognitive ability and potential. We help clients understand the need for clarity around what looks good not just for now, but the future as well. Moreover, the process is defensible and clear.
  • Assessment for operational readiness. The assessment combines business simulation tools, for high face validity, with personality and cognitive ability tests. This is then fed back to the participant to understand the context and wider situation before a workshop considers the data with the other performance information. Pulling the strands of data together is a skill which has the benefit of removing much of the subjectivity and emotion which is usually evident in these situations.
  • Other considerations. Remember employee moral, impact on individuals involved in the process and the organisation’s ability to compete going forward are all considerations which need to be made both pre and post intervention. We recommend a `washup’ and lessons learnt session after every programme.

The Don’ts

  • Fail to consider the actual needs of the business going forward both in the short and longer term. ‘Knee jerk’ reactions damage competitiveness.
  • Just make restructuring changes without proper and analytical data input. We recently saw an example of cuts being made on the basis of employee individual cost and the first in first out principle. A dangerous, potentially discriminatory and above all arbitrary approach.
  • Just use existing performance data as it is often unable to distinguish effectively between people and does not measure behavioural performance very often or a person’s operational readiness post change.
  • Using psychometric test data alone is also unethical. When combined with feedback to understand context and wider factors it is more reliable. Where performance data is available also and you have a robust process.

Case Study

The OPG worked with a multi-site industrial group to design and lean on capability assessment centres as a part of a wider restructuring project. The client needed to make tough people decisions whilst engaging with colleagues, trade unions and the wider community.

Performance Excellence meant that managers needed a new skills and behavioural mindset based on lead, leadership and efficiency. This change of culture was imperative to ensure the business remained viable during hard economic times. They had already tried to achieve a shift in mindset with limited results.

The client felt that their existing performance data did not offer enough information around future capability and fit for the “new structure”. Moreover, they wanted to be as objective as possible and engage with the trade unions and stakeholders around fairness and transparency.

The programme involved 350 managers and leaders who, following an OPG led competency review, undertook full psychometric assessment including business simulation tools and depth interviews. Individual feedback and development plans were designed along with the wider organisational data.


  • Objective data around future fit, motivation and capability revealed hidden information around some candidate’s willingness to move forward post restructure from a motivational and attitude perspective.
  • A facilitated workshop enabled candidates to be ranked in order of capability and potential. This identified some high potential employees who were not identified previously along with demotivated and disengaged managers who were unlikely to be right in the future.
  • Individual personal development plans and an organisational gap analysis provided a robust plan of action going forward whilst offering participants some personal development advise.
  • Better people decisions positioned our client for better times and growth going forward.
  • The project was extended twice because of the value identified.


Brexit and the current macro-economic climate may make some organisations think about making restructuring decisions which lead to redeployment or redundancy. This blog gives our views on best practice and how to use objective assessment using psychometric testing as a part of the process.

Making rash or ill-judged decisions can be expensive.  See the full survey findings here.

About the Author

Matthew Davis is an organisational psychologist and Chartered HR professional. He works with clients to understand and develop the drivers of performance and potential as well as organisational effectiveness. He is a part time PhD researcher at The University of Sheffield researching into strategic leadership.

To find out how The OPG can help your organisations make better people decisions please email medavis@theopg.co.uk or call 02380 236944

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