The Individual Advantage: The Sequel… |

Nearly a decade has passed since I last broached this topic in a blog – you can check it out here if you’d like a flashback. This long-anticipated (by me!) sequel, although taking a different course, remains anchored to the same fundamental concept – with each passing year and every new wave of technology, the role of the individual in the workplace grows increasingly pivotal.

For reference, I’ll just kick things with the final paragraph of that last blog post:

“The “individual advantage” will demand a fundamental shift in the way existing stakeholder groups within an organisation communicate with each other and, more importantly, hold each other to account.“

In the intervening nine years, much has transpired, but the trajectory has remained constant. Flatter organisational structures, mature interpersonal cultures, self-managed teams, and increased autonomy have become the norm. If you share my perspective, you will likely regard this as progress.

As the individual takes centre stage, they must assume more responsibility for navigating their relationships within the organisation, a point made especially salient in the remote work setting where face-to-face interactions are limited.

However, in this new world characterised by always on, constantly connected, real-time technology, accessing insights that help me understand myself and others feels increasingly difficult.

Where classic assessment tools come up short

B2B technology in general, and HR solutions in particular, have traditionally delivered a sub-optimal experience for users. Most software systems are designed for the “buyer” in mind – the HR professional, recruiter, line manager – and not the biggest ‘user’ (by far), the employee. The individual. UX, it seems, has historically followed the money, not the value. 

Closer to home, in the light of this new paradigm, assessments are increasingly looking inadequate and clunky too. For example, assessment tools often deliver a much richer and more detailed perspective to the assessor than the individual. Extensive reports at the fingertips of the managers, but precious little in the hands of the Individual who needs it most.

Assessments also have a short half-life. Insight from assessments can be very useful, but the cognitive load of carrying the insight with you, hoping to remember it for that moment when you might need it, is increasingly challenging. Hence, the solution providers have focussed on accessibility, simplifying profiles to increase recall and extend the usefulness of the insight delivered. 

But making them more accessible doesn’t really help that much. They are still relying on one or two static data inputs which are often not capturing other valuable situational contexts – impact of day-to-day interactions, changes in self-state, challenges faced, or opportunities seized. 

In the time poor, real time, technology rich world we now live in, assessments look very cumbersome indeed.

Putting the individual first

Properly executed people science can be a game-changer for organisational success. Providing individuals with profound self-insight is nothing short of a superpower when done correctly, and it’s supercharged when individuals gain insight into one another.

To do this, assessment solutions need to make a fundamental shift from where they are today, where their IP ‘is’ the product, to a place where the IP ‘powers’ a solution. This is a huge shift for the psychometric industry but one we are embracing at Thomas. 

Putting the individual first, and delivering real value for them, means:

  • Democratise the data and insight – everyone gets the same insight, regardless of role or seniority.
  • Outcomes trump profiles – A person’s ‘psychometric profile’ is largely meaningless – what matters are the implications. The ‘so what’ is all that really matters.
  • Deliver the value in their flow of work – Actionable insights need to be provided at a point in time, in real time, exactly where and when they are needed. 
  • Dynamic and personalised insight – as you grow and learn as an individual, then so should the value that is delivered to you. Hyper personalised insight and feedback are now table stakes.
  • Enrich with continuous input from other sources of data – assessments create a point of friction. Data science removes that friction and can vastly enrich the insight.
  • Consumer grade UX – an outstanding and ‘sticky’ user experience is essential. Design the solution as if the end users were paying the licence fee. 

The key to all this is recognising that everyone is an individual. For over a century, we've defined the workplace through hierarchies and job titles. However, for nearly as long, we've neglected to leverage the potential of the individuals and teams within our organisations.

The admin clerk, the accountant, the practice manager, the supervisor, the cleaner, the CEO, every line manager – being an individual is the common thread. And this thread is a human one. Job titles talk to a context, a set of accountabilities. They don’t define the individual. 

Assessments may persist in certain specific use cases. But when it comes to harnessing the superpower of understanding each other at work, I predict that in another 9 years the classic assessment will have been consigned to the bin. 

Let’s check back in 2032 and see if I was right 😉