Too many Organizations use the wrong Psychometric Assessments in the wrong way

SUSHMA KUMAR is an experienced Learning and Talent Management Leader, with expertise in leading strategic, large scale talent transformation projects across Industry and consulting organizations.

Sushma is currently associated as Head of Professional Services Delivery and Consulting at SHL Talent Assessments - India.

Her past endeavours include roles such as Director and Practice Leader – KPMG Learning Academy | KPMG, Vice President - Enterprise Solutions and Strategic Alliance | EdCast Mumbai, India; CEO and Founder | Vedanta Learning and Performance Solutions, Mumbai; Content Leader – HR and Leadership Capability Programs | Aon Hewitt, Mumbai; Vice President – Learning and Development | JP Morgan ? India and Philippines; Assistant Manager - Training | eFunds, Mumbai and Gurgaon; Customer Service – HNI group | HDFC Securities, Mumbai; and Customer Service – Account Acquisition | ABN AMRO Bank. Mumbai’.

Sushma has multiple Industry certifications, namely:

  • Certified Occupational Personality Questionnaire (OPQ) Assessor
  • Disruptive strategies: Harvard Business School (HBX)
  • Ericson certified coach
  • Instructional design certification from CEP Worldwide, Georgia, USA
  • EQ-I 2.0 and EQ – 360 assessors
  • Adept-15 assessor from Aon Hewitt, India
  • ILS certified master trainer from Stratton Consulting, PA – USA
  • ProfilXT assessor from Profiles international, USA
  • Chally assessor from TalentMetrix, India
  • Certified SL facilitator from JP Morgan

Sushma is a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Mumbai.

Thank you, Sushma, for giving your valuable time to this interview. We look forward to your candid responses.

Let’s start!!!

Which, according to you was the most intriguing interview? Can you share your experience in detail? 

My interview experience with SHL has by far been the most rigorous, and the most satisfying one. It included multiple stages, including several online assessments, followed by case analysis, role plays and competency-based interviews. By the end of the journey, I got a real good understanding of the skills that SHL was looking in their Head of Delivery,and also, it oriented me to process of doing deep assessments work. As compared to the other interviews I have experienced, this was several notches higher in terms of rigor and outcomes. I realised that companies often make hiring decisions based on secondary data or self-reported success, but this was true assessment of role fitment, and as much as I try, I could have just not “winged” it. I was also offered feedback even before they made me the offer, so this made it a true learning experience for me.

As the first job holds a special memory, let’s discuss your first year at your first job. How was your experience? What were your expectations from your first employer and your role? Were they all fulfilled? What didn’t coincide with your expectations? 

My formative years were spent in the banking domain, and in the space of Learning. I spent a good 7.5 years with JP Morgan, and I truly enjoyed the freedom to create. There is a myth, that early on in your career, one has a higher execution focus. I experienced it very differently. A few months into the role, I was given the responsibility to design and create, innovate and scale, challenge and solution. Back in day (2002-2008) the environment around us was vibrant, the economy was booming, and it was great to start getting global explore early on. Working with global colleagues and managing multiple countries absolutely shaped the way I think about my role and how it contributed value.

Do you think workplace mentors and coaches play an important role in settling fresh graduates in their first job? How was your experience?

Absolutely YES.  In fact, I was extremely fortunate. I had 3 mentors. My local manager, A global manager who I had a dotted line to, and a global peer, who’s role I would have taken at some point. And the multi-dimensional views I received expanded my ability to think local and globally. I was about to embark on motherhood, and I was scared like any other women in mid-management. My peer mentor was back from her 3rd childbirth, and I always admired how she never underinvested in her family without compromising her career goals. And yes, they were bosses, but again, we had established early on that at least 1 meeting in a month would be developmental meeting, where they would spend time mentoring, and not directing. This allowed us the boundaries on what role they played at what time with me.

What are the critical traits of a successful L&D Expert? What kind of education do they need?

All L& Professionals need 3 core skills -

  • Domain You must know your craft. Strong understanding on how learning takes places, how is instructional design used to design quality content, Learning analytics, technology usage, measurements, learner engagement , a must.
  • Business Strategy  At the end of the day, one must understand how their business makes money. A deeper understanding of the business will help you identify business problems that are worth solving, and how they can be solved through learning interventions, OR by “not doing” learning interventions
  • Organization Navigation  know your stakeholders, influencers, users, and decision makers. Decisions on learning and development are no longer limited to the learning department. One needs to navigate a large set of decision markets to ensure there is sponsorship for your work, and this should translate into business support at the stage of driving it

We hear this statement, “Participants leave their training learning’s in the training room and return to their routine after resuming their work (particularly in cases of behavioural or soft-skill training). What is your take on this? How do you ensure that the training is effective for the employee?

Most soft skills programs are what I call “spray and pray” programs. Highly theoretical, lacks work context, no practice built in, and a trainer who has never done the same job as participants, so one can keep completing training hours, but it’s only to meet engagement numbers, not driving capability enhancement. Also, there is no 1-day training that can change behaviour. A program has to be anchored in work context, it should have real problems to solve, it should have “take back action plan”, and it should have a reporting back mechanism. More importantly, the managers should be enabledto create opportunities to practice what they learnt, recognize a shift, and allow a “show and tell” where the employee can tell their story. It’s no different than scripting a thriller movie – start to end.

“Content” or “Delivery” (experience creation), which is the key and the primary element of a successful training session.

Context. Every single detail of good program has to sit on the context – business context, industry context, job context. You cant expect a salesperson to attend a coaching training, were the case study is of ops person coaching an ops employee. Sales folks are geographically spread, have more field time, had different pressure points. Coaching in that context can be different than someone on a desk job.

What kind of soft skills does a fresh graduate need to get a career break and to be successful at the beginning of their career?

Execution and Engagement skills. SHL’s research shows that 1 in 16 graduates are high on both, whereas 1 in 4 graduates are high on either of them. In my opinion, your 1st few years, you should be open to doing a variety of task’s so it gives you lot of data points about what you can do well; and where you can do better. Also, just because you are junior, you should not stop from networking across the firm. Engage with people across levels. Make it point to collect 2 new points that you can add to your CV and 2 new connections that you learnt from every month. That’s how you will build your experience target.

What are your thoughts about Psychometric Assessment? What is the role of assessment tools in L&D Strategy?

Assessments are a fundamental to any learning strategy. A doctor will never prescribe medication without a proper blood test, and yet many organizations make expensive L&D investments without even finding out what is needed. Assessments guide your L&D decisions, helps you understand where the gaps are, who has the gaps, and what is the gravity of the gaps. It helps aggregate skills available in plenty, and skills that are deficient, and drives the learning investment. Assessments take away the subjectivity which often comes from subjective TNI processes like group discussion, manager feedback, and leadership sentiments and feeling about a particular need. Assessment help you measure what you need to improve, and you know that you can’t improve what you can’t measure.

Last question, what is your message for young and aspiring HR practitioners? What kind of growth opportunities should they look forward to? And what key competencies one must possess to be successful in this profession?    

Young HR professionals need to start with 2 to 3 areas that they want to develop skills. Hopping from 1 HR function to another only gives superficial knowledge. Stay invested in roles for 2 to 3 years. Move across 2 to 3 related functions of HR and settle for the ones that best suit your career aspirations. Do you want to be a COE HR leader or a Business HR leader or an HR ops leader? Ask yourself this question after at least spending 6 to 7 years across major functions.

Thank you, Sushma, for sharing wonderful insight. We appreciate it.  

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