Erin Bartman has nearly 20 years’ experience working to elevate teams, organizations and work environments. Beginning with a career in Human Resources and Consulting, she led organizational build-outs and focused on the optimization of people and processes across North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia Pacific. For the past 8 years, Erin’s priority has been the diversification of SAP’s customer organization and building programmatic approaches to foster a more inclusive, high performing work environment. These efforts have led to a reduced average age and greater share of females across the organization.

Erin has been fortunate to connect her passion for fairness and equity with her skill for building and implementing integrated workforce strategies to create a more meaningful work experience for employees.

Personal biases present a real challenge to hiring and promotion decisions. Whether you are a recruiteror an executive responsible for building a diverse, high performing organization, most of us can recall poor hires we made based on our lack of objectivity.

So how—in a world saturated with streams of information and data—do we continue to make decisions without the necessary information and data required for clear objectivity?

The truth is data is leveraged daily for business-related decisions. Yet, with people and talent, we often take mental shortcuts based on our preference to hire someone like us, our need to make a fast decision, ourperception that past performance will lead to success in the new role, etc.There is a scientific reason for this as biases have served humans throughout history when our livelihood depended on our ability to make quick judgements. Today, these quick decisions can have unintended consequences. In the case of hiring, it can interfere with our ability to objectively identify the best talent, resulting in less dynamic, more homogenous teams. And, if not challenged, can influence nothing less than the culture of the company.

Self-assessments can serve to break up this “homogeneity cycle,” supporting us with objective data points that help to cut through the “why not’s” we tend to have about less traditional candidates. 

Self-assessments are a highly practical, and often affordable, way to introduce data-driven decision-making into hiring and promotion processes. Research has shown that, after implementing assessments, 76% of corporations have seen an increase in the quality of hire.Commonly, assessments used for hiring decisions include measures of competence (i.e.skills, strengths), motives or work ethic, and/or emotional intelligence. They can provide valuable and objective insights into communication styles, motives and drivers, emotional competencies and more.These data points can subvertunconscious biases and provide an objective baseline across all candidates, particularly when we are considering non-traditional or diverse hires. When integrated properly into people processes, we can compare results to existing team members and ensure we are making complementary hiresthat make the team more dynamic and resilient. Additionally, it should provide an engaging experience for candidates. Usability of the tool and applicability of the results are important factors in the candidate’s experience. Innovations have come a long way and a mobile-friendly assessment, for instance, is a minimal requirement. Ideally the candidate will receive a digital copy of the results they can leverage for their own self-awareness and development. In the best-case scenario, even if a candidate is not selected, they will walk away feeling they have gained something valuable from the experience. 

“Self-assessments are a highly practical, and often affordable, way to introduce data-driven decisionmaking into hiring and promotion processes”

SAP is a market leader in enterprise software, delivering integrated solutions to customers of every size around the globe, to help the world run better and improve people’s lives. As part of the dynamic, ever-evolving high-tech industry, SAP must invest in hiring and cultivating a vibrant, diverse workforce reflective of the customers we serve.In particular, the Workforce Transformation & Readiness team which I represent is charged with diversifying our salesforce through hiring early career professionals, 50% of whom are female. Data-driven hiring and promotion decisions have become table stakes in our ability to find the best fit, diverse talent in the market and assessments have played a central role in these processes. 

Here are 5 lessons we have learned over the last 8 years:

1. FIND YOUR NORTHSTAR: Be clear about your business goals and ask yourself what you need to get out of the assessment. There are many assessment tools from which to select. Pay attention to the use cases of the toolas well as the validity and reliability of the results. Get customer references. Choose accordingly, always keeping your end goals in mind.

2. DEFINE OPTIMAL: Conduct internal validation against your role model employees to create a benchmark of “what good looks like.”While an assessment vendor can support this, this effort to create your optimal profilewill largely be internal. Some tools include external benchmarksof competencies to compare candidates against; these can be universal, transcending roles and industries.

3. ESTABLISH GUARDRAILS: Recognize that critical thinking and judgment also play a role in hiring and promotions as data may not tell the full story. Humans are nuanced. There will be moments when other factors may supersede assessment results, and it is helpful to have clear guardrails for what variations are acceptable.  For instance, a candidate may fall outside of the “what good looks like” profile in terms of their motives and drivers.  But the assessment can reveal they have strengths and competencies to benefit them in the work environment in which they will be placed. 

4. REFINE THE APPROACH: Plan on revisiting the profile periodically to examine the quality of hires – who is staying, who is most successful. Pull in relevant insights from the HRIS or other systems of record, such as average tenure, experience level, attrition and promotion rates, gender statistics, etc. You may determine the profile needs to be adapted until you find your “sweet spot.”

5. THINK BEYOND THE HIRE: Consider the assessment results beyond a single hiring or promotion decision. In addition to informingus about the profile of the candidate, the data can help us to determine whether their motives and competencies will complement the existing team.  For example, in a high-tech organization, the willingness to take risks and innovate is important.  The right assessment tool can show whether someone is higher or lower on the risk-taking dimension, which might bean important factor in selecting candidates to build the optimal team.   

With a robust assessment methodology and practice in place, not only will it give diverse candidates a more level playing field in the process, but it can alsoserve us in building a more dynamic and vibrant workforce and culture—one better equipped to deal with the challenges and complexities of today’s world of work.