3 Things to Communicate to Employees Before Launching a Post-Hire Assessment


More and more organizations are implementing post-hire assessment programs for employee development and various personnel decision-making— like identifying high-potentials or confirming readiness of successors for key leadership roles. These types of assessment applications create unique ethical challenges because we’re assessing current employees vs. external job candidates and the assessment results usually have profound effects on employees’ future careers within the company. What are the best practices as you launch post-hire assessments?

The use of post-hire assessments is on the rise. With all the changes to performance management, more organizations are beginning to use assessments not only for development, but also for personnel decision-making. There’s a long body of research literature highlighting the various biases in manager ratings, so organizations look to post-hire assessments for more objective data about employees’ performance, potential, readiness to move up, and development needs (Source). For example, many organizations now utilize assessments to identify high-potential employees or confirm readiness of successors for key leadership roles.

Assessing current employees vs. external job candidates poses new challenges to think through: Letting employees know that they will evaluated on their competence by a third-party assessment may send a shockwave throughout the organization and create a state of anxiety. Employees may begin to fear that their jobs are being eliminated, especially if the organization is going through a big change like digital transformation. Similarly, employees may be shocked to see vastly different results from the feedback they’ve been given by their direct manager. Given these and similar repercussions of post-hire assessment projects, it is too tempting to position the assessment as for development only.

But when top management sees the power of the assessment data and the insights they get about their employees, they want to start using it also for decision-making. And this is where we get into a bit of an ethical pickle: If we positioned the assessment as for development only, we should not use the results for any other purpose (Source). So before you launch your next post-hire assessment program, here are the three things to clarify for yourself, your team, and then communicate to your employees:

1. What is the purpose of the assessment?

What is the real purpose of the assessment? Is it purely for employees’ own development? Or are you planning to make decisions based on the assessment data? If so, what decisions are you planning to make? If the assessment is done purely for development, then the only decision made off the data should be where the employees should develop. It should not be used to make any decisions about their career or progression.

2. How will the results be used?

Before taking the assessment, employees have the right to know exactly how the results will be used and what recommendations will be made based on the results. If you’re using the assessment for development but you also want to use it to identify high-potentials, then you should communicate that to employees before you invite them to take the assessment. Similarly, if you’re using the assessment to make promotion decisions, you need to communicate that to participants before they take the assessment.

After the assessment is completed, employees have the right to receive feedback on their own performance, so that they can put a development plan together. But they also have the right to read any recommendations being made to management based on the assessment results.

Any time you change how you’re using the data from what was initially communicated to employees, you must inform them of the new purpose and obtain their consent.

3. Who will see the results?

This is another important question to think through: Who will you grant access to view the assessment results? Once the data’s out, it’s out. Any information you gain from the assessment will color your future perception of the employee – you’ll look at him or her differently. Therefore it’s important to think through who you’ll grant access to view the results and what training you’ll provide to them, so that the data is not misused (especially if you positioned the assessment as for development only). Employees have the right to know who will see their results - be it the HR team, top management, their direct supervisor, or internal coach.

Post-hire assessment programs can certainly increase objectivity of many personnel decisions, such as identifying high-potentials or confirming successors. But they also bring a unique set of challenges because you’re assessing existing employees within an organization rather than external candidates. There are important ethical considerations to think through before launching the program. Best practices tell us to inform employees participating in post-hire assessments about the purpose of the assessment, how the results will be used, and who will have access to those results.

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About the Author

Martin Lanik is the CEO of Pinsight, a leadership assessment and development firm. Pinsight’s mission is to bring fairness to leader selection, development, and succession through unbiased people insights and highly personalized leadership development solutions. More than 100 companies - including AIG and CenturyLink – have implemented their programs, which have been featured in Forbes, Fast Company, Chief Executive, Chief Learning Officer, and Investor’s Business Daily. Martin holds a Ph.D. in industrial/organizational psychology from Colorado State University. Learn more at www.pinsight.com.