I spent an excellent couple of days in Edinburgh this week, attending the BPS Special Group in Coaching Psychology (SPCG) annual conference. This was my first time at the conference and I was impressed with both the quality of content and the very sociable and welcoming atmosphere.
On Thursday afternoon, I presented a paper on the use of psychometric assessment in coaching contexts, illustrating the challenges practitioners face with the use of a couple of organisational case studies. The main thrust here was to highlight the important roles of organisational culture, coachee perspective and the utility of the assessment tool itself when assessment forms part of a coaching intervention.
With regard to the organisation, my experience has pointed to three critical factors to consider:
- Organisation culture in general and how specific activities like development, coaching and talent management are regarded and communicated by stakeholders at various levels.
- The previous/historical use of psychometric assessments in the organisation and how they have been received by stakeholders. If psychometrics have traditionally been associated with hiring, it’s imperative that there is clarity on how they can be used to facilitate development too.
- The role of HR in the business, including its capability to deal with psychometric assessment and how positively it’s regarded by the rest of the organisation – as well as how open it is to partnering with external coaches.
The role of the coach is crucial here too. Psychometrics are after all just tools – they can be mis-used, resulting in confusion or upset on the part of the coachee. Not all psychologists are trained in the use of psychometrics – and not all coaches are psychologists. This means that some coaches may use these kinds of assessments without the requisite background knowledge and training – relying on luck more than judgement.
So thorough familiarity with psychometric assessments in general and the particular assessment used in a given context is a must. Not to mention confidence in addressing threats to data protection and confidentiality, particularly where senior stakeholders are involved.
Where the coach has access to a range of tools, they need to be able to choose the right assessment for the task at hand (e.g. exploring career change, addressing stress at work, working on self-efficacy etc.), as opposed to the questionnaire or test they are most fond of.
There are many psychometrics on the market and a key skill for the coaching practitioner to develop is in selecting the good from the poor, the appropriate from the inappropriate for any given coaching engagement.
These themes were revisited on the Friday morning, when I co-facilitated a workshop with Almuth McDowall on what best practice assessment looks like in coaching. We explored what “good” psychometrics look like and the challenges and pitfalls to avoid when introducing assessment into a coaching relationship.
The input from attendees was fantastic – thank you to all who turned up and contributed to make it such an enjoyable session. The energy, interest and enthusiasm from delegates was palpable and very encouraging.
I’m already looking forward to next year’s SGCP conference, when the group will be celebrating its 10th anniversary. Thanks to the organisers and other contributors for making it a thought-provoking and enjoyable conference.