July 21, 2022

Using Skill Assessments to Improve Ownership Culture

NCEO founder and senior staff member

At an NCEO Innovative Communication Coalition network meeting on July 18, communication team leaders from a number of NCEO member companies discussed how they use skill assessments. Lori Atone of TVF said they use the CliftonStrengths assessment (formerly StrengthsFinder) to increase self-awareness and understand their fellow employee-owners better. They create a grid that lists the top 10 strengths of each employee by name. The idea is to focus only on the positives, to help identify potential talents, and to make it easier to assemble well-balanced teams. They feel helping employee-owners contribute in a way that’s aligned with their natural strengths amplifies the employee ownership mindset and will increase engagement in a fun and meaningful way. Managers can use the results to help get people engaged in ways that “feel right to them” and find new paths for participation. Employees have responded to the idea very favorably.

Renee Mundell of Radian Research said they used the CAPS communication assessment test when they started using self-managed teams. They recognize the limits of any assessment, so instead of treating CAPS results as definitive, they use the test as one input among many. A result that does not match the position's primary style is not a stop sign, but what they call a “yellow flag” that deserves attention and may lead to recognizing specific strengths that can be developed.

The group also discussed personality-type assessments, such as DISC. Charita Bush of KTA-Tator said they wanted to translate the DISC results into something more intuitive, so they created bird symbols of each personality type the test showed and put the two primary bird types on each person’s cubicle as a way of facilitating improved interactions personally and professionally.

The group also discussed potential risks and limitations of these tests, however. The Society for Human Resource Management has a useful article on this topic.

Everyone agreed that the best use of any of these tests was to focus on strengths, not weaknesses, and not to use the tests to limit people’s professional growth. Lori Atone summed up her thinking on how to use the tests: “They are a way of saying, ‘we see you. You are not siloed.’”