Buying Business Psychology Services: The good, the bad and the brilliant!

Martin Kirke

Martin Kirke, Coach, Consultant and Non-Executive Director

 

"Over the last 30 years or so as an HR Director I have spent a small fortune on assessment, selection, development and learning services from business psychology firms. That has ranged from the brilliant to the bad and occasionally the very bad. Mostly it’s been somewhere between the two and I am a true believer in the value of business psychologists.

The Association for Business Psychology recently asked me to speak on my experience of business psychologists from an HR Director’s perspective....

 
...The good 
  • What business psychologists bring is evidence to challenge subjectivity and bias. Take the classic selection process with all its dangers of bias and subjectivity. HR need firepower to challenge line managers and business psychologists deliver that.  The business value is clear- from not hiring that person who was so convincing in the interviews but psychometrics identified risks, to unearthing the talent we missed in the interviews. 
  • As an HRD I have a responsibility to upskill my team and to do it cost effectively. I want a business psychologist who is a true partner and that means transferring skills and knowledge to my team. Not through formal training but in the way that they communicate with my team. It takes two and great HR Business Partners are curious and looking for learning, so I expect the business psychologist to explain what their tools do and do not do. 
  • Thought leadership is a real differentiator for me in choosing who to buy from. Original research, ideas on the latest thinking and networking to share these are key.

 

...The Bad
  • The worst is being ripped off – rare but it has happened to me where a standard charge has been agreed and I have found the work has been done by an unqualified much lower cost person. 
  • Another rare, but very worrying one, is when questions are asked in an assessment which are highly personal and intrusive. Three times in my career I have had colleagues in tears because they had been asked about painful events in their childhood. On each occasion they refused to complain because they were worried that the assessment would be negatively impacted or they just wanted it to be over. To me this is unethical and even worse when the assessment is a mandatory part of a selection or promotion process. 
  • I also question the over reliance on tests which remove the “bias of language ability”.  I mean the tests that use only shapes and diagrams from which a bold statement is made on the candidates’ intellectual abilities e.g. low or high. For graduates and managers I want to know their verbal and numerical reasoning abilities. I also want the intellectual ability balanced with the emotional intelligence because we all know how key that is to culture, leadership and teamwork. 

 

...The brilliant 
  • Uncovering the sleepers- there’s so much distortion in most organisations that potential top talent often remains buried. The brilliant is when business psychologists use their tools to unearth it finding skills and abilities we had missed or those we simply missed. 
  • Challenging the “mini – me “selection thinking by being brave with senior executives in partnership with the HRD. This can be really tough but adds huge value and a key contribution to diversity and inclusion.

  

The bottom line is that it needs a partnership- a business psychologist who truly understands the business and the HRD as an informed buyer. That’s an unbeatable combination to deliver results."

 

You can view the presentation slides here, with many thanks to Martin.