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Three questions to ask if considering the use of a psychological assessment for selection purposes

By Paul Barrett on December 5, 2019

© Orlando Florin Rosu/


Q1: Can the person actually do the job required of them? i.e. do they possess the experience, knowledge, skills, and ability to do the job?

Q2: Are they permitted ‘legally’ to do the job i.e. the formal accreditation to do the job required, in the form of recognized academic or professional qualifications and/or registration by a professional body?

Q3: What level of autonomy does the job-role possess? Yes, an unexpected question, but one that’s now the game-changer for assessment organizations and employers alike.

If an automobile repair workshop needs a new mechanic, Q1 is the priority. A hospital looking to employ a medical specialist/consultant would have both Q1 and Q2 as first-base priorities. However, if an employer feels the need to assess the psychological characteristics of an individual, then answering Q3 requires an appraisal of the degree of autonomy as a defining feature of the job-role.


Job Role Autonomy

By autonomy, I mean the degree to which the employee will have the freedom to choose how they wish to achieve necessary work-goals, make decisions and ‘influence’ (in the widest possible meaning of that term) other employees and important organizational outcomes.

For example, a low-autonomy job-role would be a corporate retail chain-store supervisor, a store manager, a call-centre operative, a desk-clerk, an entry-level graduate employee, a team leader, line manager, or postdoctoral fellow/junior academic. “People” above them make the key decisions and policies which must be obeyed.

A high autonomy job-role would be a corporate head-office/organizational C-Suite leader or a professional expert in any science, legal, or advisory position.

This is not about ‘job crafting’ – but about the constraining organizational expectations which for many low autonomy roles rely upon absolute compliance and obedience with those expectations e.g. product choice and pricing in a retail chain is made by Head Office, not by a store manager. Call centre salespeople follow scripted information and ‘pathways’ dictated by software algorithms. Corporate line managers/HR managers implement strategy/deploy products and services which are invariably mandated to them from ‘above’.


The modern workplace from a psychological assessment perspective

The assessment purchasing market is dominated by large global corporates or other organizations which run their operations as corporates (e.g. government departments, universities). Within this market, job-roles attracting the use of psychological assessment have now split into two main types:

  • The Drone Employee: low-autonomy, low-stake job-roles in which the employee is required to comply with an organizations’ expectations and job-role requirements, all of which require absolute obedience which if not given without question will result in adverse consequences for the employee. These employees are easily replaceable if not functioning adequately.
  • The High Autonomy Employee: high-stake job-roles in which considerable freedom of thought is afforded and indeed, encouraged from the employee. These are the employees who will create/influence organizational strategy, create operational rules to be obeyed by others, provide leadership, whose advice is provided from an expertise base, and who have been employed to substantively impact an organization by their work and decisions. These people possess autonomy because what they bring to an organization is rare, of critical importance, and expensive to replace should their performance prove inadequate.

The “Drone Employee” term was introduced into the employment market many years ago, describing a wide range of modern workplace job-roles. For example:

From Jeff Schmidt in 2001, a book entitled: Disciplined Minds: A Critical Look at Salaried Professionals and the Soul-battering System That Shapes Their Lives. The reader comments on this book (through to 2016) show the reality for many low-autonomy professionals in the modern workplace.

From Philip Brown and colleagues, in 2011, a book entitled: The broken promises of education, jobs, and incomes.

Andre Spicer’s 2013 article:  Shooting the shit: The role of bullshit in organisations. And also from the same author in a 2016 New Scientist article entitled: The road to hell is paved with corporate wellness

And from David Graeber in 2018, a book entitled: Bullshit Jobs: A Theory. One of many reviews of the book can be found in a 2018 New Yorker book review entitled: The Bullshit-Job Boom: For more and more people, work appears to serve no purpose. Is there any good left in the grind?

All of which probably explains why national and international employee engagement surveys keep reporting levels that are impervious to any of the workplace ‘benefits/interventions’ introduced by employers, such as in-house gyms, games areas, happiness officers, free staff canteens, mindfulness and well-being sessions etc. For example, in a 2014 Gallup engagement survey of employees in New Zealand and Australia, just 24% or employees considered themselves ‘engaged’ in the workplace. The same survey in 2018 reported just 14%.

Forbes magazine in 2018 reported the results of a Gallup international survey on employee engagement, with an article entitled: Our approach to employee engagement is not working

“A staggering 87% of employees worldwide are not engaged”.

Finally, the Global Study of Engagement from the ADP Research Institute reported its results in 2019. The results from surveying more than 19,000 workers across 19 countries revealed that only about 16% of workers overall are fully engaged. An infographic global engagement map prepared by Marcus Buckingham is a useful way of looking at these data. A Harvard Business Review article entitled: Engagement Around the World, Charted, also provided additional analytics.


Psychological Assessment products have now evolved to address both kinds of employee assessment

Low autonomy job-roles

These can attract huge numbers of applicants. Proctored paper-and-pencil assessments are no longer practical, especially given the relatively high cost of many of these ‘legacy assessments’ and the logistics of proctoring. Technology via smartphones, tablets, readily available wifi, and mobile communications accessibility has put an assessment delivery platform in the hands of many who might never even have had access to a desktop, portable computer, or even internet access. This, in turn, has been the stimulus for a host of new, innovative, technology-led assessment companies creating brief assessments of psychological attributes as ‘games’ to be played on a mobile. The 100+ item self-report questionnaire leviathans of years ago are no longer sensible to administer via a mobile. Instead, we see 15-minutes or less ‘gamified’ assessments for assessing many kinds of psychological attributes. The established test publishers have also responded by creating short-form assessments which can be delivered on a mobile, as well as organizations like Cognadev creating completely new kinds of assessment platforms which blur the line between social networking and short multi-attribute psychological assessments e.g. Cliquidity.

The value-proposition in this market is to provide employers with a financially practical solution for high-volume, secure, fully automated, applicant screening via a multimedia-ready assessment on relevant psychological attributes. Such assessments are used primarily as ‘screen-out’ filters; a way of efficiently reducing huge volumes of applicants down to those who meet organizational requirements.

These ‘next-generation’ platforms are intended to assess basic psychological information about a candidate which is useful for automated screening, because low-autonomy job-roles are less reliant upon a candidate’s personal characteristics except insofar that they engender organizational compliance and fit (after ensuring they possess the necessary skills/experience to do the job in question); a point made in a target article from Bob Hogan and colleagues in 2013, entitled: Employability and career success: Bridging the gap between theory and reality.


High autonomy job-roles

In contrast, these roles invariably require deep psychological information about a candidate, except where the required expertise and criticality of the job-goals to be completed outweigh all other considerations. i.e. hiring cybersecurity software experts for government or commercial cybersecurity security agencies. Whatever ‘personality’ issues they may bring with them can be “managed”, just so long as they can do what you need them to do. In short, “getting the job done” is the priority, and not whether they are difficult to work with etc.

If we exclude the “expertise at all costs” job-roles (which are, by definition, rare), then in addition to biodata information and employment history/job-role experience, there is a clear market now for the assessment of deep psychological information about a candidate (cognition, their motivation, their values). The major test publishers still rely upon their varieties of legacy self-report questionnaires to gain this information, sometimes accompanied by simple-response, generic-context situational judgement tests (SJTs). Unfortunately, these SJTs are hardly any more informative beyond identifying those candidates possessing the ability to infer job-role criteria (ATIC: the term used by researchers describing candidates’ ability to identify the criteria used to evaluate their performance during a selection procedure).

However, for the past 25 years, Cognadev has been creating and incrementally improving a unique range of assessments which are a mix of complex behavioural tasks (for acquiring performance-based information on cognition and cognitive styles) and completely unique kinds of self-reports for motivation and values which do not rely upon self-insight and assessment-related motivation as do most of the standard Likert-response questionnaire-item formats. In a very real sense, the design logic and even the integral psychology theory upon which their foundational logic is based was prescient of the now increasingly sharp divide between job-roles defined by levels of autonomy available to incumbents.

For Cognadev assessments, registered and suitably trained applied psychologists are required to properly evaluate assessment results. The psychological information acquired is far beyond that of any simple self-report questionnaire, partly because the information provided by the assessments must be carefully integrated in order to best describe a candidate’s psychological functioning. Not as a set of ‘discrete’ trait-scores, but as an integrated whole constructed from cognitive style preferences and intellectual competencies demonstrated within a complex behavioural task, incorporating relevant information about their personal values and motivations.


The Bottom Line?

Low autonomy job-roles are literally low-stakes. The cost of ‘getting it wrong’ when selecting candidates for such roles is generally trivial because the role itself is always low-impact within an organization, and there is always a ready supply of potential candidates for such jobs.  High autonomy job-roles are the opposite. The cost of ‘getting it wrong’ is always high because the role itself is, by definition, high-impact within an organization; and there is never a ready supply of optimal candidates for such jobs.




Executive Performance & Potential: Motivational Drivers

By Paul Barrett on October 29, 2019

©xyz+ /

Authors: Paul Barrett & Maretha Prinsloo


In the final part of this three-blog series we look specifically at the Motivational Profile (MP) assessment results of the executives involved (as described in the first blog) and the relationships between the assessed attributes and executive geographic location, job-performance, and potential ratings.


Some Background Details

The MP uses archetypes or metaphors to assess a person’s motivational drivers, aspects of emotional functioning, energy themes, defence mechanisms and various personality aspects for purposes of placement, development and coaching. The MP also indicates aspects of a personal psychological functioning that may derail job performance in certain roles.

Given the eclectic nature of the MP assessment and the number and depth of the constructs measured as well as the implications of their interrelationships, only four of the constructs measured by the MP are briefly introduced here to indicate aspects of motivational drive that tend to characterise high performance executives globally. The implications of the interrelationships between the constructs, are not discussed here. The constructs dealt with here include: Life script; Motivations Drive as indicated by the Head-Heart-Feet concept of Lazarus and Shalit; the Shadow index derived from Jungian theory; and Dynamic Personality Patterns as based on the Enneagram.

Further aspects that are measured by the MP but which are not covered here, include Emotional Intelligence (EQ), Energy Themes based on the work of Myss, Persona (Jung) or front and back-stage of self-representation of Goffman; links to existing personality tests such as the MBTI, Giotto and Belbin, and the person’s narrative and metaphorical self-descriptions.


1. Life Scripts and executive geographic location

The various roles, archetypes or metaphors that a person selects for their life, work and relationships, and the way in which these are prioritised and implemented, as measured by the MP, can be grouped to reflect specific underlying themes or life scripts. These life scripts indicate general patterns of behaviour organised around identity-related goals and purposes.

The following 15 themes have been identified qualitatively to reflect Life Scripts: Interdependent, Intuitive, Experiential, Intentional, Accepting, Optimistic, Pragmatic-functional, Principled, Transcendent, Passionate, Creative, Free and Responsible, Adaptable, Compassionate and Intellectual.

The positive energies associated with these life scripts are identified and the most dominant theme which emerges for an individual, described by the MP report in the following way:

The top six life scripts most prevalent among the executives from four regions as included in this study are shown below, plotting the frequency of occurrence of a life script as a percentage of the total number of executives within a region.

The definitions of the six most prevalent Life Scripts are:

  • Intuitive: characterised by sensitivity to, and openness towards ideas, insights and incoming stimuli.
  • Intentional: the tendency to apply a goal-directed and committed approach.
  • Intellectual: a rational, informed, theoretically interested approach.
  • Principled: a tendency not to compromise on own beliefs and values.
  • Adaptable: a tendency to take on and invest in many different roles in one’s personal and professional life.
  • Compassionate: this indicates a family focus and empathic or interpersonally skilled approach which includes the capacity to listen and show goodwill towards others.

Here it can be concluded that high performance executives across regions show a people orientation and interpersonal skills; and are highly Intentional and goal directed; as well as Intellectually inclined.


1.1 Life Scripts and Performance ratings

As in part 1 of this blog series, because India and South American performance ratings are so very different from the other countries’ ratings, we had to exclude their data from these analyses. Again, we select only the most prevalent life-scripts for executives who meet and exceed expected performance levels: for this analysis, just five. For each rating, the frequency of a specific life script is expressed as a percentage of the sum of all five life scripts’ frequencies. The definitions of the most prevalent Life Scripts are the same as in Section 1.

It seems that the life scripts of those that meet versus exceed performance expectations can be differentiated further in terms of their degree of interpersonal orientation, goal direction and ethical awareness. However, perceptions of performance (as opposed to true performance) are possibly affected by the interpersonal skill, goal orientation and moral inclination displayed by the subject.


1.2 Life Scripts and Potential ratings

As in part 1 of this blog series, because India and South American potential ratings are so very different from these other countries’ ratings, we had to exclude their data from these analyses. Again, we select only the most prevalent life-scripts for executives possessing a potential rating; for this analysis, just five. For each rating, the frequency of a specific life script is expressed as a percentage of the sum of all five life scripts’ frequencies. The definitions of the most prevalent Life Scripts are the same as in Section 1.

Relatively similar findings were obtained for those rated as having stable versus high potential, although the perception of intentionality seems an important criterion for high-potential rated executives.


2. The “Head-Heart-Feet” attributes and executive geographic location

In the MP, the constructs central to Shalit’s and Lazarus’s approach to understanding motivation are incorporated and measured by the person’s selection of particular roles, archetypes or metaphors as well as by tracking the manner in which the person prioritises, shows satisfaction with and controls the implementation of those particular roles or metaphors in their lives. Thus, differentiation (the cognitive aspect), involvement (the affective or emotive aspect) and control (the conative and action component) receive attention. This area of the assessment focuses on the individual in 3 settings: life, work and interpersonal relationships and the dimensions of cognition, emotion and action, and are depicted in terms of a figure with:

  • a head (representing the cognitive approach to prioritisation)
  • a heart (representing the level of affective or emotional involvement and energy typically shown by the individual)
  • feet (representing the conative aspect or self-perceived will to take action and control the implementation of the selected roles to achieve results)

Prioritisation (head), emotional involvement (heart) and results orientation (feet) are treated as variable and are assigned three levels (low, medium, high). These constructs (as well as positive versus negative attitudes) are graphically depicted for life, work and relationships on a 5-point scale in the MP report:


The scores can be interpreted in the following way:


2.1 The “Head-Heart-Feet” attributes and executive geographic location

The graph below shows the frequencies of “Low”, “Medium”, and “High” score-classes as a percentage of the total number of score-classes for a country.

For most of the regional executive groups in this study there is a strong preference for a detailed, logical-analytical approach to problem solving. In the case of India, however, a more balanced approach seems to prevail.

Almost all the executives involved showed a strong energetic and/or emotionally mature approach and emotional involvement with their work.

A clear tendency to implement and control issues seems to emerge. In the case of the South American group this was less prevalent and a more mature, balanced and flexible approach characterised this group.


2.2 The “Head-Heart-Feet” attributes and Performance ratings

As in part 1 of this blog series, because India and South American performance ratings are so very different from other countries’ ratings, we had to exclude their data from these analyses. For each rating, the frequency of a particular level (low, medium, or high) is expressed as a percentage of the total frequency of all levels for a performance rating category.



In terms of the performance ratings, it seems that most high performing executives are characterised by a logical-analytical cognitive approach, a mature and/or energetic and emotionally involved orientation towards their work and a tendency to implement and control issues.


2.3 The “Head-Heart-Feet” attributes and Potential ratings

As in part 1 of this blog series, because India and South American potential ratings are so very different from other countries’ ratings, we had to exclude their data from these analyses. For each rating, the frequency of a particular level (low, medium, or high) is expressed as a percentage of the total frequency of all levels for a potential rating category.



Executives with stable /static versus high potential ratings showed relatively similar motivational profiles characterised by a logical-analytical cognitive approach, medium to high levels of emotional involvement in their work and action orientation.


3. The MP Shadow Index and executive geographic location

A person’s everyday functioning in the roles they selected encompasses both accepted as well as denied, repressed, negative or “hidden” aspects. The Shadow index specifies a person’s degree of awareness of these mental and emotional aspects. Five ordered-class indicators represent the particular qualities of a respondent inferred from MP assessment performance:

  1. Shows a substantive degree of introspection and self-awareness. In addition, people with this score seem to understand and accept themselves and others.
  2. The person seems mostly aware of both their personality strengths and developmental areas.
  3. They seem to be relatively aware of their own strengths and developmental areas. However, they may occasionally find themselves responding in ways that are generally out of character, thereby surprising themselves and others.
  4. While the person may be aware of certain personal strengths and developmental areas, they seem to prefer not focusing on and addressing problematic behaviour patterns.
  5. The person denies their own psychological developmental areas and may even be suppressing awareness of these vulnerabilities. They may therefore avoid critical self-reflection and potentially hurtful criticism from others.

The shadow index is graphically depicted in the MP report as:


It thus seems that the executives were generally characterised by moderate or below moderate levels of self-awareness or self-insight. Very few showed a high degree of self-insight, transcendence and the acceptance of own strengths and weaknesses.


3.1 The MP Shadow Index and Performance ratings

As in part 1 of this blog series, because India and South American performance ratings are so very different from these other countries’ ratings, we had to exclude their data from these analyses. For each rating, the frequency of a specific Shadow Index score is expressed as a percentage of the sum of all five Shadow Index frequencies.


3.2 The MP Shadow Index and Potential ratings

As above, because India and South American potential ratings are so very different from these other countries’ ratings, we had to exclude their data from these analyses. For each rating, the frequency of a specific Shadow Index score is expressed as a percentage of the sum of all five Shadow Index frequencies.

It seems that relatively average degrees of self-awareness characterised all the executives who currently meet and exceed performance expectations.   Depth of self-insight and a high level of psychological sophistication, integration, consciousness and spiritual orientation therefore do not seem to be a prerequisite for executive performance within this business context.


4. Dynamic personality patterns and the MP Enneagram across executive geographic location

The life roles, archetypes or metaphors selected, and the more in-depth responses to these roles, have been linked to the Enneagram. The Enneagram dates back to 2500 BC but has been developed since by authors such as C. Naranjo, A. H. Almaas, S. Maitri, D. Riso and R. Hudson. It identifies 9 behavioural or personality orientations and defence mechanisms – presented here as “dynamic personality patterns”.

According to the Enneagram, love and acceptance are the core drivers of behaviour. Personality is a defensive structure shaped by three conditions of feeling unloved: (a) a lack of control, (b) insecurity, and (c) disapproval from others. Our defensive responses to these conditions become our personality over time. Personality therefore seldom reflects a person’s true being, but response to feeling unloved. By identifying the pattern(s) reflected by a person’s behaviour, the Enneagram also reveals the development needed for realising the true self, emotional essence or ‘soul child’ of the person to enhance psychological and spiritual growth.

In terms of the 9 primary dynamic personality patterns as measured by the MP and based on the Enneagram, the following patterns are most common amongst the executives within four regions.

The Investigator is the Type 5 on the Enneagram. These individuals want to know and understand facts and ideas and avoid emotional pressure. Guardians, or Type 6 have a very active and controlling predisposition and tend to take personal responsibility on behalf of others and situations. A fair number of Indian and South American executives also showed a preference for the Type 3 Performer, who aim to invoke the trust of and recognition from others, manage their own image well and show personal ambition.


4.1 The MP Enneagram and Performance ratings

Indian and South American performance ratings are excluded from these analyses. For each performance rating, the frequency of a specific Enneagram type is expressed as a percentage of the sum of all Enneagram type frequencies.

Here it is interesting to note that very few of the high-performance executives adopted the “Helper” (Enneagram type 2) or the Individualist (Enneagram type 4) roles whereas many took the roles of Performers (Enneagram type 3), Investigators (Enneagram type 5) and Enthusiasts (Enneagram type 7) roles.


4.2 The MP Enneagram and Potential ratings

Indian and South American potential ratings are excluded from these analyses. For each potential rating, the frequency of a specific Enneagram type is expressed as a percentage of the sum of all Enneagram type frequencies.

Of interest here is the increase in the perfectionist type within the High Potential group and the absence of the helper type for this same group. The Investigator role associated with an intellectual orientation and the Guardian role, characterised by conscientiousness and control, also emerged as important considerations in estimating potential.



Results based on the Motivational Profile (MP) further clarifies the characteristics of high-performance executives across geographical regions, namely:

  • Life scripts or personality themes reflecting a people orientation, intentionality and intellectual prowess.
  • Motivational drive characterised by a rigorous, logical-analytical cognitive approach, a high degree of emotional involvement in work and a tendency to implement strategies and control processes.
  • Personality patterns and defence mechanisms (Enneagram types) revolving around intellectual understanding (Type 5), the control of others and situations (Type 6) and the careful management of own image (Type 3).
  • The construct of self-awareness, however, does not seem to be of particular importance for executive functioning within the business environment. Moderate levels of self-insight seem to suffice, and few high-performance executives show deep levels of introspection, self-awareness and self-transcendence.


Executive Performance & Potential: World view and Value Orientation

By Paul Barrett on October 29, 2019

©xyz+ /

Authors: Paul Barrett & Maretha Prinsloo


In the second of this three-blog series we look specifically at the values and world views of the executives (as described in the first blog), as measured by the Value Orientations (VO) assessment. In these graphs, we use the available data from all countries/regions.


Some Background Details

The worldviews and valuing systems of the executives were analysed, using the Value Orientations (VO) assessment as based on Spiral Dynamics (SD) theory as well as other developmental models in Psychology, Consciousness Theory, and various Spiritual traditions.



1. Executive World Views: Accepted and Rejected orientations by region.

Looking at the values accepted by executives across the four regions:

Interesting findings emerged from the analysis of the Worldviews and Perceptual frameworks of the executives, as measured by the VO. Again, regional differences prevailed.

  • The executives from Europe / Switzerland showed highly sophisticated and inclusive worldviews by focusing on integrated systems (Yellow) as well as humanitarian, theoretical and environmental issues (Green).
  • The executives from the USA showed somewhat pronounced Purple and Red value orientations. The Purple orientation indicates a strong in-group or team alliance and the Red is characterised by a highly energetic, practically inclined as well as competitive, power driven and egocentric approach.
  • The India sample primarily showed a Purple, Blue and Green orientation which indicated a collectivistic and people-oriented orientation. The Purple often indicates a strong ingroup or family orientation; Blue is often associated with acceptance of authority and the status quo and the Green may indicate a compassionate approach towards others, an interest in ideas and a somewhat relativistic decision-making style. (It should, however, be pointed out that in another study that was also conducted within a global manufacturing firm, Indian executives largely showed a Red-Orange, commercial orientation.)
  • The South American sample showed a Red, Blue and Orange value combination which can be described as realistic and focused on practical or tangible issues as is often required for management within the business context. The Red and Blue values underlie the energetic and committed pursuit of results and the Orange involves continually looking for new opportunities or strategic angles to create value.

In terms of the Rejection of certain value orientations, almost all groups refrained from rejecting Orange (strategic, value adding orientations) and Green (people orientation, tact and diplomacy, intellectual approach) values. It also seems that the sample group from Europe / Switzerland experienced particular discomfort in dealing with others driven by a Blue value orientation, and which may be somewhat inflexible and authoritarian, whereas the sample group from the USA rejected an open-minded, holistic, systems approach as was most common amongst the executives from Europe / Switzerland. Unless there is adequate understanding of these value orientations amongst executives themselves, such differences in approach could potentially derail the implementation of organisational strategies.


2. Executive World Views: Accepted and Rejected orientations in Performance groups.

Here, we plot the relative percentages of executives from Switzerland and the USA who accept each value orientation, where the executives are rated “Meets” performance expectations and “Exceeds” performance expectations. As in part 1 of this blog series, because India and South American performance ratings are so very different from these other countries’ ratings, we had to exclude their data from these analyses. For each rating, the frequency of a specific accepted orientation is expressed as a percentage of all orientations accepted for that rating.

Primarily Red, Blue, and Orange accepted orientations are seen in executives rated as Meeting or Exceeding performance expectations, with the Exceed group (as compared to the Meet group) showing less preference for Blue and Red, with an increasing preference for Green and Yellow orientations – thereby a somewhat more sophisticated and integrative approach.

A Red orientation indicates highly energetic, practically inclined as well as competitive, power driven and egocentric approach, while Orange involves a resilient approach characterised by continually looking for new opportunities or strategic angles to create value. The Blue orientation is often associated with acceptance of authority and the status quo – a stable and compliant approach.

The increasing preference for Green and Yellow orientations in the “Exceeds Expectations” group is indicative of a mindset that increasingly values humanitarian, theoretical and environmental matters (Green) as well as a greater focus on the issues associated with integrated systems (Yellow). Notably the Blue orientation decreases in this group, perhaps indicating a slight lessening in acceptance of the status-quo and mere compliance.

Here we see that both Performance rated groups strongly reject both Purple and Turquoise orientations, while both groups entirely refrained from rejecting Orange (strategic, value adding orientations) and Green (people orientation, theoretical, intellectual approach) values. The Purple and Turquoise values represent very different levels of awareness, but are both characterised by an appreciation of spiritual, seemingly “other worldly” and/or metaphysical perspectives.


3. Executive World Views: Accepted and Rejected orientations in Potential groups.

As before, for each rating, the frequency of a specific accepted orientation is expressed as a percentage of all orientations accepted for that rating.

Primarily Red and Orange accepted orientations are observed among executives whose potential is rated as Stable or who are showing High Potential. A Red orientation indicates highly energetic, practically inclined as well as competitive, power driven and egocentric approach, while Orange involves continually looking for new opportunities or strategic angles to create value. The preference-order for Red and Orange orientations changes between the Stable and High Potential group, with the latter showing a higher value placed on strategic thinking/initiatives over and above the more energetic, competitive, ‘now’ mindset associated with the Red orientation. Similar findings also emerged from comparable studies.

As with the Performance ratings, both Potential rated groups strongly reject both Purple and Turquoise orientations; this is especially the case for the High Potential group and the Turquoise orientation. Both the Purple and the Turquoise value orientations involve a spiritual, other-worldly orientation which is not ideal within pressurised commercial contexts. And again, both groups entirely refrained from rejecting Orange (strategic, value adding orientations) and Green (people orientation, theoretical, intellectual approach) values.



The distinct differences in the value orientations of various regional groups could cause discomfort and derail strategy within the organisation. This finding was, however, mitigated by the additional finding that none of the executives opposed Orange (strategic, commercially oriented, value creation, win-win type initiatives) and none rejected the somewhat sophisticated Green orientation (people oriented, ideas oriented and theoretical). In terms of value orientations this global team of executives could therefore find common ground by capitalising on typically Orange (commercial) and Green (triple bottom line) strategic initiatives.

Executive Performance & Potential: Work & Cognitive Performance

By Paul Barrett on October 29, 2019

©xyz+ /

Authors: Paul Barrett & Maretha Prinsloo


As part of the ongoing validation of our assessments, we often come across findings which might be of interest to others. The three blog articles in this series show the relevance of three Cognadev assessments to understanding and helping develop executive performance. In this first blog, we look specifically at the intellectual functioning of executives as based on Cognitive Process Profile (CPP) results. The second blog in this series deals with the values and world views of executives as based on the Value Orientations (VO) assessment, and the third blog focuses on the motivational drivers of high-performance executives as indicated by the Motivational Profile (MP).


Some Background Details

A large international building/infrastructure/materials manufacturer provided ‘outcome’ ratings on 218 executive employees in leadership roles. Almost all the executives have long corporate histories of around 15 to 20 years, the majority of whom have also been involved in the manufacturing/production industry for many years. Almost all have post-graduate or multiple degrees – especially in science and/or business, and the majority are males between the ages of 40 and 60.

The ‘outcome’ ratings’ comprised a Job Performance rating:

  • Below Expectations
  • Meets Expectations
  • Exceeds Expectations
  • Outstanding Performance

and Leadership Potential rating:

  • Stable/Static
  • High Potential
  • Very High Potential

The employees were working/rated in four geographical regions:

  • Switzerland
  • USA
  • South America
  • India


1. The frequencies of rating categories assigned, and the relationship between Performance and Potential Ratings within each region.

In the two graphs below, the percentages are calculated as the number of cases at a rating option for a particular region divided by the total number of ratings assigned across all regions for that rating option.

What we see from the above graph is that the percentage of “Outstanding” ratings assigned in India far exceeds the percentage assigned in the other three regions.

Likewise, the assignment of Very High Potential ratings in India, where 80% of all High Potential ratings are assigned to executives.

Exploring the comparability of these ratings across regions a little further, we calculated the Gamma ordered-class correlation between the performance and potential ratings within each region, looking for evidence of at least a similar relationship between the two sets of ratings.

The Indian and South American ratings are clearly discrepant from the remaining regions in terms of relationship to one another.

This is important because these are the two criterion variables against which Cognadev attribute relationships will be investigated. If the criterion variable relationship is not consistent across regions, then any ‘global’ analysis using all available data aggregated across regions could be compromised.

Therefore, for the CPP analyses below, only data from regions other than India and South America will be used.

For the Performance ratings, only a single case possessed a “Below Expectations Ranking” and a single case an “Outstanding Performance” rating in the total dataset sample size of 82 cases, therefore, analyses were confined to “Meets” and “Exceeds Expectations” ratings.

For the Potential ratings, only three cases possessed a “Very High Potential” rating in a sample size of 76 cases, therefore, analyses were confined to “Stable/Static” and “High Potential” ratings.

It should be kept in mind that the organisation in question shows a distinct performance-based culture characterised by periodic performance appraisals by various evaluators. It is therefore unlikely that underperforming employees will end up in executive roles.


2. The CPP Stratified Systems Theory (SST) current and potential work environment classification frequencies as a function of rated performance expectations

As summarised in the model below, in the World of Work two domains can be identified, the Operational and Strategic. The model is holonic in that subsequent levels or systems incorporate and transcend preceding levels or systems in terms of the complexity involved. The nature of work may entail any of five overall Work Environments. Towards the right the environments become increasingly strategic, complex, chaotic, uncertain and vague. Strategic contexts require the capacity to look more at possibilities than practicalities and suspend a focus on detail to become more aware of the dynamics of the situation. This increasing complexity requires a long-term orientation, integrative thinking and intuitive judgement when making decisions.

The CPP identifies a work environment best suited to the way in which an individual currently applies their judgement (where they are currently comfortable and effective in applying their cognitive capability) as well as the environment where the individual shows the potential to effectively apply their judgement. A person’s cognitive functioning is enabled or constrained by certain values as well as cognitive, emotional or meta-awareness factors.

The competency and the complexity requirements of the executive roles within the organisation in question, were analysed using the Contextualised Competency Mapping (CCM) job analysis tool of Cognadev. According to the job experts involved in the evaluation, the majority of the executive roles reflected Parallel Processing (SST level 4) requirements.

Next, the current and potential levels of cognitive functioning of the executives were measured using the CPP. The results are visualized in the two graphs below. The percentages are calculated as the number of cases at a CPP Level of Work classification for a fixed performance rating option (e.g. “Meets”) divided by the total number of cases assigned that rating option.


There is a clear monotonic relationship between the percentage of cases and increasing CPP Current Level as well as CPP Potential level of work rankings, except for the Pure Strategic level. As indicated, executive performance as measured for the purposes of this study primarily involved Parallel Processing work requirements instead of Pure Strategic work requirements. It should be pointed out that very few individuals show the cognitive preferences and capabilities to apply a Pure Strategic information processing approach.


3. Cognitive functioning: Median ranked cognitive styles and performance ratings

The CPP Cognitive styles of the executive groups were also analysed. As mentioned, the group comprised of professionals, mostly with multiple degree in Science and/or Business. Only those who were rated as meeting or exceeding expectations of job performance were included in the analysis. Preferred cognitive style rankings varied between 14 (most preferred) to 1 (Least preferred).

It was found that the “Exceed” performance candidates consistently applied Logical, Analytical, Memory and Learning styles. Very few cases in this group showed a preference for Random (Trial-and-error) and Impulsive (Reactive) styles. For the “Meets Performance Expectations” group, the Pearson correlation between the median CPP Rank for the styles (as ordered) and the order position {1-14} is 0.91. For the “Exceeds Performance group” (Exceeds + Outstanding; n=80), the correlation is 0.98.

This is very clear evidence of the substantive ‘sense’ of these cognitive styles. If style-preferences were random we’d be looking at two straight lines with a constant median value of 7.


4. Cognitive functioning: Median ranked information processing competencies and performance ratings

Whereas cognitive styles as measured by the CPP indicate broad cognitive preferences and capabilities, the CPP information processing competencies (IPCs) are more specific and reflect functional categories of processing tendencies at various levels of complexity.

Here, we are plotting the median information processing competency (IPC) scores of the CPP in descending order, using the “Exceed” rating group’s median IPC-score monotonic order.

Very similar results were achieved in terms of the cognitive processing scores as with the styles in that the following processes were most commonly and effectively capitalised on:

  • Logical reasoning (characterised by a process orientation; use of factual detail; tendency to find logical proof; tendency to follow arguments through; tendency to converge arguments or generate new options);
  • Analytical skill (work with detail and precision; subdivide wholes into their building blocks; differentiate between subcomponents; establish relationships between elements; show a linear processing approach; show a rule orientation; being systematic);
  • Quick Insight Learning (tendency to explore new or challenging information and relatively quickly grasp the requirements; cognitive modifiability and flexibility; curiosity; attention; interest);
  • Memory (concentration; retention and recall of information);
  • Rule orientation (careful application of the task requirements); and
  • Complexity scores.

The above-mentioned processing constructs (in that order) best correlated with the Performance (r = 0.96) ratings of those who met or exceeded the criteria involved. These results indicate the highly rigorous and logical approach of this educated group of executives, as well as their reliance on knowledge and experience (as is often associated with the tendency to capitalise on memory).

From these results it seems that the executives mostly deal with interactive and dynamic systems, requiring a Logical and an Integrative approach, as is typical at the SST Parallel Processing level. Typical Pure Strategic work, however, normally requires dealing with chaos and emerging patterns as it is involved in identifying philosophical trends and macro-economic considerations across industries. A highly Intuitive approach is therefore mostly relied on in Pure Strategic contexts.



This sample of approximately 200 executives from a global production firm, all of whom meet and exceed the performance requirements of their roles (which largely reflect a Parallel Processing level of complexity), showed the following cognitive tendencies as measured by the CPP:

  • An intellectual inclination of a professional, logical-analytical nature. This orientation was also highlighted by the Value Orientation (VO) and Motivational Profile (MP) results.
  • A principled, compliant and rigorous cognitive approach as evident from knowledge- and rules-based tendencies.
  • A goal-directed, intentional and highly energetic approach. Cognitively it involved the tendency to concentrate, focus and follow arguments through. This finding was further confirmed by the MP and VO results.
  • A Parallel Processing approach to dealing with complexity involving the clarification and integration of dynamic systems.
  • An empowered, practical approach and the tendency to implement plans, monitor processes and achieve results as indicated by the cognitive, values and motivational assessment profiles.


Volume assessments on social media: Cliquidity

By Paul Barrett on October 11, 2019



In this third part of the 3-series blog on volume assessment and social networking, a practical solution is presented, aimed at meeting some of the associated requirements of individuals and organisations.

Cliquidity offers organisations low cost mass recruitment services aimed at online access to potential employees; holistic psychological pre-employment screening; competency-based filtering of CV and biographical information; competency-based searches for job candidates; as well as internal talent audits; selection and placement of potential role players; and automated talent management. These functions are aimed at optimising recruitment practices while reducing the administrative burden on HR. Additional functionalities might be added, such as the verification of personal profiles and assessment results through reputational scoring and data visualisation capability.

The competency-based searches involve the integration of candidates’ educational and work history, their work-related preferences, personal circumstances and holistic assessment results. These strategic searches hold significant financial benefits for organisations as they are designed to inform and facilitate performance predictions of the candidates selected, thus helping to mitigate the placement risks of the employer. It may also render their reliance on expensive, time-consuming and often somewhat random placement and search practices obsolete, especially in areas of rare skills.

In addition, organisations may wish to categorise information on specific types of candidates to create virtual talent pools for employment purposes.

Instead of job seekers carrying the burden of contacting employers, organisations may thus gradually adopt the responsibility of actively searching for suitable people. The ease and effectiveness of the processes will inevitably contribute to the strategic agility of organisations.

Besides recruitment, HR may also require a good understanding of their existing talent component. HR-instigated talent audits using volume assessments provide critical information for organisational purposes of promotion, succession, team compilation, job structuring, as well as for personal and team development. Visual analytics of the competencies of employees within the organisation and the industry will also have clear strategic-information benefits.

For individuals and job seekers using Cliquidity, the emphasis is on self-assessment and insight, networking with like-minded others, and the user-specified visibility of an individual’s profile and assessment results to potential employers and contacts. An individual can create a personal profile on Cliquidity by entering as much or as little personal information with which they feel comfortable, and which will be appropriate for their chosen networking purposes. They can also complete any of the following assessments:

  • Personality: general description of behaviour in life, work and relationships
  • Motivation: energy and motivational drivers
  • Cognitive functioning: visual-spatial reasoning capability
  • Numerical reasoning: capability to represent and solve problems numerically
  • Vocational Interests: interest in broad career fields and specific occupations
  • Entrepreneurial Orientation: commercial and business inclination; and
  • Performance Risk: risk propensity and risk taking

The assessments mostly require 10 to 30 minutes per test to complete. The person may decide which of these assessments they would like to do and can on completion immediately download their reports free of charge. They may also decide to track their development over time by redoing some of the assessments. In addition, they may choose to share their reports with others or with potential employers. Plus, they may choose to advertise their information among employers registered with Cliquidity. Personal confidentiality is assured because all users remain in control of their personal data and assessment results.

To find potential dating-, activity- or work-partners, it may be useful for individual users to thoroughly complete their biographical profile and the Personality, and Motivation assessments. With regard to job seeking, studies have shown that the majority of job openings are filled by word of mouth. The chances of job seekers who do not have the necessary connections to recommend the merits of appointing them, thereby eliciting the employer’s trust, are therefore diminished. The networking opportunities offered by Cliquidity can, however, be harnessed to grow the personal networks of job seekers. This may constitute a valuable job search resource because networking and relationship building tends to unlock viable career opportunities for job seekers.

Also, job applicants are not always aware of available employment opportunities. To be identified by recruiters and invited to complete certain assessments may thus be viewed as a welcome opportunity.

In addition, compiling CVs that will attract the attention of potential employers is particularly difficult for candidates who have few resources or little work experience. Over time, the situation is compounded by the fact that those without experience who subsequently fail to be employed tend to lose their skills and enthusiasm. However, having an anonymous online presence combined with assessment results which indicate the potential to develop certain work-related competencies, can greatly enhance an individual’s chances of being noticed by employers who conduct competency searches on social media platforms.

Job seekers are advised to enter information regarding their educational and career background as well as their work-related values and interest. It may also be useful for them to complete the Vocational Interest, Personality, Motivation, and Cognitive assessments. Should the desired position entail numerical calculations, it is advisable for them to also complete the Numerical reasoning assessment. This will enhance their chances of being identified by potential employers who do automated competency-based recruitment searches on the Cliquidity platform. Potential employers may then electronically request an introduction with the person (who is still anonymous at this stage) or send them the particular job profile in question to which the candidate may choose to respond or not.

Besides the benefits held by an individual’s personal profile and assessment results for career purposes, Cliquidity also offers a search function to identify and connect with certain types of people in terms of a variety of criteria; the sharing of personal reports with others; and issuing connection invitations to others. A function aimed at reputational scoring of the validity of personal information and assessment results may also be added to the system in future.

A person’s assessment results thus contribute to self-insight and inform potential connections and business opportunities, while allowing every user the necessary control to protect personal data and optimise intentional networking. It also reduces the risk of pursuing interaction with unsuitable others. The reputational scoring facility will further add value in this regard.

Educational institutions and government initiatives aimed at employment, also need to capitalise on psychological information related to the candidate’s potential to enjoy and perform well within a specific career field. Since career guidance services are only available to a small proportion of school- and university leavers and job seekers, access to a free online career assessment service by perhaps vocationally-uncertain or unskilled individuals can potentially prevent years of unfulfilling work in unsuitable job-roles.

The Cliquidity application can thus provide the necessary automated assessments, analytics and networking functionalities to meet the above-mentioned needs of both individuals and organisations. It is based on SMAC technologies (Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud) and offers a host of benefits associated with these technologies.

Volume assessments on social media: Organisational use of volume assessment platforms

By Paul Barrett on October 11, 2019



Create a virtual talent pool and grow your leadership pipeline through volume recruitment and informed talent management.

Volume assessment platforms, which enable the low cost and holistic screening of candidates in terms of biographical and psychological criteria, now offer significant benefits to businesses as well as governmental and educational institutions. Such assessment platforms can be designed to clarify and visually represent the talent pool that otherwise remains obscure, thereby contributing to the contextualisation and leverage of human potential across the spectrum.

In this second part of the 3-series blog on volume assessment on social media, the focus will be on networking for recruitment, talent management and other HR purposes in both the private and public sectors.


Business usage

People are generally regarded as one of the most important assets of any business; therefore, it is of strategic importance for companies to leverage the value offered by their people in order to drive organisational sustainability.  A crucial prerequisite for this is to gather meaningful information about people and use this information for optimising job performance, job satisfaction and employee engagement.

Talent management in organisations normally involves HR initiatives aimed at attracting, developing, motivating and retaining talent. This includes recruitment, selection, placement, performance management, team compilation, succession, employee engagement, training and remuneration functions. Talent management thereby informs and optimises various aspects of organisational development, with the goal of ensuring its viability in the long term.

For an integrated HR approach, talent management initiatives should be aligned with the organisation’s value proposition coupled with its strategic intent, business structure and culture. This requires HR practitioners to fully understand the core competence of the organisation as well as its business processes and contextual challenges; all of which will in turn determine the role-related competency requirements of various job families at various levels of work complexity.

Therefore, to create a competency framework for an organisation requires the identification of job families, levels of work complexity, as well as the careful clustering and integration of the various building blocks of competencies from which the individual’s competency scores can be calculated algorithmically. The building blocks of competencies include specific biographical features, knowledge, skills, attitudes and psychological factors. The psychometric anchoring and assessment of the competency requirements of work is an important prerequisite for the effective deployment of a strategic and agile talent management approach in an organisation.  This includes competency-based audits of current staff, mass recruitment, in-depth people assessment and placement, as well as compensation strategies. A well clarified, operationalised and measurable competency framework thus forms the foundation for the integration of all HR functions.

Mass recruitment and talent audits using volume assessments for screening, may provide a cost-effective big picture of the organisation’s internal talent component as well as its potential talent pool. The effectiveness of volume assessment depends on an integrated approach to the measurement of competencies, as single discrete assessments largely fail to capture the nature of a person’s special talents and orientation. Holistic screening techniques based on a variety of measurements should thus be used. These include biographical criteria such as personal profiles, educational exposure, and work experience, as well as psychological constructs (e.g. cognition, values and motivation). The screening techniques should gather, cluster, interpret, and verify information which should be both digitally accessible and capable of selective filtering while retaining the confidentiality of personal information.

Capitalising on social networks for recruitment purposes makes sense as most job seekers are members of a variety of digital social networks. In addition, big data or large volumes of information gathered on social media can be subjected to analytics to unlock its potential value by identifying sources of high-level performance in specific contexts. The contextual nature of performance should be emphasised, as employee engagement may depend significantly on the nature of the work in question as well as environmental factors such as the organisational culture, which can potentially energise or drain the energy of employees.

Competency-based screening tools thus provide valuable guidelines for organisational development through informed selection, placement, team compilation, succession, retention as well as personal and team development and deployment.

It goes without saying that the use of a mass recruitment or staff auditing system should ideally be integrated within the organisation’s website and reflect a strong employment brand. The user interface is critical. Ideally, it should be clear and easy to understand and navigate, be perceived as professional, and provide all the necessary information online.


To conclude

The key goals behind volume assessment and intentional social networking for employers and employees are to:

  • create accessibility and provide the necessary information to facilitate career and placement decisions aimed at building a healthy talent pipeline;
  • ensure employee engagement and retention; and
  • avoid succession risks related to vacuum and crowding effects.

Such a system should thus ideally involve effective and automated access to large volumes of potential job candidates, psychological assessment or screening, data and visual analytics, and people information management.

The functional aims of such a system include simplifying and reducing the administrative burden on HR practitioners while improving the candidate experience. In order to enhance business agility and talent mobility, the future world of work will also necessitate a well-informed and populated virtual talent pool with networking access shared by all.


Public sector usage

Not only the business sector, but also governmental and educational institutions can significantly benefit from the use of volume assessment platforms.

The public sector often requires in-depth information of the population, whether for political purposes such as gathering information on public opinion and policy effectiveness or specific electoral and socio-economic purposes related, for example, to education, job creation, employment and productivity; social service administration, the health and welfare of its citizens, law and order, and infrastructure planning. This information is required to be gathered quickly, economically, and dynamically; with social media platforms now the obvious choice for information acquisition, analytics, and dissemination.

The use of biographically and psychologically based volume assessment platforms by the public sector holds the benefit of providing in-depth data of individual profiles and therefore population characteristics. For example, data- and visual-analytics can be invaluable for helping policymakers better discover/understand important features of an electorate; along with the interests, potential and talents of the school- and university-leaving population; and in turn, job market requirements.

It therefore makes sense for government and educational institutions to consider the use of low-cost information services, provided by secure assessment and networking platforms which hold benefits at both micro- and macro levels.

In countries characterised by cultural diversity, unemployment and educational challenges, the large-scale implementation of information and networking systems on social media is thus crucial for addressing the stochastic drift of declining economies.


Volume assessments on social media: Personal use

By Paul Barrett on October 8, 2019



Networking” is nowadays probably one of the most frequently used terms in human resource management circles. The focus of this 3-part blog series is on volume assessment and networking for personal and organisational purposes.

In part 1, the individual use of assessments on social media for purposes of career guidance, job application, personal development and social networking is discussed.

In part 2, the deployment of mass assessments by businesses for recruitment, pre-employment screening, competency matching, organisational audits, succession planning and the creation of virtual talent pools, is addressed. Also touched on, is mass assessment within the educational milieu for purposes of career guidance and unlocking employment opportunities. Finally, government initiatives aimed at addressing population audits, unemployment and large-scale educational needs, is described.

In part 3, a particular volume assessment and social networking platform will be introduced, namely: Cliquidity; which has been specifically designed to meet the assessment and networking requirements discussed in parts 1 and 2 of this blog series.



The term networking refers to the total process of creating and utilising computer networks, including the hardware, software, wired and wireless technologies, according to certain theoretical principles found within technological fields such as computer science, electrical and electronic engineering and information technology.

Social networking, as referred to in this blog series, utilises computer and communication networks for enabling the processes of information exchange and social interaction. Through networking, information is made widely accessible, creating perceptions, aligning opinions, and connecting and empowering individuals and groups. It is often used for the purposes of initiating political movements; for marketing, advertising and commercial transactions; as well as for communication, entertainment, social bonding, educational, sport, business, relaxation and career-related purposes.  Used strategically, networking can potentially unlock powerful mechanisms within the world of work and beyond. Our networking activities make us feel well-informed, in control of our world, and accepted and supported by others.

No wonder then that social media platform organisations have become some of the most powerful forces in society. Examples include global social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+; with microblogging on Tumblr and Twitter; video sharing through YouTube, Facebook Live, Periscope and Vimeo; and photo sharing on Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest.  Currently, billions of people globally spend a substantial proportion of their time using social media.

Networking has thus become a fixture in all aspects of our lives as it holds the potential for unlimited exposure and opportunity – for both personal and business purposes.


Personal use of online assessment and networking

Social networking facilitates a wide range of interpersonal transactions for a variety of purposes. It allows us to introduce ourselves and connect with interesting others and to follow their activities and thoughts. It also allows us to identify potential partners, whether it be for purposes of dating, business, sport, hobbies or other activities. Networking allows access to information; to professional associations or interest groups. It accelerates the exchange of ideas; enables the sharing of media offerings; and assists us to explore, make decisions, relax and enjoy, as well as to relate with one another.  A person’s career and personal life may thus benefit from adopting a networking lifestyle aimed at sharing and collaboration.

From a psychological perspective, a fair degree of social networking is, however, uninformed. The quality of social networking transactions can thus substantially be improved through the use of assessments to help in better understanding oneself, one’s own interests, work- or activity related opportunities as well as obtaining a more in-depth understanding of those one chooses to interact with.

It is for this purpose that the Cliquidity application has been developed.

Cliquidity is a platform on social media aimed at facilitating intentional social networking. It has been created in order to facilitate the ease and effectiveness with which individuals can complete psychological assessments and access their reports. Enabling a deeper understanding of themselves; helping them make informed networking and career decisions; and crafting personal and business opportunities through the sharing of reports with potential partners, employers and employees; all the while maintaining full control over their personal information.

Intellectual Capital Management: Cognadev’s Assessment Products and Constructs

By Paul Barrett on September 17, 2019


©metamorworks /


In this final blog of the 4-part series, the assessment products which were referred to in part 3 are examined in more detail.

Job Analysis by means of the Contextualised Competency Mapping (CCM) tool and integrated reporting via the Integrative Competency Report (ICR), offers the following.


  • determines the SST level of complexity of a job or functional job family
  • specifies the role-related competency requirements of a role at the applicable SST level
  • matches individual assessment profiles to the job requirements
  • compares the cognitive suitability of various candidates to the job requirements
  • identifies the required team development initiatives
  • enables competency-based performance evaluations through an online 360- degree questionnaire
  • informs reporting on the person’s competency-based match to a specific role


An example of the CCM items

9 Examples of the 46 competency requirements as reflective of 6 categories of functioning

 Examples of generic competency definitions

An example of the behavioural components of a competency at the Tactical Strategy level of work

Innovation applied at Tactical strategy

Applying an enterprising and original approach to initiate change by exploring and formulating new ideas and tactical strategies to continuously improve systems functioning, professional application or business unit performance.

  • continuous critical evaluation of the effectiveness of systems and processes
  • benchmark and implement improved systems
  • reorganise operational structures and processes
  • change tactics in allocating resources
  • experiment in leveraging resources and people skills creatively
  • apply an entrepreneurial and experimental approach
  • spot opportunities
  • show personal resilience and resourcefulness
  • show energy and optimism
  • identify and capitalise on untapped resources
  • show change awareness
  • use effective communication
  • ensure wide adoption of best practices
  • build a culture of improvement
  • reward creative contributions
  • challenge the status quo
  • show risk awareness
  • monitor transition processes

Cognadev’s approach to holistic assessment


Cognadev’s holistic assessment battery


Assessment products: Cognitive assessment by using the Cognitive Process Profile (CPP) and/or Learning Orientation Index (LOI)

The CPP and LOI have been developed for the purpose of measuring cognitive processes, styles, learning potential and complexity capabilities. Both assessments involve automated simulation exercises which externalise and track thinking processes. The results for both assessments are interpreted by algorithmic expert systems; with detailed explanatory reports (CPP and LOI) provided to support a number of HR objectives including selection, placement, career pathing and personal or team development.

Read more on the cognitive assessment approach in an article published in the journal Integral Leadership Review and in a whitepaper published on the Cognadev website.


Assessment products: Values assessment by using the Values Orientation (VO)

For purposes of the measurement of values and culture, otherwise referred to as levels of consciousness, the Value Orientations (VO) tool has been developed. It is based on a host of developmental models from psychology, consciousness theory and the spiritual traditions – the Spiral Dynamics (SD) model in particular. The VO measures and reports upon worldviews, values, perceptual systems, decision making frameworks and cultural memes. Further model and assessment information can be found in a paper published in the journal Integral Leadership Review.

The Spiral Dynamics (SD) model


Motivational assessment by using the Motivational Profile (MP)

… motivation may be just as important to job performance as ability

                                                Paul Barrett (2017)

The Motivational Profile (MP) is a non-transparent psychological tool with a Jungian flavour. It is based on the use of archetypes or metaphors and measures aspects of personal functioning for which self-reporting by a test candidate is not suitable. Many different aspects of motivational drive and energy are addressed by the MP. Graphics of the person’s motivational drivers in life, work and relationship are shown below, followed by the graphic representation of the dynamic personality patterns as specified by the Enneagram. Besides these two graphically depicted constructs, the MP also measures and reports upon many other aspects of motivational drive.


The assessment tools available on the Cliquidity volume-assessment platform


An example of an Integrated Competency Report (ICR)

A person’s assessment results on the above-mentioned tools (and several others that are available in the market) are algorithmically linked to the SST related competencies of the job/job family. The competency scores are thus holistically informed by all the various psychological aspects involved, as this example report shows.


The above-mentioned products thus inform the HR Trends of the future as identified by a Deloitte survey in 2017


Additional readings on assessment practices

Cognition: Why you should hire for potential, not experience

Values and culture: Cultural Fit: A must for candidate selection

Motivation: Motivation assessment just got a whole lot more important

Intellectual Capital Management: Practical guidelines for an Intellectual Capital Management solution

By Paul Barrett on September 17, 2019

©metamorworks /


In this third blog of the 4-part series, we outline our practical guidelines for helping choose an assessment solution.

In order to manage talent, one needs to understand both the work-related requirements and the psychological factors involved. The assessment of these aspects offers a solid foundation for the entire value chain of people- or talent management. We recommend an assessment solution which is guided by the following principles:

  • Cognitive functioning forms an integral and important part of work performance. It refers to a dynamic, adaptive and multi-dimensional factor incorporating intellectual, motivational and consciousness factors, all of which need to be contextualised. A holistic approach is thus required for its measurement and management in the work environment.
  • Besides the psychological factors, cognitive functioning at work is also affected by a wide range of variables such as previously acquired knowledge and skills; physical health and well-being; nutritional factors; past and future exposure and learning opportunities; socio-economic background and circumstances; educational and cultural factors; relationships, love and acceptance by significant others; and spiritual factors related to a personal sense of purpose, to mention but a few.
  • The work and home environments in which a person operates are therefore crucial as cognitive functioning cannot be separated from its context or seen in isolation.
  • To leverage the concept of Intelligence in the work environment involves more than merely “how intelligent” a person is. Each person is perfectly suited to a particular kind of work. Appropriate and sufficient information is thus required to understand, position and develop cognitive functioning.
  • Conventional Psychometric test methodologies are often flawed and rely on limited techniques. The idea is to move away from such inadequate and cross-culturally loaded test practices and to cease assessing educationally acquired skills as is the case with various intelligence test methodologies.
  • More robust methodologies are required, based upon validated theoretical models and automated simulation techniques which operationalise, externalise and track thinking processes. Given the complexities involved in mental functioning, the analysis of candidate responses by means of algorithmic expert systems, AI or machine learning and fuzzy logic, will contribute to the richness in interpretations of assessment results.
  • The ultimate goal of an assessment battery remains that of discovering and mapping the unique territory of an individual mind to honour and position their distinctive repertoire of talents in a way which will facilitate the full realisation of their potential.


The implementation of these principles, as part of an Intellectual Capital Management solution, may involve the following action steps and products, or assessment methodologies:

1. The training and accreditation of HR practitioners in terms of the underlying theory, measurement and utilisation of the constructs which underlie competence at work. For this purpose, Cognadev provides in-depth e-Learning courses on cognition, motivational drive and levels of consciousness, otherwise referred to as valuing systems. The models and methodologies covered by these courses are at present not yet addressed by university courses.

2. Facilitated discussions between HR and line functions are required to contextualise the entire talent management approach. Here the focus should be on the nature and prospects of the industry, the organisational value- proposition, and the core competence of the organisation. The core organisational competencies will inform the job-specific competency requirements to which candidate profiles can be compared. For this purpose, functional job families also need to be identified.

3. This is followed by a job-analysis to determine the Stratified Systems Theory (SST) levels of work complexity of specific job families, as well as the identification of 10 to 12 job-related competency requirements of those roles or job families. The competency definitions need to reflect the correct SST level of work of a position or role, to inform job specs and facilitate the appointment of suitable role players. This is done by means of the Contextualised Competency Mapping (CCM) tool of Cognadev.

4. An organisational audit by means of a volume assessment system further contributes towards an understanding of the talent within the organisation. In addition, a mass recruitment exercise aimed at creating a virtual talent pool, may be useful. Together these mass assessment initiatives will resolve the typical succession problems related to crowding and vacuum. The creation of virtual talent pools will become more critical as the new world of work, characterised by a-typical organisational structures around project-based undertakings, emerges. Cognadev provides a volume assessment tool, called Cliquidity, which holistically assesses candidates and possesses the required functionalities to enable organisational audits and the creation of virtual talent pools.

5. In terms of the assessment of people, cognition, motivation as well as values and culture, need to be addressed as these three factors form a crucial foundation of any intellectual capital management solution:

  • The culture of the organisation is best determined by assessing the executive as well as representative groups of employees from various regions or functional units. Understanding the organisational culture requirements will optimise selection, placement, team compilation, leadership, developmental, and succession solutions within the organisation. For this purpose, Cognadev provides the Value Orientation (VO) assessment tool which is largely based on the Spiral Dynamics (SD) model.
  • Seeing that the proposed Intellectual Capital Management approach mainly rests on levels of work complexity, the cognitive preferences and capabilities of candidates need to be assessed. For the cognitive assessment of existing staff, Cognadev provides the Cognitive Process Profile (CPP) while the assessment of school and university leavers can be undertaken by means of the Learning Orientation Index (LOI). For purposes of mass recruitment and organisational audits, a low-cost volume assessment, the Cliquidity Adaptive Reasoning Assessment (CARA) can be used.
  • Motivation too, is a critical prerequisite of work performance. Constructs related to drive and energy; factors that could energise a person or drain their energy, self-insight, energy themes, defence mechanisms, life scripts, dynamic personality patterns, EQ and motivational patterns, amongst others, can be measured using a non-transparent assessment tool, called the Motivational Profile (MP).

6. Assessment results need to be reported upon by integrating the cognitive, values and motivational profiles of role players with the competency requirements of their work. If possible, not only the psychological results, but information on a candidate’s knowledge and experience as well as performance ratings should be covered by the integrated reports. Seeing that it can be a tiresome and time-consuming job to compile hand-written reports, Cognadev has developed an automated report generator, namely the Integrated Competency Report (ICR). These integrated person-job matching competency reports are also very useful for feedback purposes and for future performance discussions between assessment candidates and their managers.

7. Individualised feedback to test candidates contributes to their personal development as it enhances self-insight, informs their career and development decisions and optimises interpersonal functioning. Feedback can be done through the provision of written reports, or more ideally, through personal discussions with HR practitioners and/or managers. At executive levels the involvement of a psychologist or an executive coach may be required. Group feedback can also be provided and create an opportunity for team development.

8. Performance evaluations in terms of job-related competencies further contribute to Intellectual Capital Management. 360 Degree online performance questionnaires, completed by the individuals themselves, their peers, managers and subordinates, may also contribute to employee performance, self-insight and engagement. Performance discussions aimed at realistic and honest feedback on the person’s strengths and development areas are aimed at culminating in a developmental plan. The CCM job analysis tool offers a 360 Degree competency evaluation questionnaire.

9. The above-mentioned competency-based approach to talent and intellectual capital management, will enable the integration and alignment of all HR functions, including:

  • recruitment
  • selection and placement or talent acquisition and retention
  • succession planning and promotion
  • performance management
  • individual and team development
  • team compilation
  • career guidance and development
  • job structuring
  • organisational development (OD) as well as
  • remuneration and compensation.

10. The entire approach should ideally be accompanied by a ROI evaluation and reporting.

Intellectual Capital Management: Holistic Assessment

By Paul Barrett on September 17, 2019

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Intelligence is typically dealt with in work and educational environments by using IQ tests aimed at measuring “ability”.  It seems that academics and HR practitioners have bought into the concept of IQ wholesale. This implies that they tend to accept that candidates who can speedily/swiftly apply logical-analytical, convergent reasoning to highly structured, domain specific test content (such as verbal, numerical and spatial IQ test items), will outperform others with lower IQ test scores. IQ is thus seen as a one-dimensional continuum; a view that has unfortunately globally permeated the understanding of cognitive functioning.

The acceptance of this view is probably based on decades of research findings that IQ tests are better predictors of work performance than say Personality test results; that there is a general factor underlying all cognitive functioning, referred to as g or general intelligence; and that different socio-economic and race groups show different levels of intelligence.

These perceptions are, however, flawed; as IQ tests assess only a small component of the cognitive skills required in complex, dynamic and vague work environments. Findings regarding g or general intelligence are also largely a function of the comparable types of test items used to measure intelligence and the statistical techniques, namely correlations and factor analyses, utilised to analyse the results. Cross-cultural differences in IQ may also be linked to the decontextualised item content and the limited nature of conventional test psychometrics.

The result of using these IQ type tests for selection purposes may just result in what Professor Robert Sternberg refers to as gathering “smart idiots”. “Cleverness”, as traditionally and narrowly based on IQ, has never impressed Sternberg. He comments: “…people who have high IQs, they have test scores and degrees, but put them in a job or a relationship and they make a mess of it.” He concludes that to “…prevent clever people falling into the fallacies of their own egocentrism, omniscience, omnipotence and invulnerability” all of which he regards as stages of stupidity, they “need to develop wisdom.”

If IQ tests have failed society, what would then best predict a person’s cognitive functioning within the work environment? To answer this question, it may be useful to list the various research questions that have been posed in intelligence research. Included are questions regarding the:

  • what” of intelligence as embraced by Differential psychology and the IQ tradition.
  • how” of thinking as reflected by the Information Processing paradigm, and cognitive and computational neuroscience;
  • when” of cognitive capacity explored by Developmental psychologists such as Piaget and Vygotsky; and the
  • where” of competence as researched by the Contextualist school.

Each of these approaches to cognitive functioning, is characterised by specific assessment and development practices. The diversity of opinions in addressing a concept as fuzzy as intelligence have thus provided many useful insights, but the research community has so far failed to agree on a definition of intelligence, leaving us with a “many worlds” conclusion.

Given the weaknesses inherent to IQ testing, combined with the seeming lack of adequate alternative assessment methodologies, most HR practitioners have thus turned to structured interviews and assessment centres – especially at executive levels. These two test methodologies are rooted in the Contextualist school with its emphasis on competence.

Structured interviews involve discussions of a person’s career progress and work experience as well as their work-related preferences and ambitions.  However, factors that may interfere with the validity of structured interview outcomes include the inherent unstandardised form of the assessment; the test candidate’s verbal skills and eloquence; retrospective justification of own performance; exaggeration of own work-related responsibilities and skills; the rapport between the interviewee and the interviewer; the subjective opinions of the interviewer; and therefore the interrater reliability of the assessment results.

Assessment centres involve the application of job-related skills as observed by evaluators. Although assessment centre methodologies largely involve real performance, which enhances the validity of the assessment approach, the cost of such exercises has in many cases resulted in the use of questionnaires that are electronically mailed to respondents for written answers. There is thus no way to ensure that the responses are those of the actual candidate. In addition, the interpretation of both real and written responses relies upon a test candidate’s previous experience and thus does not necessarily indicate their future potential, plus the responses are subjectively interpreted by evaluators.

Quite simply, what is required in the work environment is relevant information on a person’s cognitive functioning which supersedes that of: limited IQ test results that are notoriously cross-culturally biased; the subjective opinions of facilitators on self-report information regarding a person’s own cognitive functioning (as is typical of interview situations); and the application of previous management skills – which do not predict learning potential.

Ideally, an Intellectual Capital Management approach should involve:

  • skilled and informed HR practitioners;
  • an understanding of the industry, the value proposition of the organisation as well as its core competencies;
  • the job-related or functional competency requirements of work at various levels of complexity (e.g. as specified by a model of job complexity);
  • an understanding of the organisation’s potential talent pool – both currently and in the future;
  • holistic assessment of all individuals – not only cognition, but also in terms of levels of consciousness or values, as well as motivation;
  • the matching of people and job profiles;
  • job structuring where necessary;
  • developmental initiatives including performance feedback, training, coaching, mentoring, multiskilling and knowledge transfer platforms; as well as
  • continuous measurement, feedback and ROI evaluation.

In terms of the holistic assessment of people, as mentioned above, information on the following aspects are particularly relevant:

  • Knowledge and skills, in other words, educational and work experience;
  • Cognitive functioning which includes cognitive preferences, complexity capabilities and learning potential. These aspects will inform the work environment which the person is best suited to – be that of an operational or strategic nature;
  • Motivational factors, including current energy; factors that drain and energise the person; their degree of self-insight; their interests; their dynamic personality patterns; and their motivational profile;
  • Values and levels of consciousness which informs a person’s worldview and determines how they will perceive matters, make decisions and apply their talents in the work context.

Practical guidelines for how to approach assessment of these attributes are set out in part 3 of this series, with part 4 detailing the assessment products themselves.