Greg is responsible for setting and executing the scientific agenda for The Predictive Index. He leads all R&D for PI's science-based behavioral, cognitive, and skills assessments.
An explanation of how PI’s Behavioral Assessment works
60+ years ago, Arnold Daniels created the first version of the Predictive Index Behavioral Assessment (BA). The design of the assessment was based on the works of William Marston and his book Emotions of Normal People. But the tool also took inspiration and followed psychometric and psychological principles of influential psychologists such as Gordon Alport, Louis Thurston, Raymond Cattell, and Carl Rogers, to name a few.
After several years of refining this assessment, Daniels settled on an 86 item, free choice, adjective checklist which was specifically designed to measure four motivating needs (or drives) that were most important to workplace behaviors. He posited that if you know where a person falls on a spectrum of these four factors, you actually possess a great deal of knowledge about what it will be like to work with him or her. So what are those four telling behavioral drives?
Obviously, there are other traits—hundreds of them, in fact—that define our character. But just knowing how strong or weak we are in these four “Primary Factors” can predict key workplace behaviors like leadership, execution, relationships sales, and teamwork.
Daniels’ model has held up astonishingly well. As the head of the science team at PI, I’ve seen the strong evidence from more than 350 validation studies spanning nearly every type of job and industry that the four factors are doing exactly what they were designed to do: explain and predict workplace behavior.There are three elements that are essential in understanding why the four Primary Factors are so predictive of success:
- The factors themselves: What do they actually mean?
- Factor combinations: How does the interplay of two factors within in us manifest itself?
- Behavioral patterns: What do we know by looking at the relationship of all our factors?
The four Primary Factors
To a BA novice, the evaluation usually starts simply by focusing on each behavioral separately and identify someone’s strongest drive or drives (i.e., highest scores) and use that information to establish a person’s primary motivational style. For example, if someone is highest on extraversion, she is most likely driven for and motivated by social interaction and people first.
Let’s unpack what the four motivational needs/behavioral drives are and exactly what they mean.
The degree to which an individual seeks to control his or her environment. Individuals who score high on this dimension tend to be independent, assertive and self-confident. Individuals who score low on this dimension tend to be agreeable, cooperative and accommodating.
The degree to which an individual seeks social interaction with other people. Individuals who score high on this dimension tend to be outgoing, persuasive and socially-poised. Individuals who score low on this dimension tend to be serious, introspective and reserved.
The degree to which an individual seeks consistency and stability in his or her environment. Individuals who score high on this dimension tend to be patient, consistent and deliberate. Individuals who score low on this dimension tend to be fast-paced, urgent and intense.
The degree to which an individual seeks to conform to formal rules and structure. Individuals who score high on this dimension tend to be organized, precise and self-disciplined. Individuals who score low on this dimension tend to be informal, casual and uninhibited.
PI has an amazing amount of scientific evidence that provides strong support for the validity of BA. Validity, in assessment terms, is about whether the assessment measures what it is supposed to measure and predicts what it is supposed to predict. In other words, does it work?
With 350+ studies, the evidence is overwhelming. The Factors measure what they are supposed to measure (e.g., Extraversion definitely measures Extraversion) and predict job performance in nearly every type of job and industry. With this information in hand, the results of the BA can be used with confidence in determining likely behavioral tendencies and potential performance implications.
While the individual factors, by themselves, are a solid and valid starting point for understanding how how people are likely to behave and perform on the job, it is the configural scoring (the relative configuration) of the BA that provides the real interpretive power. These Factor Combinations—the relationship between two factor scores—a provide further understanding about how the interaction or relativity of the factors is likely to play out in behavior. It’s important to note these are not measures of individual psychological constructs. With four Primary Factors, there are a total of 6 different Factor Combinations.
For example, the Dominance-Formality Factor Combination tells us how a person is likely to handle risk. If Dominance is a lot higher than Formality, then we know that someone has a tendency to be quite aggressive, assertive, and bold (high dominance) with little concern for structure or rules to hold them back (low formality). This person will be far more comfortable with risk than someone whose formality is more pronounced than her dominance.
The other five Factor Combinations include:
- Dominance/Extraversion, which explains the extent to which a person might be Task vs. People oriented in their work
- Dominance/Patience, which explains whether a person is more likely to have a proactive vs. responsive action style
- Extraversion/Patience, which explains the extent to which a person may be quick to connect with other people or if they need more time to form connections with people
- Extraversion/Formality, which helps explain whether someone has a very informal interaction style or if they prefer to be more serious and formal
- Patience/Formality, which helps understand whether they are easy-going and casual about rules or if they are quite careful to make sure the rules are followed.
So with the Factor Combinations, it is possible to get a better understanding of many workplace behaviors, such as how people take action, what they like to work on, how they interact with each other, and how they approach the rules and risk.
The final layer of the Predictive Index Behavioral assessment are the patterns. Patterns involve evaluating the relativity of all of the factors and Factor Combinations at the same time. This the Behavioral Assessment at its configurable best. Patterns are useful in a gestalt sort of way:the whole is greater than the sum of its individual parts. Patterns aren’t great for nuanced interpretation, but they are fantastic for providing an at-a-glance snapshot that describes much of how someone is going to behave and perform in the workplace. At the Predictive Index, we tend to focus on 16 prototypical patterns that we call “Reference Patterns.” Each of these Reference Patterns patterns have names (e.g., Craftsman or Science Professional) and those names are meant to quickly convey a sense of a person’s overall style.
For example purposes— you will see two opposing patterns below: the Maverick and the Diligence. They are considered opposing because the relative relationship between all tFour factors is completely opposite for each.
The Maverick is someone who is primarily an aggressive, assertive, competitive person (high dominance) as well as social, persuasive, and outgoing (high extraversion). She is is intense and fast-paced (low patience), and she does things her way with little regard for the rules (low formality).
In comparison, someone with a Diligence Pattern is the complete opposite. He is primarily about doing things correctly, accurately, and according to the rules (high Formality); he is steady and comfortable with routine (high Patience), and when it comes to social oomph and taking control, he tends to take a more thoughtful and reserved approach (low Extraversion) while letting others lead. He relishes a behind-the-scenes, team role (low Dominance).
The powerful part of the patterns is that end-users really don’t need to see the actual scores to be able to quickly understand how people are similar or different or how they may perform in different roles.
The PI Behavioral Assessment is quite a powerful assessment. Despite its surface level simplicity, The PI Behavioral Assessment and the four Primary Factors combine to produce a powerful framework for understanding behavioral tendencies and potential performance implications. But the BA Factors weren’t designed to be used independently, and as a configural assessment, a great deal of powerful insight comes from the relativity, relationships, and synergy that exists by evaluating all the factors together. People are more complex than single scale assessments, and the BA is designed to make the complex simple.
Many people wonder how something so simple can be such an accurate and effective talent management tool when it only measures four drives. The answer lies in the unique configural design of the BA. “Configural” assessments are assessments in which interpretations are based on the relative configuration of scores (Meehl, 1950). So with the BA, some of the most meaningful information comes from the relativity or configuration of factors in comparison to each other.
These configural components of Factor Combinations and behavioral patterns of the BA are very powerful interpretive tools which ultimately make the BA a much more robust tool for understanding and predicting human behavior.