In a workplace relevant context, decision making refers to the process in which staff decide between course of action in order to maximise the probability of a desirable outcome. Employees with exceptional decision making ability will thoroughly analyse the information presented to them, identify multiple effective course of action, and decide upon the best available option. This ensures that staff can be relied upon to make decisions autonomously, allowing managers and more senior staff to focus on their own task and objectives without needing to micromanage or excessively supervise.
Those lacking decision making ability are likely to have difficulty interpreting the information presented to them, or will frequently misread the situation they are in. As a result, the decisions they may will often be flawed, being either based on incorrect interpretations of information, or will sub-optimally deal with the situation at hand. Indeed, poor decision making could also lead to counterproductive solutions to problems being implemented, worsening the situation rather than improving it. As a result, decision making ability is a common core competency sought in new staff, particularly in roles with significant autonomy or managerial responsibility.
decision making ability is a common core competency sought in new staff
Why Decision Making Matters
Decision making ability is essential to performance in any role where staff are relied upon to make reasonable and effective decisions, especially when those decisions have a significant impact on the lives of other people. For example, mid-senior level managers are heavily relied upon to make effective decisions, as the decisions they make will often strongly impact the lives of their staff, and the business itself as a whole. Should senior managers fail to make effective decisions, the lives of their staff may be negatively impacted, as could the bottom line of the business itself. However, when senior managers make effective decisions, this greatly benefits the lives of their direct reports, and can help improve the business overall.
As a competency, decision making ability is a common performance for roles where staff are required to make important and complex decisions on behalf of other people, or the business as whole. The include, but are not limited to: management consultants, IT professionals, finance professionals, legal professionals, data scientists, managers, and executives. As a general rule, the more senior the role, or the greater the potential for advancement, the more important decision making abilities will be, and the more costly it will be when employees fail to make effective decisions.
How to Assess Candidates on their Decision Making
Decision making as a psychological construct is underpinned by both cognitive and behavioural traits. The ability to understand and interpret preliminary information is essential to effective decision making and is thus mostly underpinned by a person’s cognitive abilities. The propensity to pay attention to detail, avoid impulsivity, and to focus on the task at hand, however, are intrinsically behavioural, underpinned by a range of personality traits. As a result, to optimally measure a person’s decision making ability, a combination of cognitive and behavioural assessments should be utilised.
The cognitive elements of decision making are best measured using a critical thinking assessment. Critical thinking tests measure specific critical thinking abilities, such as the ability to weigh up arguments, evaluate the validity of conclusions, and assess the accuracy of deductions, cognitive faculties which are intrinsic to effective decision making. The behavioural aspects of decision making however, are best captured using situational judgement tests (SJTS). SJTs present candidates with workplace relevant scenarios, and a range of potential remedies to that scenario. Candidates are then required to rate or rank the effectiveness of those remedies, serving as a proxy for the candidate ability to identify the correct course of action.