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What Is Prioritisation?

Prioritisation in the workplace refers to a person’s ability to correctly appraise the relevant importance or urgency of assigned tasks. Employees with better prioritisation skills will be better equipped to make strategic decisions, show excellent judgement, and display strong time-management skills. Similarly, in roles where staff must juggle several objectives, prioritisation skills underpins a person’s ability to keep up with their tasks, focus on the most important tasks, and objectively weigh up options when making decisions.

Employees with better prioritisation skills will be better equipped to make strategic decisions

Those that lack prioritisation skills will inevitably focus their time and attention on less important tasks, misinterpret the urgency of incoming tasks, and will have difficulty thinking tactically when making decisions. For example, in administrative roles, those lacking in prioritisation skills will misinterpret the relative importance of tasks, they may instead focus on relatively unimportant tasks while neglecting the tasks which are far more pressing. Similarly, in managerial roles, a lack of prioritisation could result in poor decision making, with major judgements made based on flawed information. As a result, prioritisation is a common core competency in roles with several distinct tasks, or a strategic decision making focus.

Why Prioritisation Matters

Prioritisation is essential for performance in roles with a significant focus on decision making or workplace autonomy. For example, in roles where staff are required to manage their own workloads or are trusted to allocate their efforts wisely, prioritisation skills are a major performance indicator. Project management roles are a good example of roles which depend heavily on the prioritisation skills. Project managers are required to make effective and informed decisions, weigh-up competing course of action, and ultimately prioritise the most pressing tasks and objectives on behalf of others. Should a project manager show poor prioritisation skills, they will inevitably create setbacks in the projects they manage, much to the detriment of everyone involved.

Project managers are required to make effective and informed decisions

As a competency, prioritisation is a common requirement in roles with significant autonomy, decision making, or a wide range of distinct tasks. These roles include, but are not limited to: administrative staff, project managers, customer service staff, sales staff, managers, and senior executives.

How to Assess Candidates on Their Prioritisation Skills

A person's propensity towards effective judgement is underpinned by a range of behavioural traits. In particular, a person's level of conscientiousness is likely to determine how well a person prioritises their tasks. Conscientious people pay significant attention to detail, avoid impulsive decisions, and prefer an organised approach when following processes. A person's overall judgement and decision making ability is also likely to underpin how well they prioritise specifically. Prioritisation is an important facet of decision making and judgement, and thus an assessment that measures those capabilities will also highlight how well a person can prioritise.

As a result, personality questionnaires and situational judgement tests are the best way to assess prioritisation.

Although many hiring managers and HR professionals try to measure prioritisation skills during an interview, this is unlikely to be effective. Generally speaking, interviews can only measure traits which are expressed interpersonally, whereas prioritisation is almost entirely an intrapersonal expression.

Certain assessment centre exercises may be partial indicators of prioritisation, particularly assessments such as in-tray exercises or case-study exercises. However, personality questionnaires and situational judgement tests are the most relevant assessments when measuring prioritisation, and thus will provide the strongest indicator for candidates’ overall propensity towards effective prioritisation.

Our recommended Test Partnership assessments for measuring prioritisation Assessment(s):

Relevant TPAQ Trait(s):

  • Conscientiousness

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