Assessing for safety and dependability: Best practices

While the need to hire high potential talent will probably never cease, an important theme within talent assessments that has been highlighted by the worldwide pandemic is the need for dependable employees who pose low safety risks.

Perhaps because of the nature of remote work as well as all of us being made aware of the dangers of unsafe work environments, this topic has steadily moved to the top of many talent managers, IOPs, and recruitment professionals’ agendas for the foreseeable future.

Such concerns are even more magnified in industries where the reputational and financial risk of counterproductive work behaviors and low dependability are severe. Safety concerns in the mining and manufacturing sphere, dishonest behavior in the financial services world, and lack of dependability in retail operators are just some examples where selecting the right talent becomes a matter of business survival.

In a review completed by Deloitte (Winter 2022 Fortune/Deloitte CEO Survey), a quarter of CEOs reported that fighting COVID fatigue, finding the best talent, and engaging existing talent were their top priorities. Therefore, for professionals working in the field of talent management, they will have to have robust and credible answers to the question: how do we select dependable staff?

Thinking clearly about top talent: The TTS Capability Framework

In order to meet the needs of modern organizations, especially in terms of high potential, dependable, and safety-conscious employees, it is important to first have a clear understanding of the factors at play when employees perform effectively in their roles (or conversely, when they are likely to display poor performance).

To this end, TTS has developed a tool called the TTS Capability Framework©. This framework describes a holistic approach for individual assessment based on years of validation research and a practical understanding of the factors that lead to performance effectiveness.

Using the framework, our talent experts have been able to help clients from many of the high-risk industries mentioned above to think clearly about their talent needs, plan for an integrated and contextual solution to the talent pipeline, and ultimately select employees who are highly likely to behave dependably and exhibit exceptional work performance.

Within the framework, three broad areas are recognized as integral to effective performance: backward-looking experience and performance, forward-looking potential, and foundational success factors.

Backward-looking experience

These are factors defined as the individual’s level of experience in relation to the minimum requirements of a targeted role. 

Traditionally, talent selection processes have sometimes overemphasized potential to the detriment of actual work experience.

In the TTS Capabilities Framework, this bias is rectified by measuring a candidate’s suitability for employment based on objective experiential criteria.

Forward-looking potential

While sometimes overstated, a person’s potential to perform effectively at work by exhibiting the correct behaviors as well as capabilities is of vital importance.

 When compared against the known success factors within a specific role (or aspirational role), a candidate’s future (or forward-looking) capabilities will factor into their eventual probability of success.

This probability is a measurable, quantifiable score that is calculated based on the predictive validity of various psychometric and competency-based assessments.

Foundational factors

Finally, foundational factors are role independent and more specific to the individual. These factors have a significant effect on the success of an individual’s performance and include the extent of an individual’s career aspirations and engagement, motivational drivers, emotional intelligence, growth potential, cultural agility, and importantly, safety and dependability behaviors.

Making better talent decisions: Being specific about safety and dependability

The cornerstone of any good talent decision is based on an accurate understanding of role context and requirements. For industries such as mining, financial services, and aviation, an important contextual consideration is that of safety and the risks associated with low dependability.

If a generic understanding of top talent is used in these contexts, it is very likely to yield poor talent decisions, and of course, will increase the risks associated with selecting the wrong talent. So, to counteract this problem, we advocate the use of well-defined and comprehensive work and role profiling to precede any assessment project.

In doing this critical work, our consultants partner with client-side SMEs to determine the key constructs (i.e behaviors, abilities, skills, etc) required for role success in the specific client organization and industry.

In doing so, we can highlight competencies (such as dependability) that may have a disproportionate impact on the client’s business model and industry pressures.

Once a detailed, contextual understanding of the client’s work reality is arrived at, we choose among a host of best-of-breed, globally recognized assessments to give the most accurate measurement of the required competencies.

In this regard, a number of our international product providers have developed accurate measures of safety behavior, such as Aon’s award-winning ADEPT-15 assessment. In addition, TTS has also developed a measure of dependability based on our extensive experience within the mining, manufacturing, and aviation industries called the Organizational Behavioral Index (OBI).

Measures such as the OBI are best applied when assessing the extent to which an individual is likely to display counterproductive work behavior and provide information on dependability, integrity, and pro-safety behaviors.

When taken together with objective measures of workplace behavior, problem-solving complexity, relevant skills and experience, our IOP and HR partners can be assured of a scientifically-credible, highly predictive series of results for any given candidate.

Safety leadership: An important ideal

Other than everyday workplace dependability, which needs to be displayed by all staff, the pandemic has perhaps also reemphasized the importance of safety leadership. Within safety-critical industries, leaders often define safety goals, develop implementation procedures, and ensure compliance with the company’s safety programs.

Most importantly, a competent safety leader is likely to consistently motivate employees to effectively mitigate safety risks. And while safety risks and reputational impacts can never fully be avoided, having the right leadership on board can go a long way toward minimizing risk.

To this end, research in the areas of dependability and integrity assessments indicates that conscientious, dependable, emotionally mature and agreeable leaders perform better in safety-critical arenas. These leaders tend to avoid and mitigate risky behaviors related to fraud, absenteeism, team conflict, and safety incidents.

As a result of such insights, we often work closely with our clients when they select and develop leaders who operate in high-risk environments to ensure that safety leadership is a prime consideration.

Final thoughts

Most organizations and talent decision-makers invest substantial resources in utilizing assessment tools with the aim of attaining the best prediction of an individual’s work performance.

In doing so, they have the expectation that their investment will return an equally substantial benefit in terms of bringing the best, most dependable talent on board. To ensure this expected outcome, we apply best practice thinking such as the TTS Capability Framework, paired with best-of-breed assessments, and integrated with a clear, contextual understanding of the client’s business reality.

By using our scientific expertise as well as the practices discussed above, we have been able to successfully help countless clients in safety and dependability-critical industries to make better, more objective talent decisions.

 If you are interested in assessing for dependability and safety, or if you would like to know more about how to develop safety leadership in your organization, why not connect with us at:


Winter 2022 Fortune/Deloitte CEO Survey. Deloitte Consulting.

Groysberg, B & Connolly, K. (2015). The 3 Things CEOs Worry about the most. Harvard Business Review.