The Highlands Company Blog

Highlands Certification Training: Setting the Standard

Empowering career professionals worldwide with a unique human assessment tool created to objectively identify natural talents.

By Dori Stiles, Ph.D., Industrial/Organizational Psychologist
Director of Training and Research for the Highlands Company

Since its inception in 1992, the mission of the Highlands Company has been to create a culture of stability and satisfaction, grounded in self-awareness, for career development and transformation in an ever-changing world. Our statement of purpose couldn’t be more relevant today. It is through the Highlands Certification Training program that career practitioners are equipped to provide their clients with an awareness of their natural talents, the most powerful piece of self-knowledge for attaining personal success.

My name is Dori Stiles and for over 25 years I have had the distinct pleasure of training hundreds of dedicated career professionals in the administration of the Highlands Ability Battery and the Whole Person Method for career and life transformation. 

My doctoral degree is in I/O Psychology, the science of human behavior within organizations and the workplace. As Director of the Highlands Certification Training program, I spend a minimum of 20 hours of intensive training with each consultant in the understanding and interpretation of cognitive abilities and their implications for academic and career exploration, career enhancement, and personal and professional development. Highlands practitioners span the globe providing a wide range of services and deliver those services through a wide variety of channels, including private coaching and counseling practices, business and executive coaching and consulting, public and private schools, tutoring services, outplacement organizations, in-house professional development, and more.

The following article is the first in a series in which I will share an overview of the Highlands proprietary training program for career consultants and an in-depth review of the Highlands method, including the life-changing experience it provides to individuals for career guidance. I will also explore who the program is designed to benefit and why it may not be suited for everyone.


The Highlands Certification Training Program

Highlands Certification is a comprehensive training program that enables career consultants to provide clients with a reliable measurement of their natural abilities and, most importantly, a solid understanding of how to gain the benefit of that knowledge when making life, school, and career decisions. 

Assessing Natural Abilities – The Instrument

Certification training is centered around the administration of the Highlands Ability Battery (HAB), the gold standard among human assessment tools. The HAB was founded on the work of research scientist Johnson O’Connor, who devoted his life to the study of human engineering. Almost a century of research that began with Johnson O’Connor and continues through the Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation has established that every individual is born with a pattern of abilities, unique to him or her, that make certain tasks easier to complete.

First administered in person, in paper-and-pencil format, the HAB was converted to an online assessment in 2004. An objective measurement of 18 attributes, the HAB is unique in that it measures your abilities based on performance rather than perception. Online exercises such as recreating designs from memory, manipulating blocks in space, and putting images in logical sequence are some of the virtual tasks you are asked to perform within a set amount of time. Results based on timed performance are far more reliable than results based on self-perception or personal opinion. To learn more about the research behind the HAB, visit HAB Technology and Research.

The primary focus of the training program is for the HAB practitioner to become proficient in the definition, measurement, and significance of each of the abilities measured for interpretation with their client. 

What Does the HAB Measure?

The HAB measures 14 abilities, three personal style dimensions, and one skill. 

Personal Style Every individual has developed speech patterns, body language, social devices, and personality traits unique to him or her. Because other individuals respond either more or less favorably to someone’s personal style, it’s important to identify its ingredients in each person so that he or she can relate better to other people. The personal style dimensions measured by the HAB include Generalist/Specialist, Extrovert/Introvert, and Time Frame.

Driving/Reasoning Abilities The driving abilities are very powerful and influence almost every part of our work lives, thus making them critical to consider when choosing roles and responsibilities. They include two forms of convergent reasoning: Classification (which is inductive or diagnostic reasoning); Concept Organization (which is deductive or analytical reasoning); divergent reasoning Idea Productivity; and two forms of spatial reasoning (Spatial Relations Theory and Spatial Relations Visualization). Presented on a continuum, there are strengths and challenges associated with being in the low, mid, and high ranges for each of the drivers.

Specialized Abilities These abilities enhance, help, or otherwise combine with the driving abilities. In addition to their individual influences, there are six specific combinations of specialized abilities that can be of particular importance: Music, Learning, Visual, Visual Proficiency, Language, and Creative/Artistic. Of these, the music constellation can act as a sixth driving ability. With a few exceptions, specialized abilities are discussed as the degree to which they help or enhance other abilities.

General Vocabulary – Vocabulary stands alone because it represents a skill rather than an ability. General vocabulary, also referred to as non-specialized vocabulary, tends to increase with age (i.e., college-educated adults tend to have a stronger vocabulary than high school students), and does not measure the acquisition of technical or professional vocabularies.                              

Putting Abilities into Context – The Reports

The foundational information generated by the HAB for test takers is in the form of customized reports that provide information relevant to the decisions they are making. Supplemental reports are also included for adults, students, leaders and lawyers. Taken together, the reports are helpful to career explorers, career changers, and those looking to enhance their careers. 

For the consultant, the value of the training lies in the insight that they gain on the impact that each of the singular abilities, as well as the different score ranges, have on life and career and on the implications of the combination of abilities for occupational and academic applications. Most occupations are characterized by a combination of abilities, with a combination of low and high scores. For help in finding a new career or making a career change, HAB reports include the Highlands Person-to-Occupation Fit technology, designed to compare a HAB profile with occupational profiles for degree of fit. For guidance on how to enhance a career, the consideration of ability combinations for work roles and responsibilities within an occupation are presented in the Highlands’ Ability Blends and Ability Patterns developed for each ability profile. 

Consultants learn how to interpret the different reports with specific reference-based results for their clients as part of the debrief, which follows the administration of every HAB.

Understanding the Significance of the Ability Profile and the HAB Reports – The Debrief

Although HAB reports are comprehensive, they inevitably leave many questions that can only be answered by a trained consultant. The consultant relates the meaning of the HAB scores to the client and interprets how the scores can be used to make effective career and life determinations. Because of the depth and specificity of the information gained from the HAB and contained in the reports, only practitioners who have been trained and certified to administer the assessment are qualified to offer the HAB and debrief. The Power of Feedback explains more about why a debrief by a certified consultant is an integral part of the delivery of the program for actionable results.

We are inspired by the dedicated career professionals who use the HAB as a catalyst in their mission to make a difference in people’s lives. Highlands Consultants are from many different professions ranging from educators to psychologists, independent consultants, high school and college counselors and administrators, life coaches, financial planners, pastors and missionaries, and from many different countries around the world. But their journeys remain the same, to provide individuals with the self-awareness needed as the core foundation for sustainable transformation. 

Read more about the Highlands Certification Training Program

In the next article, “Why Do People Say the HAB is “Different’?”, we will take a look at the Highlands experience from the client’s perspective.

 “My 30 years of experience includes working with students (high school, college, graduate students) including over 20 years with UGA’s College of Veterinary Medicine and the Terry Business School’s Institute for Leadership Development, the Georgia School Superintendents Association, and private businesses such as IBM, JPMorgan Chase, Manheim Automative and Kaiser Permanente.”

Dr. Stiles is the Director of Training, Research and Development for the Highlands Company, as well as the owner of Turning Points Coaching and Consulting. To learn more about Dr. Stiles, click here.