By Dori Stiles, Ph.D.
Throughout the more than 25 years that I have been a Highlands Certified Consultant, countless people have asked me what makes the Highlands Ability Battery (HAB) different from other assessments. It’s a fair question. After all, there are many different types of assessments and inventories, and a quick Google search reveals the varieties. They can measure different attributes, such as personality, aptitudes, values, or achievement; and they can be used for a wide range of purposes, such as self-awareness, school or job selection, professional development, or just plain fun.
My clients have run the gamut from individuals seeking a better career to corporations such as Coca-Cola, IBM, Marriott, Charles Schwab, and others who are seeking to streamline work groups, increase productivity, and develop leaders. Over time, I’ve come to realize that there’s one word that best explains the difference behind the HAB — what makes it unique, if you will — that word is experience. And the experience is all about you.
It’s not about what you think about yourself or what others think about you. It’s not an evaluation, which tries to rank you as “good” or bad.” It does not presume to know what is “best” for you or to offer prescriptive advice. The HAB provides you with objective information about your natural abilities. In addition, the HAB experience equips you with valuable tools so that you can make informed decisions to better manage your decisions throughout life — in both your career and your personal life.
Technically, yes, the HAB is an assessment, but experience is a better description of what it entails. Taking the HAB is a journey that involves far more than a simple internet quiz. That’s why I’ve written this article — to break down the four major features of the HAB experience in detail so you know exactly what to expect, and to help you understand why the HAB is a valuable investment that will yield returns throughout your entire life.
First, we’re going to look at who might benefit from the HAB experience, and then delve into its four major components.
Who Might Benefit from the HAB Experience?
The Experience: People want to experience the HAB for different reasons. As a student, you might be deciding what to do after high school or college. Should you even go to college? Get some work experience? Get a certification? These are big decisions with big personal and financial commitments. As a young adult with some work experience you might be wondering why you chose your major or job to begin with. As an adult who has been out of the traditional workplace for a while, you might be wondering if you can actually get paid for something you can do. As leaders, you could be wondering why your employees or peers react to you the way they do. Or, as successful as you were before that promotion, you might wonder how to effectively work through and with others. Figuring out the work is easy; it’s figuring out the people that is difficult.
The HAB is intended to provide self-awareness to the participant about natural abilities for use in career and life decision-making, which means that it applies to just about everyone. As a self-management tool, the HAB also provides lasting information participants can learn and use for future decision-making, making it a worthwhile, life-long investment.
- Students: Students use the HAB experience to explore careers during both high school and college; to consider potential certifications, majors, work experiences; and to decide which schools to attend. Students also find it useful for fine-tuning study strategies – even graduate students find valuable information from the HAB.
- Career Explorers: Adult career explorers engage in the HAB experience to make adjustments to their work or job such as adding responsibilities, making lateral or upward moves, changing positions within the same occupational field, or recalibrating.
- Career Changers: Adult career changers also look to the HAB when desiring a whole-cloth change such as searching for new career fields or pivoting into an encore career.
- Professional Development: Leaders and others in the workplace experience the HAB for professional development. Developing a deep self-awareness frequently leads to a deeper understanding and appreciation of working with others — and managing the inevitable differences they bring to the workplace.
What is the HAB Experience?
So, let’s get down to it: what exactly is the HAB experience and what does it provide? We’re going to break it down into four parts: the instrument, the report(s), the debrief, and the whole person context.
Feature #1: The Instrument
The Experience: Taking the HAB (all three hours) is the first major step in the HAB experience. Understandably, part of the experience is anticipating what the results might reveal. You can expect to feel a degree of nervousness – even if it’s is simply from not knowing what to expect. When you actually take the assessment, you’ll experience different things as you take each section — some activities seem easy or difficult, while others might be frustrating or fun – and of course there are the time constraints. The process of taking the HAB adds to the mounting anticipation about the results and curiosity about what each of the activities might actually measure. Upon completion, there’s a new wave of wonderment and even anxiety about the meaning of scores, be it validation, concern, confusion, or something else. Did I pass or did I fail? Have I been wasting my time in my current profession? Am I really cut out to be a leader?
The HAB is an internet-based assessment that is comprised of a series of timed, objective, performance-based worksamples. Our proprietary internet platform allows for participant access from any location with a reliable connection to the internet, at home, work, school, computer labs, etc. Instructions are provided by a Highlands Certified Consultant to ensure the participant can feel confident in the results.
The assessment consists of 19 worksamples. A worksample is performance-based; participants must do an activity (objective measure) rather than self-report the degree to which they think they can do it (subjective measure). Each worksample is representative of a reasoning ability such as Classification, Concept Organization, and Spatial Relations Visualization. Most worksamples are not language-based. They measure a wide range of natural abilities including three that are hearing-related (implications for musical pursuits). Instructions are in English, presented on the screen and heard, and can be reviewed for an unlimited amount of time prior to the timed activity. There are no “accommodations.”
Each worksample is timed and lasts between 5-10 minutes. The timing allows for the separation of natural abilities (which stabilize at around age 14) and for separation of one ability from another. The worksamples may be taken all in one sitting or separated in time. In total, the HAB takes just over three hours to complete.
Everyone takes the same set of worksamples. The resulting percentile ranking scores provide participants with information about their ability level for each worksample relative to all others (12,000+) in our database (regularly checked and updated). The score does not represent the percent correct/incorrect. Detailed results are provided in a variety of reports and interpreted by a Highlands Certified Consultant.
Feature #2: The Report(s)
The Experience: The next part of the experience is understanding the results. Your report provides detailed information; each of your abilities is described and then combined in a way that is uniquely you. You’re provided with guidance on how to use your abilities to makes choices about work roles and responsibilities. Of course, all of the options generated are based on natural abilities alone and don’t take into account other influences critical to making work/life decisions. The information might feel like it conflicts with your experiences or what others have said about you. The report provides a launch pad for exploration, not an answer. This part of the experience can feel a bit overwhelming because there is so much information. That’s why the HAB experience includes working with a professionally trained Highlands Certified Consultant (HCC).
HAB reports are customized for the client providing scores, definitions, and interpretations of each individual ability. With the individual building blocks in place, reports are further customized by describing the influence of combinations of the participant’s abilities.
Reports are provided for specific, client-centered needs. Students can receive a Standard Report, Career Exploration Supplement, a Career Exploration Summary, and a Learning Strategies Report. Adults can receive a Standard Report, Career Exploration Summary, and a Career Exploration Summary. Leaders can receive a Leader Report. In addition, HCCs have access to ancillary reports which they can provide as needed.
Reports are preserved in the participant’s and HCC’s Portals for future use. The reports do not expire. HCCs work with their clients to provide access to appropriate materials.
Feature #3: The Debrief
The Experience: Hands down, participants describe the debrief as the most beneficial part of the experience. During this 1.5- 2-hour session, you meet with a trained professional who explains your report in detail, and further customize the interpretation based on your reason for participation. Most participants feel their HCC “knows” them because the HCC’s in-depth knowledge allows for explanations, interpretations and applications to participants’ real-life experiences. HCCs partner with you in this process; they provide the expertise in abilities and you provide the expertise in you. Your HCC is an interpreter and a guide throughout the HAB experience.
At the start of the debrief you may feel like “This confirmed a lot about what I already know about myself,” to “I didn’t think this [ability] was a big deal – I figured if I could do this everyone could,” to “I always knew I needed more of this – now I know why,” to “Really? This comes naturally to me? I’ve never even tried!” You might feel a level of confirmation and relief at having the words to describe something you’ve known about yourself.
Most participants enjoy engaging in the process. HCCs ask questions to learn more about you, to encourage reflection, and to reveal personal examples. These questions help you learn what to look for and questions to ask as you’re exploring. Sometimes the debrief reveals gaps in information you need. You may feel you want to stay connected with your HCC for check-ins because your HCC is a supporter “outside” of the other “systems” that may be exerting influence on you, as well-meaning as those systems might be.
It’s also important to know that your HCC is trained to take the whole person into account (see Feature #4); abilities are one very important piece of the picture but not the only piece.
The Debrief is a required part of the HAB experience. It takes 1.5-2 hours and is participant centered. HCCs clarify the role of natural abilities in decision making by distinguishing them from skills and introducing other influences such as interests, personal style, family upbringing, values, goals and stage of career. Understanding natural abilities and their influences clarifies self-management strategies and guides the intentional use of time, effort and energy.
HCCs review each ability by providing a definition, the worksample that measured it, and an interpretation of the score. Every ability is reviewed and its implications are discussed. Abilities are described as falling on a continuum and scores are described as “home base.” Sometimes even more interesting are how combinations of abilities work together – something HCCs also review with participants. It is these combinations that can guide career exploration and change. And, sometimes equally enlightening is learning more about what it is like not to have your ability profile, or to be at the opposite end of an ability continuum.
Ability scores are not described as definitive (the only thing that defines you), predictive of performance (which is always a combination of abilities and skills), or the most important part of your decision-making process (there is more to a person than abilities and there are practical realities). However, those who do not know the difference between natural abilities and skills, who are intelligent and hard workers, or don’t understand the influence of natural abilities frequently find themselves in school and work situations that don’t “fit.”
In addition to addressing the participant’s reason for taking the HAB, HCCs guide participants on how to use all the tools connected to Highlands, ensure understanding of individual and combinations of abilities. More than an intellectual exercise, the debrief focuses on applying this new understanding to career exploration, career change, and professional development. The tools are concrete and structured; the application is flexible.
Beyond understanding, HCCs provide a context within which to understand how participants can intentionally direct their natural abilities. We refer to this context as the Whole Person Model.
Feature #4 – The Whole Person Model
The Experience: With great relief, you will likely feel acknowledged by the Whole Person Model – the context within which the HAB is interpreted. The fear of being defined by measured abilities melts away as your HCC discusses the influences of Skills, Interests, Personal Style, Family, Values, Goals and Career Stage. With your HCC as a guide, you see the importance of being intentional about including other influences in your decision making — and those influences have names. Your HCC can also describe how different factors have a greater or lesser influence at different points in your life. You will also realize you have just experienced a process that you can use throughout your lifetime.
If inclined, you can continue your experience beyond the HAB. Don’t Waste Your Talent, published by The Highlands Company, can be useful if you want to take a deeper dive into the Whole Person Model on your own. The Personal Vision Coaching Program is available through trained HCCs if you work better with a partner or a guide.
Regardless of next steps, the HAB experience is rarely forgotten and often remembered as pivotal in a participant’s life.
The Whole Person Model is another element that differentiates the HAB experience from other assessments. Most assessments recommend taking “other things” into account when making career-related decisions rather than to base a decision on their assessment alone. The HAB experience not only emphasizes the importance of taking other influences into account, it names them and provides a model.
The Whole Person Model provides a structure for understanding all the elements that are important to consider at the same point in time and can serve as a touch stone at each turning point in life. At the same time, it is flexible in terms of how important each factor is at different points in time. If it was an equation, and optimizing the fit between the person and their work is the outcome, we’d say people assign different weights to each factor at different points in time for optimization.
Your HAB Experience
Now that you’ve learned more about what the HAB experience is all about, it’s time for the next step! Get started on your HAB journey by contacting an HCC today. Enjoy a deeper understanding of your natural abilities and start putting that knowledge to work for a better, more joyful experience of life and work.
“My 25 years as a Highlands Consultant 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 Automotive and Kaiser Permanente.”