The Misuse of Assessment Tests
With the plethora of literature, research and publications on bias, validity and testing standards in recruitment, it is difficult to believe that assessment tools and processes are still regularly misused.
We know from validated research and our experience with clients that assessment centres, when used correctly, are extremely successful for both the selection and development of current employees. Effective hiring through assessments can reduce failure rates of new hires, increase performance, productivity, objectivity and financial gain, while also positively affecting the brand and impact of organisations. Furthermore, using assessment centres for development helps organisations to retain top talent, provide financial gains, promote continuous learning and development, beat the skills gap, predict leadership and growth, and provide big data.
One of the main reasons why assessment centres are used is because they test what an individual can do, rather than what they know. For example, if they are able to make critical decisions when under pressure.
The benefits of using assessment centres are not just theoretical; its benefits have been successfully measured. For example, when American Express began using assessment centres they saw a 45% reduction in turnover as a result of the process, whilst also observing a 37% increase in sales over a three year period. Furthermore, HSBC saw an average increase of 12% pure growth in sales across the network on insurance products, a 21% increase in value and a 22% increase in volume of sales from coached individuals when assessments were used.
Despite these clear benefits of the correct application of assessments in the workplace, they are still regularly misused. For example,
1. Interviewers at a leading retail chain asked interviewees to dance during a job interview, which one candidate described as “humiliating and inappropriate”.
2. A home DIY retailer rejected an individual just five days after they were hired as a supervisor, after it had been found that the results of a personality questionnaire did not fit the required role profile and did not profile match.
3. A health care organisation made employees redundant after using inappropriate recruitment tools. The company was challenged and lost an unfair dismissal tribunal.
These three examples of poor assessment techniques, or the misuse of good techniques, appear to differ from what anyone, even those without assessment training, would consider to be good practice. But why do companies unsuccessfully apply assessments? The explanations for this is numerous, but the most common are the:
• disconnect between the assessment criteria, event and the business strategy;
• use of ineffective assessment tools;
• lack of quality and commitment of the assessor;
• lack of data and validation; and
• disconnect between the assessment products and criteria.
These problems lead to a lack of purpose in the assessment techniques, no clear definition of talent, and a rigid solution to problems which need agile thinking to combat. This prevents an effective assessment process from being followed and so prevents the benefits that should be gained from a successful assessment process being attained.
These examples in the media of the misuse of assessments can give development and recruitment assessment techniques a bad name. However, when used correctly the benefits far outweigh the costs, as placing the correct people in the correct roles ensures that they have the right skills in order to succeed, while also decreasing the costs of bad hires.
Moreover, successful assessments increase the productivity and revenue potential of organisations, streamlines employee development to target key areas of weakness within the organisation, and highlights an individual’s development areas, particularly for the advancement of their career.
To conclude, work place assessments used correctly can predict both high performance and potential in the role. As long as assessors use robust and evidence-based tools and processes, they are transparent about what they are assessing and why, organisations will hire the best and most fitting candidates.