By Steven Hunt, Ph.D., SPHR
2007, 287 pages, Paperback
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Given the value of staffing assessments, it is reasonable to ask: "If these tools are so good, why isn't everyone using them?" "Why aren't more companies incorporating assessments into their staffing processes?" "Why don't candidates welcome and encourage the use of assessments as a means to ensure they end up in jobs in which they have the greatest chance of success?" The answers to these sorts of questions are varied and complex. At a general level, there are perhaps two fundamental reasons why assessments are not more widely accepted and used:
1. Many staffing professionals, hiring managers, and candidates do not understand how assessment tools work and are unaware or skeptical of their value.
The science that underlies the design of assessment tools is complicated. For example, a well-designed personality assessment that takes less than sixty minutes to complete can accurately predict how an employee will behave months and even years later. Designing assessments with this sort of predictive power is not a simple task. It is unrealistic to expect people outside of the assessment profession to spend the time required to fully understand the intricacies of staffing assessment research. The technical issues that underlie the design of many assessments are not things that can be effectively explained in a ten-minute slide presentation. Because people do not fully comprehend how assessment tools work, they are reluctant to use something that they do not understand. It is also likely that many hiring managers do not realize how poor their current hiring decisions are, and how much better they would be if they used staffing assessments.
2. Not all assessment tools work well and some may not work at all.
Assessments only work if they are well-built and appropriately used. Sadly, this is not always the case. The history of staffing contains many examples of assessments that seem like they might work, but that actually have little relationship to employee performance. For example, an entire graphology industry has been built based on the belief that people's future job behavior can be predicted by analyzing the style of their handwriting, even though empirical research has found no relationship between handwriting and job performance (except for jobs like calligrapher, for which writing is a core part of the job itself ). In addition, even the best assessments will fail to work if they are not used appropriately. Before using an assessment to evaluate candidates for a job, it is critical to ensure that the candidate attributes measured by the assessment truly influence performance in that job. Assessments must also be administered using clearly defined and standardized methods that support consistent collection of assessment data and appropriate interpretation of assessment results.
The presence of poor-quality or inappropriately used assessments hurts the entire field of staffing assessment. When someone has a bad experience with these assessments, their negative feelings tend to generalize to all assessments, not just to assessments that perhaps should never have been used in the first place. The effects these two issues have on the use of assessments can probably never be completely eliminated. However, their impact may be reduced by providing staffing professionals, hiring managers, and job candidates with better explanations of what assessment are, how they work, and how to differentiate between good and bad assessments. This explanation must be straightforward and should not require learning a lot of technical terms and jargon. At the same time, it should not over-simplify the fundamental reasons why assessment tools work or gloss over issues that can undermine their effectiveness. The explanation should clarify the benefits and potential problems associated with different types of assessments, the value companies can realistically expect from these tools, and what resources must be invested to achieve these returns. Providing this sort of explanation is the objective of this book.
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