Dr Achim Preuss: The changing value of assessment

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Assessments are often terrifying, but have their uses

Psychometric assessments are adding new value to HR effectiveness, according to cut-e’s latest global benchmark study. We found that 52 percent of organisations worldwide now use online assessment, predominantly when hiring and on-boarding staff but also to identify their learning and development needs. HR teams are also increasingly using the data provided by assessments to make better talent decisions.

Traditionally, assessments were used near the end of the recruitment process to reduce the risk of making a bad hire. This has changed. Psychometric tests are now used at a much earlier stage to predict which candidates will fit the organisation and have the potential and the aptitude to be strong performers.

Development centres have become the fastest growing assessment tools, according to our study, followed by assessment centres, integrity tests and values questionnaires and situational judgement questionnaires. This highlights how the emphasis of assessment is shifting from recruiting staff to developing them and supporting them throughout the employee lifecycle.

Savvier

One of the most interesting findings from our study is that HR teams are becoming savvier in the way they utilise assessment data. The analytics from assessments are now more accessible and interpretable – and organisations are increasingly using this information to gain fresh insights about their talent and to enhance succession planning and staff retention.

For example, some organisations are linking their selection data with on-the-job performance data and their predictive data with their future business challenges. Our study shows that 45 percent of assessment users are now undertaking data mining projects that enable them to ask sophisticated questions of their assessment data.

We’re also seeing the growth of ‘packaged’ assessment. In other words, HR teams are increasingly combining a range of diagnostic instruments together, to gain a broader picture of a candidate’s capabilities, rather than relying on individual assessments in isolation. Linked to this is the rise of mobile assessment. A growing number of employers now offer tests which can be completed on mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones. This gives candidates greater choice and flexibility around how and when they complete their test. Our study found that the larger the company, the greater the demand for mobile assessment.

Graduates

However, creating assessments that will work effectively on mobile devices, without compromising the user experience, is a big challenge for test developers – as you have to work within the limitations of different screen sizes. Consequently, experience and capability in mobile assessment are amongst the key factors that employers look for when choosing a test provider.

Another interesting trend is the increased use of pre-application assessment. This involves educating potential applicants on the role and the organisation, before they apply, using realistic job previews and situational judgement questionnaires. These assessments benefit both employers and jobseekers, as they help organisations find the right people whilst stopping browsers from applying for jobs that aren’t suitable for them.

Graduate recruitment is a key growth area of assessment. We found that 70 percent of graduate recruiters now use psychometric assessment in their selection process. This is a 32 percent increase from 2012. Large employers have traditionally been the biggest users of graduate assessment but over the past four years, the number of medium-sized companies (1001-5000 employees) that assess their graduates has doubled.

Diversity

Alongside the desire to make faster, more effective selection decisions, HR teams are also increasingly using assessments to achieve greater diversity. Employers want to engage candidates from all backgrounds and select them fairly and objectively. Assessing candidates with a range of diagnostic tools not only provides a deeper understanding of each individual, it also helps to mitigate against unconscious bias when selecting candidates.

In every global benchmark study we’ve conduced over the past six years, one key finding has consistently occurred. That’s the desire for validity and reliability evidence. Every employer regards this as important – they always have. The assessments that HR teams are most likely to deploy are therefore the ones with a solid scientific basis, that provide clear, reliable business results and are quick to score and interpret.

However, as user expectations about assessment have changed, our study shows that HR teams now want even more proof that an assessment tool will ‘do what it claims to do’. Value for money, expertise, strong customer service and the ability to integrate with existing recruitment and information systems have become key criteria when selecting an assessment partner. HR practitioners increasingly want to be certain that their partner can support the volumes of data involved in large-scale and international projects – and they also want guarantees about data protection and security.

As the nature of assessment changes, HR teams, hiring managers and L&D teams should think differently about how assessments can help them to enhance their effectiveness and make better informed decisions when it comes to selecting and developing employees.

About Achim Preuss

Dr Achim Preuss co-founded assessment company cut-e in 2002. Formerly a Director at SHL and an assistant professor of business psychology at the University of Jena, he has 27 years of experience in psychometric testing, business psychology and HR consultancy. His main areas of expertise are job analysis, knowledge engineering and integrating e-HR with bespoke online assessment and development solutions. He holds a degree in psychology and a doctorate in applied computing science.

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