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Emerging Trends in Employee Assessments: Are They Worth It?

July 20, 2017

Like many industries, technology has changed the landscape of employee selection. How candidates apply and complete phases of the hiring process is dramatically different today than a decade ago. The future will be no different; technology advances will continue to impact every phase of the talent cycle, including how we select people to join our organizations. While innovative technologies often offer new ways of presenting and collecting information from candidates, not every emerging technology trend improves our selection processes. 

emerging trends in employee assessments.jpgAs advances are applied to our talent programs, it is critical to view these enhancements through the scientific lens that has been so useful in the last 50 years in helping organizations identify best practices. There are three main factors to consider when determining the effectiveness of your selection process. I like to think of these as the three pillars of personnel selection – accuracy, utility, and fairness. If your process rates highly in these areas, you will have a best-in-class hiring process. It’s worth it to explore some of the most recent trends in employee assessments and consider how they stack up to these pillars.

To start, let’s briefly define each:

  • Accuracy: this is the ability of the selection process to screen out the worst candidates and screen in the best. Accuracy refers to the validity of the decisions you reach using your selection procedures (e.g., is your assessment accurately differentiating between those who are a good fit for the position and those who are not?).
  • Utility: this pillar determines the ROI to the organization. A selection process with strong utility has a nice balance between accuracy and efficiency. Any time or cost invested by the company is “worth it” by getting valuable information about a candidate.
  • Fairness: this last pillar is related to the legal compliance of a selection process. All assessment tools used to make selection decisions must be job-related. Information that is not job-related should not be used to make decisions about candidates.

Armed with an understanding of the basic pillars that define effective selection, let’s evaluate a few emerging trends in personnel selection based on these ideas. The five we will focus on are:

1. Big Data: This frequently-discussed hot topic refers to the use of large data sets to identify statistical relationships to predict on-the-job behavior. Social media and wearable monitors are just two examples of ways that personal data might be accumulated into large data sets to mine for trends.
2. Serious Games: Serious games are interactive simulations built to measure job-relevant information for use in a selection process. While they are often fun, their primary purpose is to measure something that is serious and aren’t just video games “for fun.”
3. Gamification: Gamification refers to the act of adding game-like features to an assessment to increase candidate engagement. For example, selection gamification interventions include adding features such as progress bars, timers, badges, scores, levels, and leaderboards to traditional selection procedures.
4. Short Assessments: A logical and well-intended trend in assessment is to implement shorter and shorter assessments out of respect for candidate time and to create a process of applying that is easy to complete.
5. Mobile Devices: The use of mobile devices to complete employee assessments is growing every year. At Select International, we have witnessed a three-fold increase in candidate mobile usage in testing over the past 4 years. As such, mobile devices aren’t so much a trend as an inevitability.

Do these trends make selection processes better, worse, or the same?

To answer this, we have created a table that considers each of these trends in the context of the three pillars. The symbols below are used to show our conclusions:


Evaluating Emerging Technology Trends

Employee Assessment Emerging Trends.png

Summary of Findings
1. Big Data: While Big Data can definitely improve the utility of a selection process, the nature of the data could lead to psychometric measurement issues (e.g., low reliability, missing data). Additionally, much of the data that is considered for use could be personal, protected, or not job relevant, which could be a big red flag for fairness.
2. Serious Games: Interactive simulations can be great for accuracy and validity. They can measure things that other assessments can’t. On the flip side, the underlying measurements are often cognitively loaded, which can reduce fairness. It’s important to make sure that the game is job-relevant. Lastly, they are often expensive to develop, so it’s important to consider ROI before adding to your process.
3. Gamification: Adding gaming does not improve validity or fairness. It can also be expensive and there is little evidence to show that there is a true return-on-investment by improving candidate experience or improving organizational perceptions.
4. Short Assessments: Shortening an assessment is very likely to reduce its validity and reliability and thus will be less accurate. They provide utility, but the reduction in psychometric integrity could be an issue if the assessment is challenged legally.
5. Mobile Devices: Allowing candidates to use mobile devices can improve utility and fairness. However, depending on the nature of the assessment, the measurement might not be equivalent across devices. This should be considered before allowing candidates to use a mobile device.

What does this all mean? When deciding if a trend is going to help your hiring process, don’t forget to consider all three pillars. While a new technology might improve utility, it could reduce accuracy or fairness. Be aware of all three and find a process that balances them to the best of your ability. Consider the pillars most important to your organization or position.

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Amie Lawrence, Ph.D. Amie Lawrence, Ph.D. is the Director of Global Innovation at PSI and an expert in the design, development, and validation of psychological assessment tools. She runs an innovation lab that is responsible for establishing PSI’s assessment technology roadmap and strategy. An integral member of PSI since 2000, Amie has led the development of numerous global assessments, including personality, situational judgment, cognitive, and interactive work simulations.