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How Employee Assessments Predict Multitasking Performance [VIDEO]

January 18, 2018

This week we're continuing our vlog series on common client questions. Today's discussion covers how employee assessments measure behaviors that are important in many jobs, and are discussed in call centers particularly often. Let's jump in!


Transcript: How Employee Assessments Predict Multitasking Performance

Dr. Kinney: When I work with call centers, one of the questions that I get asked all of the time is whether or not we can measure multitasking ability. It's an interesting concept; because Alli and I are psychologists, when you look at the psychological literature, it's pretty clear: humans cannot multitask. We are not capable of processing multiple things at the same time. We can't dual-process like a computer can. 

However, when you talk to call center supervisors, they will always tell you in the first minute that one of the key differentiators between people who are high and low in performance on the job is whether or not they can multitask. So, this creates a unique problem to people who build assessments to predict performance in call center organizations. What we have found in our research is that it's not really important to think about whether or not people possess the ability to multitask, but rather, it's important to understand performance in a multitasking environment. 

So, at Select International we have developed a series of simulations designed to measure just that: an individual's ability to perform in a multitasking environment. In order to do that, we need to flesh out and really understand and operationalize what a multitasking environment is. What we've found is that a call center multitasking environment is one that consists of three principle properties: 

  1. The need to switch tasks;

  2. That cue to switch tasks occurs frequently, and at uncertain intervals;

  3. There's a sense of time urgency in the environment such that it kicks off the stress cycle and can impact performance through the stress cycle. 

We have found that, if we build simulations that put people in a situation where they have to A) switch tasks frequently, B) there's uncertainty about when to switch, and C) there are time pressures in switching frequently, that it mimics the call center's multitasking demand. Through our research, we've found that this actually ends up being a very robust predictor of job performance in call centers.

Dr. Besl: Right, for example, in these studies in call center environments, we always find that multitasking is negatively related with average handle time. So, individuals who are good at multitasking are able to handle calls in a quicker, more efficient way than individuals who aren't as good at multitasking. Couple this with the results in which multitasking is very predictive of resourcefulness, and it demonstrates Ted's point that while they're able efficiently to handle calls, they're also really good at searching through different resources at the same time. 

Dr. Kinney: And, we've found that, in fact, this multitasking simulation tends to be the most robust predictor of a lot of the call center metrics compared to any other mode of measurement in our assessments. 

If you want to dig deeper into the findings from our research, it's available in our free whitepaper, Predicting Call Center Metrics - An Investigation of What Works.

predicting call center metrics


You can view the first vlog in this series here: Reducing Turnover: A Complex, but Achievable Goal [VIDEO]

Ted Kinney, Ph.D. Ted Kinney, Ph.D. is the VP of Research and Development for PSI. An Industrial/Organizational psychologist, Dr. Kinney leads a team of selection experts and developers in the creation and on-going research into the most efficient and effective selection methodologies and tools. He is a trusted advisor to many international companies across all industries. He has particular expertise in behavioral interviewing, turnover reduction, effective selection strategy, and executive assessment.