In their efforts to make effective, efficient hiring and promotion decisions, many companies and consultants have devoted considerable effort to developing sophisticated psychological assessments. It is hoped that such tests can ultimately predict general employment success, or the potential for performance in particular assignments. At the least, responsible managers attempt to use the results of such tests to inform their final decisions.
Sometimes psychological studies reveal useful information, such as the idea that people don’t become good employees by your making them happy, but rather that happy people simply make good employees. Indeed, this general concept has now, according to Management-Issues, been developed into yet another employment screening test.
This one is directed at helping companies reduce post-hire turnover. The trick is to identify people whose personality traits are associated with being quitters, and those whose characteristics have been determined to be those of stable, conscientious employees.
This sounds rather promising at first glance. But it does suggest some questions. One has to wonder what these traits are that are argued to be predictive in these ways. What is the organizational consequence of consciously peopling your company with pre-screened personality types? What are the societal consequences of having those that psychologists have identified as quitters being routinely denied employment?
Once you’ve spent some time with all of that, consider another article from Management-Issues which discusses additional research (published in the same journal as that referenced above) which flatly questions the predictive ability of personality tests used by HR departments around the world. So here’s another question for you: if the psychologists can’t agree on the predictive value of their work, why are we using it?
The big problem I’ve seen is that these tests seem so rigorously researched, designed, packaged, and administered that they attain a quasi-scientific aura that suppresses questioning – even doubt – by lay people. Indeed, they are ubiquitous, used in a wide range of applications, lending them further apparent credibility.
And so, what happens is that if a test suggests negative potential in someone who has knocked the hiring managers’ socks off during the rest of the assessment and interview process, it can become extraordinarily difficult for mere human decision-makers to overrule the judgment of those test results. This appears to me to be just another instance in which managers tend to allow quasi-scientific formulae to supplant not just their own judgment – but their fiduciary responsibility.
What has been your experience with personality testing or other psychological screening of employees – from new hires to CEOs?
Today’s tip: Speaking of trying to figure out what’s going on within our own ranks, please see this interesting item about unnoticed achievers by Michael Wade at Execupundit.com. This is a real poser for managers that is too often simply ignored.
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