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Critique paper on the assessment methods used in an organization in Malaysia.
In the recent decades, the uses of psychological assessments are getting popular in the field of industrial and organization (Kosteva, 1991; "Importance of", 2008). Most of the company notice that employees' quality is an important factor that may influence on their productivity outcome. Since organizations are concerning about their employees' quality and productivity, thus, implementation of psychological assessment in company system may help them to identify candidates' innate ability during hiring process besides help to improve the existing personnel.
According to Neukrug and Fawcett (2010, p. 3-4), psychological assessment is a broad range of evaluative procedures in order to provide information about a person. These procedures can be formal or informal, which include personality testing such as objective tests and interest inventories, ability testing include readiness, survey battery and so on, the clinical interview and some informal assessment such as observation, rating scales, environmental and performance assessment. In order to understand how the assessment methods applied in an existing organization, a company has been chosen from Malaysia in order to provide a critical review of the practices and methodology used in the current society.
Superb Stone Industrial Sendirian Berhad (SSISB) was incorporated in Malaysia under the Company Act as a private limited company on 16 December 2009. SSISB is an industrial company, which their principal activities are to supply and install of stone materials. They offer the stone solutions to customers consisting of design and consultancy, procurement of stone materials, project management and full installation, production process for cutting, edging, profiling and doing value added work. Quality and customer service of course their foremost concerns. They follow rigid quality control procedures from the quarrying stage to the finished product stage. Moreover, SSISB are dedicated to total customer satisfaction and aiming an innovative and high quality of natural stones product.
SSISB is lead by Managing Director who is also the founder of the company. He has more than thirty years experiences in the stone industry where his extensive experiences and technical know-how is well acknowledged in this industry. Generally, there are six departments in the company work together to run the daily business activities. These departments including sales and marketing department, operation and purchasing department, contract department, human resources and finance department, project team, and also the production team. There are ten local administration staffs including the managing director corporate with thirty-two foreign labour forces from Bangladesh to maintain the operation of SSISB.
A strong administration team comprising people with relevant management and technical knowledge supports SSISB. However, they do not use any formal psychological testing in hiring people. Interview session is essential during their recruitment process, which candidates are demand to come to the office with their personal document such as resume, certificate and testimonial letter. Staffs from human resources and specific head of department are responsible to interview the candidates by asking them some questions related to their professions and field experiences. They have no systematic or standard guideline for them in testing the candidate's ability or personality yet only based on their resume and observation during the interview. In other words, to decide hire or not, it is very depends on their first impression. Nonetheless, first impression is very subjective matters that can be vary among people. As we can see, SSISB involved only some informal assessments in their decision-making process of employment such as observation, records and personal document.
After discussion between the person-in-charge and approved by the Managing Director, selected candidate will be notifying by phone call or e-mail. New staffs that are in non-executive position will have a 3-months probation period and 6-months for position above the executive. Throughout the completion of probation period, appraisal form will be given to head of department to evaluate the staff's performance. This evaluation session will be carried out between the staff and their head of department individually. They will discuss and go through the questions on the appraisal form one by one and head of department will give some comments or feedbacks on the spots if there is any. Open communication is vital in this session in order to achieve a successful review. Moreover, as a mean to evaluate overall performance, head of department not only based on the quality of job presented, but also the attitude and effort that staff involved. Staff with good performance will get the confirmation, on the other hand whoever with disappointed performance will get another chances by extending their probation periods. After that, the appraisal form and recommendations from head of department will then pass to human resources department and to get approval from Managing Director. In spite of the position of head of department, interview and appraisal session will be conduct by the Managing Director.
Other than recruitment, psychological assessment also helpful in assess the staffs' performance. Unfortunately, SSISB do not have any formal assessment in order to assess the employees. The informal performance assessment appraisal form created by the head of human resources department are the only measurement tools that used in this company in order to evaluate employees' performance. As mentioned before, similar processes apply here. The head of department in charge to fill in the appraisal forms for subordinates, on the other hand Managing Director will be responsible to appraise the head of department.
Generally, the performance appraisal form can be divided into three main parts. In the first part, there are some demographic information about the staff such as name, department, designation and so forth. Then, second part will be the appraisal performance factors containing three sections in it. Section A is a rating scale to measure the staff performance. Maximum of 10 points can be given to the staff in each item according to their performance. Three subsections related to different dimensions of work performance included in section A, which are work knowledge and ability, work attitude and work performance. After that, there is a performance ranking to describe the total score of the staff gains. Next, Section B is the open questions for the superior to write some comments and recommendation for the subordinate. Questions such as target achieved, planning for improvement and comments are included in this section. Finally, section C is the informed consent for both the appraiser and appraisee who engaged in this evaluation session. Thus, subordinate can understand what is expectation from superior and also to avoid bias in the case. Last but not least, the third part of the appraisal form is the remarks or comments from human resources department and also the approval from Managing Director.
Anyway, the self-create appraisal form is not consistent to evaluate the staff's performance. It is a self- report evaluation from the superior towards the subordinate, which is a very subjective method. Furthermore, there is no scientific research has been done before on this measurement tools to test on its worthiness. According to Neukrug and Fawcett (2010, p.41-60), test worthiness can be defined as "an involved, objective analysis of a test". To demonstrate test worthiness should based on the four critical areas, which are validity (evidence supporting the use of test scores), reliability (degree of freedom from measurement error), cross-cultural fairness (degree to which cultural background, class, disability and gender do not affect test results) and practicality (feasibility considerations in test selection and administration). The fact is that the appraisal form used in SSISB does not have any test worthiness and thus, employees' performance cannot be measure accurately.
Still, there are some advantages of the appraisal sessions in SSISB. First and foremost, the open communication during the private evaluation session between the superior and subordinate are encouraged. This is because the private session allows them to have feedback without concern of others besides the discussion also allow them to have a chance for explanation to avoid any misunderstanding. Moreover, the appraisal form had involved a section for informed consent, which is essential and fair enough for the appraisees. The informed consent allows the appraisees to understand the feedback and expectation from the superior on the other hand to avoid bias or misunderstanding since appraisees had accepted and agreed to the comments from appraisers.
Unfortunately, the above assessment methods are just available for the local administration staffs but not including the workers from the production team. Recruitment usually process through some legal agencies because all of them are foreign labour forces. SSISB do not prepare any assessment including the appraisal form to assess the workers since most of them are illiteracy.
In addition, on the subject of the privacy and confidentiality, all the confidential information and appraisal forms are kept well in the human resources room for at least six years. This is due to the Employment Act 1955 in Malaysia stated "there is a duty on the employer to maintain one or more registers containing information regarding each employee. These registers must be available for inspection for not less than six years after the recording" (Nadarajah, n.d.). However, SSISB will usually keep them for more than six years, which is seven years as a guarantee. Besides that, these employees' information can be access only when there is permission from the head of human resources department. Malaysia Labor and Employment Law indicate "the employer is not prohibited from giving personal records and information to another party. The employer is, however, subject to the civil law relating to negligent misstatement or defamation" (Nadarajah, n.d.), therefore this action is regulated in order to maintain the privacy and confidentiality of the records and documents. In addition, according to the American Psychological Association (APA) (2010, p.7) Ethical Code, Standard 4: Privacy and confidentiality, SSISB had try their best in maintaining the confidentiality by taking reasonable precautions to protect the confidential information obtained and stored them in a room, recognizing that the extent and limits of confidentiality may be regulated by law or established by institutional rules.
According to Clausen, Jones and Rich (2008), the reason of this performance evaluation is important because it always help the employees to reach a high level of achievement and accomplishment. To achieve this goal, employees need to understand clearly their own ability and also the expectation from the organization to reach a quality result. Besides that, this evaluation also allows the organization to create a development plan for the employees such as training or motivational program to boost their capability. But, in the case of SSISB, although the informal performance assessment had been done using the appraisal form annually, they do not have any training or program ready for employees' improvement. Although these development plans are encourage in SSISB, they do not plan to carry out them at the moment since the company has just been set up. These plans will be considered only after the company stabilized then they will have time to arrange for it.
Besides than design a development plan, evaluating employees' performance also provide employers a basis for staff promotion. Sadly, SSISB do not make use of the result obtain from the appraisal forms in staff promotion. A promotion in this organization is very depends on the Managing Director's decision. Promotion of staff only will be done when Managing Director find there is a need for deployment of staff. Then, meeting among the senior administrator will be conducted for discussion about the staff promotion. Head of department can make recommendation for promotion but final decision still depends on the Managing Director's will. There is no specific test or formal measurement for assessing staff in promotion, however it is based on the superior's impression on subordinate, daily observation and quality of works that had done by the staff.
As an inference, it is seems that SSISB does not take the psychological assessments as an important part in their staff development systems. This also can be seen from the action of Managing Director who seldom conducts the evaluation for the head of department. They indicate that they do not plan to use any qualified psychometric instrument to help in their recruitment and staff development system. They also pointed out this is due to their company size is small with limited employees which is easy to be manage.
In other words, the daily function of SSISB can be maintain with the existing assessment methods used, however, it can be even more better if they improve and involve more qualified and formal assessment in their recruitment and staff development system. This is for the reason that employees always the most important asset of an organization. Thus, their quality and concern should always be maintained and attended. In the same way as discussed above, psychological assessment includes a broad way of evaluative procedures, thus, multiple assessment methods should always be considered. Besides than informal assessment that existing in SSISB, personality testing, ability testing and clinical interview are strongly recommended to adopt and align with the recruitment or staff development systems. Of course, after the implementation of these procedures, they should make use of the results obtain. For example, results acquire from the appraisal forms should take in consider when promoting a staff. Besides, it also may help the organization to understand the weakness of the employees and prepare a development plan for extra training program if necessary. There is no point for us to put them into practice but then ignore the contribution of these assessments. This action is kind of wasting the resources, energy and time.
More to the point, psychometric instruments are useful measure tools for the organization to identify a qualified employee. In general, there are two main types of psychometric instruments, that are personality and interest tests, which to measure the way of individual work with their environment and interaction with other people; aptitude and ability tests, which to measure one's ability to perform or carry out different tasks (Psychometric Success, 2009). Hiring a new employee is expensive and consumes management time. New employees need time to adapt to the new environment on the other hand creates additional drag on resources. Therefore, it is important to understand candidates' capabilities and ensure that will fit into the organization in order to reduce hiring mistakes. Moreover, it also provides employers a reliable method to select the most suitable job candidates for promotion.
Apart from this, some psychological testing related to occupational stress and job satisfaction is necessary to understand the staff concern. These surveys could help employers to find out any existing problem related to employees' job performance. According to Santha Subbulaxmi (2002, p.26), stress must be balance in order to achieve the maximum productivity. There is an inverted "U" relationship between the productivity and stress, which low level of stress are likely to be perceived as undesirable, conversely high level of stress may lead to numerous negative consequences especially health problems. So, understanding of employees' stress level is vital in order to make sure the company have a group of healthy and motivated workforce. Besides that, the relationship between job satisfaction and job performance is significant based on numerous studies (Skibba, 2002, p.3; Bono, Judge, Patton & Thoresen, 2001, p.377; Argyle, 1989, p.6). Most of the study shows that an employee who has a high job performance shows high job satisfaction. In addition, employees' satisfaction surveys also provide employers some information needed to identify the root causes of job related issues such as level of productivity or engagement and thus look for solutions for enhancements with a precise point of view from employees. As an example, activities such as monthly birthday celebrations or an annual event is helpful to increase employees' sense of belongings to the organization. Other than that, motivational campaign also useful to boost up unmotivated staff so that can improve their performance and increase the level of productivity.
By the way, while using these psychometric instruments, employers should take note of some ethical issues. For example, attend to the test worthiness in choosing assessment instruments is important to make sure the results are consistent and for accurate diagnosis. Therefore, always be sure that the valid and appropriate tests have been used. Additionally, the codes of test security also remind test users that their responsibilities to protect the security of test materials, including respecting copyrights, which they should not duplicate tests or change test materials without the permission of the publisher (AERA, APA & NCME 1999, p.115; JCTP, 2004, p.4; APA, 2010, p.12). Furthermore, according to APA ethical code (2010, p.5), it is also important to have a professional with adequate knowledge and training in administrating the instrument they may use to ensure the competence of their service and effectiveness of the instrument.
Other than that, all the assessment methods used should not involve only the local administration staffs. However, it should available for the foreign workers as well since they are part of the SSISB and had contribute a lot for the company. Assessment methods should apply on the workers to evaluate their performance and identify their innate capabilities. Workers who found to have potential talent can send for training program and upgraded as a professional skilled worker, which is inadequate in today's Malaysia society ("Malaysia needs", 2010).
Last but not least, SSISB require engaging more systematic procedures in conducting the psychological assessments. They should carry out the assessment procedures regularly rather than take these assessments as unimportant. The inconsistency of Managing Director on evaluate head of department's performance give an impression to the subordinates that the psychological assessments are insignificant to them. As a leader, Managing Director should always take the initiation to work out the plans and be a good example for the subordinates. Inconsistency in conducting appraisal session may not that accurate to evaluate employee's performance since human can be affected by emotional sometimes.
As a conclusion, every company will have their own unique assessment procedure, which fit their system respectively. There is no "one best way" that suitable for all type of organization. Alternative ways of assessments are always available according to the organization's needs. Anyway, the assessment methods used should always be improved and updated since human, system and society might change over time.
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