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Psychometric testing has been used worldwide since before the Second World War. "Who believed that a knowledge of personality preferences would help women who were entering the industrial workforce for the first time during the Second World War to identify the sort of wartime jobs where they would be most comfortable and effective" (Brown and Reilly, 2009) When testing potential staff, it has the ability to understand an individual making sure they are right for the job and have the right profile. "The measurement is used to gain understanding of an individual so as to be able to predict behaviour and provide a basis for future action". (Edenborough, 2005, pg.4)
Psychometric testing can achieve many objectives for organisations, making Human Resource strategy more effective which leads to many benefits. "Improved and more effective HR strategies are about saving money, improving profitability, sustaining competitive viability and securing growth". (Melamed and Jackson, 1995)
Using psychometric testing alongside a CV and interview gives a better insight into potential employees. Director of Cambridge University's Psychometrics Centre John Rust stated; "Increasingly employers have to use psychometric tests because degree classification is such a variable quantity these days and they are so broad and in very different subjects. Employers can't tell a graduate's competencies from their degree." (Lipsett, 2009)
Using psychometric testing can stop interviewers taking candidates at face value. In a recent BBC interview, Professor Peter Saville (2010, cited on Onrec, 2010) stated; "The history of psychometrics stretches back to techniques used by Samuel Pepys to select naval officers, and can make a valuable contribution to the process of choosing job candidates. Some interviewers judge people on the first minute of an interview. What we are doing is reducing the risk of choosing the wrong person. It's science versus sentiment."
Not using psychometric testing is often the blame for problems. "This is why so much recruitment fails to be effective because, managers often recruit in their own image". (Success Dynamics, 2008) Companies who recruit employees based on their technical expertise and knowledge may later be dismissed on the grounds of personal failings. "It is clear that an improved understanding of employees and how they work together will have massive commercial implications for any organisation". (Press Release, 2008) This is costly and time consuming.
Reasons for Psychometric Testing
Can identify the psychometric type of person that has the best chance of succeeding. "If we can identify the psychometric type of person most likely to succeed in a given position and match applicants to this requirement, we will reduce costly mistakes and build better teams". (Success Dynamics, 2008)
Can reflect good recruitment practise, giving a company a positive business reputation.
Makes short listing candidates quicker and more effective.
Psychometric profiles can be checked and matched to see if they fit the requirements of the position and identify an individual's potential. They should become more efficient quicker.
Influences future business strategy when future positions become available. (Click A Test, 2010)
Protect against claims of unfair recruitment practices.
Reasons against Psychometric Testing
Give deeper knowledge and the ability to compare candidates against each other. (Click A Test, 2010)
When a position becomes available and internal candidates apply, they may feel unhappy at being tested.
Caroline Dunk, a principle at CDA has stated; "Also in response to the increasing demand for something new and relevant, the market has also seen an influx of poorly designed and validated personality tests". (Emerald, 2004) Anyone has an opportunity to create a test, which makes it hard for companies to select the best. "To be useful, new tests must be carefully developed to high standards of validity and reliability. Unfortunately there is nothing to stop someone designing a test on the proverbial 'back of an envelope' and taking it to market without putting it through a rigorous (expensive and time-consuming) programme of validation". (International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management, 2004)
When these tests are put into action they can lead to problems. "Real damage is done to individuals and organisations by poor tests, which deliver inaccurate and misleading information. The companies and the candidates are being let down". (International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management, 2004)
Organisations may buy cheaper, less effective tests to save money, not taking the implications into consideration. "There is a danger, though, that psychometric tests may become a commodity item, that they will be available so cheaply and so easily over the internet that organisations will use and abuse them in equal measure". (Kwiatkowski, 2003)
It is important those involved are properly qualified as they are feeding back to people on character flaws and doing this in the wrong way may have a negative impact. "We need to guard against the untrained and "incompetent" manager using the information in isolation to make judgemental decisions. It is better used by a person properly trained to interpret the information". (Melamed and Jackson 1995)
Certain candidates may be apprehensive about taking tests and may need reassurance before taking them.
Some tests are complex to score so training is required for those administrating and interpreting results.
Initial set-up of psychometric tests is normally costly, as well as costs for the initial purchase of materials.
Some people know what answers a firm is looking for as there are numerous websites telling people 'how to pass psychometric tests'.
Theories & Models
Myers Briggs Type Indicator
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment was first published in 1962 and is a psychometric questionnaire, designed to measure psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and how they make their decisions in a variety of applications. "MBTI has been extensively used for over 50 years in an extraordinarily wide variety of management and interpersonal development applications" (Brown and Reilly, 2009)
Lawrence and Martin (2001 cited on Myers Briggs, 2010) stated; "Since type provides a framework for understanding individual differences, and provides a dynamic model of individual development, it has found wide application in the many functions that compose an organization".
The theory of psychological type was originally developed by Carl Jung in the 1920's. Jung said individuals were born with or developed certain preferred ways of thinking and acting. The MBTI sorts psychological differences into four opposite pairs known as dichotomies which results in 16 possible psychological types. The 16 types are abbreviated by the initials of their four type preferences, e.g. 'ESTJ'.
Some academic psychologists criticised its use claiming it lacks convincing, valid data. Others think it is a valid test after a large number of tests have been conducted. "To establish predictive validity requires scope for effective, controlled research over a period of time. This in turn implies fairly large numbers in the research samples, and some stability of roles and performance measures". (Edenborough, 2005, pg.48)
Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire
This test was originally created by Raymond B. Cattell in 1949 and is in its fifth edition. There are up to 187 multiple-choice questions about behavioural situations. Scores are provided on sixteen primary personality scales and five global personality scales which are a broader overview of personality traits. The main objective is to discover and measure fundamental traits of human personality. The test provides a clear picture of an individual's personality so can predict behaviour. Some behaviours predicted are creativity, job performance, interpersonal skills and leadership potential.
Occupational Personality Inventory
The Occupational Personality Inventory consists of three broad-spectrum personality tests which are the OPQ32i, OPQ32n and the OPQ32-r. The tests were originally designed by Saville and Holdsworth in 1984 and the latest version was released in 2009. The OPQ32-r indicates an individual's preferred behavioural style, assessing how a potential candidate works with other people and will fit into working environments. The OPQ32-r forces respondents to make choice responses between three mixed scale alternatives which are then converted to reflect underlying trait scores. A number of secondary scores can be derived which include the 'Big Five' personality factors. The tests are relevant to occupational uses such as selection, development, team building and promotion. (Psychometric Testing Centre, 2010)
Thurston Attitude Scale
Created by Louis Leon Thurstone in 1928, this test was the first formal technique for measuring attitude. It is made up of statements and each statement has a numerical value which indicates how favourable or unfavourable it is seen as. Participants tick statements they agree with and a mean score generated indicating their attitude. The statements are worded so participants can only agree or disagree with them. The disadvantage of this is that it is an interval measurement scale in which if a person disagrees with all statements then they receive a score of zero. This test can be time consuming and labour intensive. (Management Study Guide, 2010)
Likert Attitude Scale
This scale was developed by Rensis Likert in 1932. It asks respondents to indicate both a degree of agreement and disagreement with each statement put before them. "The Likert Scale is an ordered, one-dimensional scale from which respondents choose one option that best aligns with their view". (Changing Minds, 2010) The statements have five response categories ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree. Each statement is assigned to a numerical score. The Likert Scale is of ordinal type which enables an individual to rank attitudes but can't measure the difference between different attitudes. (Changing Minds, 2010)
Questions are easy to understand which leads to consistent answers. A disadvantage is that few options are offered so respondents may not agree with any. Problems occur when individuals are influenced by their answers to previous questions. Some individuals do not like making extreme choices, as this can make them seem totally sure, when they may not be. (Changing Minds, 2010)
Semantic Differential Scale
The semantic differential was developed by Charles Osgood in 1957. It is a method for measuring the meaning of an object to an individual. It can also be seen as a series of attitude scales. "Osgood and colleagues used Roget's Thesaurus to help construct bipolar scales based on semantic opposites" (Writing, 2010). They created the three measurable underlying attitudinal dimensions that everyone uses to evaluate everything in their social environment. These were Evaluation, Power and Activity. "The Evaluation, Potency, and Activity (EPA) structure in subjective responses is one of the best documented facts in social science, and an elaborate technology has developed for measuring EPA responses on semantic differential scales". (Heise, 1992)
The Semantic Differential is used to measure people's reactions to stimulus words with contrasting adjectives at each end measuring directionality of a reaction, such as good against bad or slight against extreme. Results are averaged to provide a single score for each dimension.
Semantic Differentials are easy to set up, administer and code. There has been demonstrated reliability and validity which gives considerable cost-effectiveness. Nickolas and Shaw (1964) supported the validity of Semantic Differential ratings as attitude measurements; however they also found that the relationship between Semantic Differential measurements and Thurstone measurements varied considerably depending on certain conditions. Evaluation seems to be one of the best indicators of attitude. "Of these dimensions, the one most heavily weighted in people's judgments is evaluation. Osgood has recommended using it as the prime indicator of attitude toward the object. Clearly it is an affective dimension." (Oskamp, 1977)
Using Psychometric Testing within Norfolk County Council
When considering using psychometric testing within NCC, there are a number of factors to consider. It would be too expensive and not necessary to use it for lower level positions like library assistants or cleaners. However, when recruiting for leadership positions, e.g. heads of service, it could be effective.
Currently, NCC has to cut and restructure services due to budget constraints so are changing a lot of positions. Existing employees are applying for revised positions. Using psychometric testing in the selection process will help remove bias from those conducting interviews and will show employees the process is objective. They could be best used for team manager's positions and other similar leadership roles. The type of test that would work best for a team manager position is the 'Sixteen personality factor questionnaire', because:
It assess' behaviours of candidates including job performance, interpersonal skills, creativity and leadership potential which are qualities a team manager requires to be successful.
There are up to 187 questions which make the test in-depth so it will give a clear picture of personality.
The questions are based on behavioural situations so the organisation can identify from results how candidates will respond to different situations at work.
Because the relationship between the test items and traits measured by the 16PF instrument is not obvious, it is difficult for the test-taker to tailor responses to achieve a desired outcome.
If a random selection of questions is selected out of the 187 available, then this would be an unfair test when comparing candidates together as they may suit one person better than another. To overcome this, the same questions would have to be used for all the candidates applying for the same position.
Objective, Planned Evaluation of testing
Applicants for the team's manager's position will be psychometrically tested as part of the selection process. If applicants CV and interview are of the right standard, the test will be scored and used to determine if their personality is right for the position. Below is a table of the stages that would be undertaken;
Applicants to under take the' Sixteen personality factor questionnaire' as part of the interview.
Survey applicants after the interview using a structured questionnaire to check how they felt going through the process and what their personal thoughts were on the method.
Check how many people are still in post after 12 months to check retention against retention figures of those recruited using other methods.
Use Norfolk County Council's appraisal system which scores performance to review performance levels of those recruited using psychometric testing against those recruited using other methods. This should be after 6 months and then after 12 months.
Once the above evaluation has taken place NCC can decide whether to continue using psychometric testing and which jobs for.
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