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Integrity Testing’s Role in a Formal Selection Program

Info: 3300 words (13 pages) Essay
Published: 8th Feb 2020 in Human Resources

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ABSTRACT

Integrity tests are seen as a superior alternative to polygraph tests and interviews. In fact, the use of integrity tests in selection decisions has grown dramatically in the past decade. The tests are especially likely to be used where theft, safety, or malfeasance is an important concern. Such, as in the hospitality industry. The promise of integrity testing is that it will weed out those most prone to counterproductive work behaviors. Clearly, integrity is an important quality in applicants; integrity tests are designed to tap this important attribute (Heneman, Judge, & Kammeyer-Mueller, 2012).

Background

Integrity testing can help the Sleep Tight Inn management determine which of their prospective hires are likely to engage in unproductive, dangerous, or otherwise risky actions on the job. Candidates are surprisingly candid in answering test questions about their workplace theft or drug abuse, but the tests also have control questions intended to indicate when an applicant is attempting to game the test. Although tests represent an additional expense in the hiring process, a study of a large hotel chain found that the savings in screening out potentially expensive employees more than made up for the costs of conducting the tests (Sturman & Sherwyn, 2007).

Integrity Testing’s Role in a Formal Selection Program

When an organization is seeking to formalize its selection program, it has to consider utilizing a standardized selection tool, execute a thorough job analysis and develop job descriptions for each position. This process is needed in order to answer the question of why a selection process should be put into place to help determine if an applicant’s qualifications fit the requirements of the position and the organization (Fried & Fottler, 2014). Integrity testing introduces another element of standardization into the formal selection process. Using a standardized testing methodology allows for an equal and fair assessment of all job applicants. This helps reduce the incidence of selection bias and can help reduce the company’s liability for a discrimination claim. Additionally, using a formal selection program can help reduce the costs associated with the selection process, as recruiting high-quality candidates can have a direct impact on retention rates.

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Integrity testing can also impact the performance appraisal process, as it helps recruit and retain motivated, reliable employees. The hospitality industry is dependent on the guest experience and positive feedback to remain profitable. Part of that experience is ensuring that Sleep Tight Inn’s employees do not steal from the guests, or the organization. Integrity testing can help deter theft when it is used in conjunction with other loss control programs, such as training programs designed to teach current employees how to exhibit the highest level of integrity while coping with various workplace pressures. For example, peer pressure to steal, and temptations to steal such as unsupervised access to cash and valuable merchandise (Jones, Arnold & Harris, 1990).

Integrity testing should also be considered when identifying the necessary work-related characteristics, as part of the overall job analysis. Job analysis is defined as the purposeful, systematic process for collecting information on important work–related aspects (Gatewood, Feild, & Barrick, 2016). Structured interviews follow a systematic approach where employees are interviewed accurately and consistently. It provides the standardization that is currently absent from this process by ensuring that interviewees are asked the same questions in the same order. Those responses are recorded, compared and evaluated against standard criteria; the interview process remains the same even if the interviewer changes (Markovska, 2018).

This standardization is needed to ensure that the company does not violate any Equal Opportunity or discrimination laws. Also, a review of the Affirmative Action Plan (AAP) would be indicated to ensure compliance. It should also be noted that the use of integrity tests does not violate U.S. employment laws. Since they neither create adverse impact on protected groups nor violate provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (Sturman & Sherwyn, 2007). It should be noted that it is Sleep Tight Inn’s responsibility to ensure that all aspects of its selection process, not just integrity testing, comply with ADA and other federal/state laws. This can be validated and verified by maintaining summary data of external job offers and hires, promotions, resignations, terminations, and layoffs by job group, gender, and minority group identification (SHRM.org ,2017).

One aspect of ensuring integrity in this process, that is not a typical use of the term integrity testing is ensuring compliance with the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986. While it does not meet the strict definition of integrity testing, ensuring that an applicant can legally be hired, is a form of integrity testing. Ensuring that all employees are authorized to work in the United States is necessary to avoid violating the IRCA. Requiring any prospective employee to prove that they can legally be employed is an outward indicator of their sense of intrinsic integrity.

It is important to reiterate that when formalizing the selection process and integrating integrity testing that legal defensibility has to be a planning factor. Any, and all, testing needs to be relevant to the position that the individual is being considered for and should not be designed as a selective screening tool. A minimum performance standard or expectation, specifically related to the requirements of the job has to be established. Specifically, Sleep Tight Inn needs to ensure that any test or selection procedure is be job-related and its results appropriate for the employer’s purpose. Ensuring that the testing conforms to the Uniform Guidelines for Employee Selection Procedures can help ensure that the testing is not only appropriate, but is legally defensible should an applicant decide to challenge the process (EEOC.gov, 2010).

Integrity testing has seen steady growth in both practice and research throughout the past two decades, with increased evidence regarding the usefulness of integrity testing for screening out job applicants with risks towards future involvement in counterproductive work behavior (CWB). It should be noted, however, that CWB does not merely refer to criminal misconduct. CWB is considered to include a wide range of inappropriate and/or undesirable work behaviors that may target an organization, such as drug use, sabotage, absenteeism, and negligence. CWB, also encompasses actions towards other employees, or management. Actions that include, on-the-job harassment, and all forms of discrimination identified in the Equal Employment Opportunity Act. It should also be noted that these behaviors are prevalent, with the great majority of U.S. employees reportedly having engaged in some form of CWB, roughly one third admitting to having stolen from their employers. Considering the damages that may be caused by CWB, which have been valued in the hundreds of billions of dollars annually, organizations clearly have a strong interest to reduce the extent of CWBs (Fine, Nevo, & Hemi, 2012). To help mitigate any potential CWBs occurring on the Sleep Tight Inn property, behavioral and situational testing can be a useful adjunct to integrity testing.

Another useful adjunct that should be mentioned is the reference check. Reference checking is an objective evaluation of an applicant’s past job performance based on information collected from key individuals, such as previous supervisors or co-workers, who have known and worked with the applicant. Reference checking is primarily used to:

  • Verify the accuracy of information given by job applicants through other selection processes, i.e. résumés, occupational questionnaires, interviews
  • Predict the success of job applicants by comparing their experience to the competencies required by the job
  • Uncover background information on applicants that may not have been identified by other selection procedures (OPM.gov, n.d.)

Job applicants may attempt to enhance their chances of obtaining a job offer by embellishing their training or work history. While résumés summarize what applicants claim to have accomplished, reference checking is meant to assess how well those claims are backed up by others. Verifying critical employment information can significantly cut down on selection errors. Information provided by former peers, direct reports, and supervisors can also be used to forecast how applicants will perform in the job being filled. Reference data used in this way is based on the behavioral consistency principle that past performance is a good predictor of future performance (OPM.gov, n.d.). As previously stated reference checking is an adjunct form of integrity testing within the overall selection process. Validating that an applicant is honest and forthcoming on their application, is a positive behavioral indicator of how they would perform if hired.

All of the formal selection program elements discussed to this point need to be used in combination to ensure not only the integrity of the applicant, but also the process. Extensive research has been done on the ability of various hiring methods and measures to actually predict job performance. A hiring process that relies primarily on interviews, reference checks, and personality tests, is significantly less effective than it could be if more effective measures were incorporated. For example, the strongest personality assessments to use in a hiring context are ones that possess these attributes:

  • Measure stable traits that will not tend to change once the candidate has been on the job for some length of time.
  • Are normative in nature, which allows you to compare one candidate’s scores against
  • Have high reliability (including test-retest reliability) and have been shown to be valid predictors of job performance.

Even when using a tool that meets the criteria outlined above, personality constructs are not the most predictive measure available. Personality tests are most effective when combined with other measures with higher predictive validity, such as integrity or cognitive ability. Using well-validated, highly predictive assessment tools in combination can give management a reliable indication of who will become a top performer for the organization (Martin, 2017).

Way Ahead

The way-ahead for Sleep Tight Inn is to formalize its selection process building upon the foundational aspect of integrity testing. Integrity has been a repeated theme of this recommendation and rightfully so. Guests of Sleep Tight Inn and resorts have to rely on the honesty and integrity of the employees of the resort. While, like most hospitality vendors, there are in-room safes for the safeguarding of valuables, guests want to feel safe and welcome. The welcome aspect of customer service is a by-product of the selection process. Selecting applicants who have demonstrated the traits needed to provide superior customer service helps ensure that guests are treated with courtesy and respect. But, it is the safety of the guests, their property and by extension the property of the resort that is foundational to this premise.

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Hotels and resorts rely on their reputation to remain economically viable. A rash of staff initiated thefts of guest property and valuables will have a negative impact on Sleep Tight Inn’s reputation. This will lead to a decrease in room booking rates and adversely impact the company’s bottom line. This is why integrity testing has to be foundational to the selection process and integrated into all aspects of the process. A formalized selection process eliminates variability between department managers who may rely on intuition when making a hiring decision, as opposed to objective measures. The research is clear that using intuition do not always assist in making the best decisions and, for a business person, bringing in the most profit. Scholars call intuition a troublesome decision tool that requires adjustments to function properly. Such reliance on intuition can also be especially harmful to workplace diversity and paves the path to bias in hiring, including in terms of race, disability, and gender. Numerous studies show that structured interventions are needed to overcome bias in hiring (Tsipursky, 2017). Eliminating bias in the selection process will also help avoid claims of discrimination in any of its forms against the company. This is a necessity in the United States, as it has become a very litigious country.

It is clear that background checks have many limitations associated with them. Given the damage that a dishonest employee can cause for an organization, the use of honesty and integrity testing is an appropriate additional measure that should be used as part of the selection process. While there are individuals and organizations with concerns associated with the use of such testing, if done properly, there is no legal reason to exclude these tests. In fact, it is expected that these tests will be very beneficial as part of the selection process as they are expected to identify applicants who are likely to engage in behavior that is counterproductive to the organization. Given the time, expense, and importance associated with the hiring process, it is strongly recommended that organizations consider the use of honesty and integrity tests to help them hire the “right” individuals and avoid hiring the “wrong” ones (Brody, Perri, & Buren, 2015).

One of the fundamental questions that has yet to be answered is that of why is any these recommendations necessary? The short answer is to build trust and confidence at all levels of the organization. Integrity is the foundation of trust and upon that foundation can be built shared values and respect. Demonstrating trust towards applicants and employees alike helps build an organization that values integrity. When management demonstrates behavioral integrity, not situational integrity, then trust will grow and permeate throughout the company. It is this sense of trust that drives exemplary employee performance. But, there is another reason as to why integrity and integrity testing has to be an integral part of Sleep Tight Inn’s management and selection practices.

Sleep Tight Inn has a legal and ethical obligation to assess employee integrity. Legally, organizations face liability for the actions of their employees. Respondeat Superior (“let the master respond”) is a legal doctrine holding employers liable, in certain cases, for the wrongful acts of their employees. This doctrine has also been referred to as vicarious liability, whereby an employer is answerable for the torts committed by employees. Even though there has been no wrongful conduct on the part of the organization (Pozgar & Santucci, 2016). While ensuring that the selection process is fair and equitable, it is essential that the company act in its own best interests as well. This can be accomplished by the use of integrity testing to ensure that all employees, regardless of position, act in a manner consist with the ethical principles of the company.

Integrity tests are seen as a superior alternative to polygraph tests and interviews. In fact, the use of integrity tests in selection decisions has grown dramatically in the past decade. The tests are especially likely to be used where theft, safety, or malfeasance is an important concern. Such, as in the hospitality industry. The promise of integrity testing is that it will weed out those most prone to counterproductive work behaviors. Clearly, integrity is an important quality in applicants; integrity tests are designed to tap this important attribute (Heneman, Judge, & Kammeyer-Mueller, 2012).

 

References

  • Brody, R. G., Perri, F. S., & Buren, H. J. (2015). Further Beyond the Basic Background Check: Predicting Future Unethical Behavior. Business and Society Review,120(4), 549-576. doi:10.1111/basr.12074
  • EEOC.gov. (2010, September 23). Employment Tests and Selection Procedures. Retrieved from https://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/factemployment_procedures.html
  • Fine, S., Nevo, B., & Hemi, M. (2012). Pre-Employment Integrity Testing in Israel: A Validation Study. Journal of Organizational Psychology,12(1), 79-92. doi:10.1037/e518362013-727
  • Fried, B., & Fottler, M. D. (Eds.). (2014). Fundamentals of human resources in healthcare. Retrieved from http://eds.a.ebscohost.com/eds/ebookviewer/ebook/ ZTkwMHh3d1 9fMzYzNjcyX19BTg2?sid=7fad0d5b-2d58-4300-863f-e6ac97747b33@sdc-v-sessmgr01&vid=0&format=EB&rid=1
  • Gatewood, R. D., Feild, H. S., & Barrick, M. R. (2016). Human resource selection. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.
  • Heneman, H. G., Judge, T., & Kammeyer-Mueller, J. D. (2012). Staffing organizations (7th ed.). Middleton, WI: Mendota House.
  • Jones, J., Arnold, D., & Harris, W. (1990). Introduction to the Model Guidelines for Preemployment Integrity Testing. Journal of Business and Psychology, 4(4), 525-532. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/25092257
  • Markovska, M. (2018, January 17). The 3 Job Analysis Methods Every HR Professional Needs To Know. Retrieved from https://blog.careerminds.com/job-analysis-methods
  • Martin, W. (2017, December 06). The Problem with Using Personality Tests for Hiring. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2014/08/the-problem-with-using-personality-tests-for-hiring
  • OPM.gov. (n.d.). Assessment & Selection Other Assessment Methods. Retrieved from https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/assessment-and-selection/other-assessment-methods/reference-checking/
  • Pozgar, G. D., & Santucci, N. M. (2016). Legal aspects of health care administration (12th ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.
  • Shrm.org. (2017, October 23). Affirmative Action: Internal AAP Checklist. Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/tools-and-samples/hr-forms/pages/ affirmativeaction_internalaapchecklist.aspx
  • Sturman, M. C., & Sherwyn, D. (2007). The Truth About Integrity Tests: The Validity and Utility of Integrity Testing for the Hospitality Industry. Cornell Hospitality Report,7(15). Retrieved from https://scholarship.sha.cornell.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1128 &context=chrpub
  • Tsipursky, G. (2017, April 05). Should you trust your gut in hiring? Think again. | Ladders. Retrieved from https://www.theladders.com/career-advice/intuition-bias-hiring

 

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