The benefits and challenges of integrating testing into the hiring process.
By Michael Switow
Although the world of assessing talent has been upended by new digital technologies and the proliferation of smartphones, the rate and manner in which HR departments are adapting varies greatly from company to company.
Laggards make limited use of metrics and psychometric tests, whilst leaders link assessment to business strategy. In between is an area where most organizations sit: recruiters have some training with assessment tools, but have yet to make the process an integral part of the candidate experience.
“We all agree that we need to collect data and assess candidates to bring the right talent to your organisation, but assessment has had its challenges over time in how it’s implemented and its effectiveness in the organisation,” explains Caleb Baker, Alexander Mann Solutions’ managing director for Asia Pacific and emerging markets. With a presence in more than eighty countries, including Australia, China, India, Japan and most of southeast Asia, Alexander Mann Solutions helps hundreds of businesses to attract, engage, and retain top talent.
“Assessment itself has moved,” Baker adds. “It’s now two-way. The candidate is assessing you, the organisation, as much as you’re trying to assess them.”
The proliferation of new products—a new HR technology is being released in North America every fortnight—can also make it difficult for HR leaders to identify what’s right for their business.
“As purchasers of [assessment] products, we’ve become more demanding, too. We’re ensuring that they’re mobile-friendly and integrated with other talent management initiatives in the business,” says Baker’s colleague Joy Koh, Alexander Mann Solutions’ APAC head of consulting. Candidates and businesses alike expect assessment tests to be accessible anywhere and at any time, without having their reliability compromised.
Lloyds Bank and Jaguar Land Rover are early adopters of cutting-edge assessment tools such as virtual reality and gamification. Despite being leading brands, the financial giant and car manufacturer are both generally perceived to be conservative companies. Their use of new technologies during the assessment process, however, is demonstrating to applicants that they are, in fact, innovators.
Baker and Koh identify five key elements for a successful assessment strategy:
- Full visibility of what is happening on the ground, with ownership and a clear roadmap for improvements;
- Links to talent and business strategies, including assessments of both current and future high performance and potential;
- An understanding of how assessment underpins candidate experience;
- High integration with other key talent acquisition and management priorities instead of a standalone process; and
- Measurement of outcomes and success metrics, including quality of hire and candidate engagement.
There are other challenges and opportunities to consider. The assessment experience will shape a candidate’s decision, for better or worse.
Sydney Kim, HR director for The Gap’s global supply chain, describes a personal experience applying for a job that required her to spend a full day in an assessment centre. Initially, she was not that interested in the company, but the assessment process changed her mind. “The company spent so much time and effort assessing one candidate that I thought, ‘Think what they will do for their own employees!’” she says.
Extensive assessments are not for everyone, though. Hong Kong Broadband Network’s Danny Li counters that full-day assessments will “really scare” some candidates and drive them away.
Testing may not always the best way to assess talent.
“Some candidates do a lot of assessment and know how we want them to answer,” First Advantage’s Leanne Chan cautions.
“How you fare on an assessment also depends on if you’re having a good day or bad day,” explains Bupa’s Mandie Fankhauser, who adds that companies need to ask how assessment makes the organisation more successful, rather than simply making it a rote requirement. She notes that in her former industry—finance—assessment is mandated by regulators and, as a result, becomes a “tick-the-box” exercise.
Determine which tools to use during each phase of the process. Expensive tests such as a Hogan Assessment are often best reserved for a later stage, when candidates are more engaged and interested in your company.
Tools also need to be properly aligned with organisational goals.
“Regardless of what sort of assessment you’re doing— whether it be a very traditional interview or state-of-the-art gamification—if, as an organisation, you aren’t aligned around what you’re assessing, the output is not going to be what you’re looking for. To use a tech analogy, ‘garbage in, garbage out’,” says Gilead Associate Director Tim Errington.
Identify an internal strategy to advance your company’s adoption of new processes.
“The strategy we’ve pursued is to do small pilots in different areas to demonstrate some of the tools,” explains Galaxy Entertainment’s Paul Hotchan, adding that his company has over 2,000 hiring managers who need to be brought on board.
“I think we all agree that some form of assessment is required,” says Baker, “and how far you want to take that is going to be up to your strategy and confidence in being able to [integrate] assessment into the candidate journey as an attraction and engagement exercise, not just a measurement exercise.”
This piece covers the interactive workshop Delivering Exceptional Outcomes for Candidates and Organisations, Through the New World of Assessment, presented by Caleb Baker, managing director, APAC and emerging markets and Joy Koh, head of consulting, APAC, for Alexander Mann Solutions, at the HRO Today Forum APAC in Hong Kong.