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The Changing World of Work

Psychometric tests are now an established part of the modern workplace, but we feel a sea-change is coming, and here is why.

The world of work is changing: globalisation, increased rates of change, delayering, hyper-connectivity, looser organisational boundaries - all these factors combine to challenge some of the fundamental concepts upon which psychologists and HR professionals operate. For example, what does extraversion actually mean in an online context? What does conformity look like in a virtual, internationally dispersed team? We are now starting to require psychometrics that will address these evolving dynamics.

Society is changing: social trends may creep up on us, but they can nevertheless have a pervasive and lasting impact upon work. Two current trends are the growth of narcissism amongst leaders, and the rise (once again) of ‘burnout’. The dawn of the celebrity culture, and the increasingly mass market appeal of cosmetic surgery and other treatments to enhance personal appearance, hint at a growing social need for recognition and approbation. Does this mean that tomorrow’s leadership population (and possibly today’s) will contain people seeking egotistic admiration at the expense of their organisation’s success?  Meanwhile, the pressures on employees at all levels continue unabated, so the return of the burnout phenomenon observed in the 80s would not come as a surprise. Again, are traditional psychometrics sufficiently attuned to these developing requirements?

Context is key: the Fundamental Attribution Error teaches us that we tend to overestimate the importance of personality in explaining others' behaviour, and underestimate the importance of the particular situation or context the person is in. Combine this natural bias with the increasing (and understandable) desire from test users to have categorical and unequivocal results from their psychometrics, and you introduce significant risk of over-simplification (and over-interpretation) of test outputs. We now require psychometric tests that are more sensitive to context. This is not an unrealistic demand – it can be achieved through more carefully nuanced personality instruments, and through greater use of functional or specialist tests with stronger point-to-point correspondence between test items and the nature of the work itself.

Situational Judgement Tests: for exactly these reasons, many organisations are making greater use of Situational Judgement Tests (SJTs), particularly for sifting job applications effectively and efficiently in high volume recruitment campaigns. Not only is the quality of a candidate’s judgement being looked at, but also whether they have the right values for the role. Recruiters are also discovering that SJTs give candidates a realistic preview of the type of work they might be doing – helping the candidates themselves to evaluate whether unfamiliar working contexts are ‘right for them’.

Open Access: there are some good reasons why psychometric tests are not made readily available for anyone to access freely. These include protecting the confidentiality and integrity of test item content, and ensuring the test results are not used inappropriately. That said, few would honestly argue that all the content on Level A or Level B training courses is required in order for someone to use psychometrics wisely and fairly. We believe test access needs to be reviewed, with more opportunity for potential users to gain (ideally) online test-specific training, equipping them with the skills and knowledge they need, but without burdening them with extra or unnecessary information.

Fresh Today: because of the increasing popularity of psychometrics, coupled with the growing frequency of job-changing, people are coming across the same tests more and more often, with potential negative consequences both for the novelty of the test-taking experience, and for the accuracy of the results. There is a growing need for fresh, high quality psychometrics to provide viable alternatives to the old favourites.

At Wickland Westcott, we use psychometric tests extensively, and seek at all times to provide our clients with contemporary, relevant tools and solutions. We believe that currently available psychometric tests do not fully meet evolving business needs, so we have acquired a test business and have been working with our psychologists to launch a new range of online products, to be released over the next few weeks.

To find out more please click here www.tests-direct.com

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