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4 Reflections on a Decade of Assessment
Posted By Dr. Charles Handler On June 1, 2011 @ 5:31 pm In Advice and How-Tos | No Comments
This is a very special week for me. June 1st marks a full decade that I have spent dedicated to the work my company, Rocket-Hire, has been doing to promote the benefits of best-practices-based screening and assessment programs.
For those of us who are working to move our field forward. it is often easy to lose the forest for the trees, as our daily efforts to implement assessment  often keep us focused on the issues that still hold us back. So in reflecting on the past decade as a thought leader for the assessment world, I have worked hard to refocus on the big picture. When I took time to change my perspective a bit, I realized that zooming out to the treetops has presented a view that is extremely positive and encouraging. This vantage point has reminded me that, while we still face all kinds of crazy challenges in the moment, we have seen some quantum leaps in the testing game that have made the use of pre-employment screening and assessment an even bigger value add then ever.
Here is a quick review of my thoughts on the big picture when it comes to innovation and progress in our industry over the past decade.
Test usage has crossed a major plateau: Ten years ago the testing industry was in total plateau mode. Uptake was at the same level as it had been for decades, with a handful of firms, mostly test publishers and consulting firms, offering administratively heavy tests that tended to lack even the slightest bit of sizzle. The choices were few. Ten years ago one could either buy a test off the shelf and drop it in place, sometimes doing validation work to support its use or sometimes not; or one could hire a consulting firm to do an expensive local validation study using their own content. These options and the universal truth that testing required a good deal of resources to administer and manage, cost a butt load of money, and provided a cold war-ish icky feel to those taking the tests served to keep testing down.
The good news is that we are way past all this now! Test uptake and the available revenue from selling tests has skyrocketed based solely on our friend, technology. The influence of technology is the #1 big-picture trend in assessment over the past decade. It has taken us from a virtual flat line to an exciting new life full of great possibilities. This global technology driven shift has been facilitated by several specific facets of technology that are definitely worth noting (discussed below).
Data shows us the truth. Ease of administration and increased uptake have allowed us to capture millions of data points. This information has greatly accelerated our understanding of what job performance is and how to accurately measure it. We really do know how to accurately measure the traits that drive important work outcomes such as customer service and how to predict which applicants are most likely to achieve these outcomes. This knowledge serves as the basis for increasing speed and accuracy in testing while also making tests much shorter and more manageable for applicants. The confluence of technology and data has also served to drive the price of testing down. A good testing program can be had for a fraction of the price tag that one would find for such things a decade ago.
Methods of demonstrating validity are changing. I am not saying that the concept of validity itself is changing. We have increasingly powerful tools to help us configure job relevant assessment content for local situations (thanks to Trend #2-above). Most vendors have begun to bake a good deal of flexibility into the process and tools used to configure assessment content, building on the data they have harvested and then allowing end users to lightly customize their specific measurement model. In a way this is the holy grail for validity as we begin to see multiple validation strategies converge to show us what content is correct for a given situation and to help test users with a bit of CYA.
Remote, unproctored testing is here to stay. Like it or not, there is no way to beat the convenience of remote testing. I have served on more panels then I can remember on this topic over the past decade and all have reached the same conclusion: we do not have any strong evidence that remote testing is a problem. This does not mean we don’t need to be vigilant. Again, technology is our friend as we enter the age of IRT -driven adaptive testing  and increasing security tools such as biometrics. The interesting thing in the decade to come will be the acceptance for remote testing via smart phones. The jury is still out on this one.
Candidate experience is becoming a key driver. A decade ago it was still common to see 200- and 300-item-long tests that asked questions with no perceptible link to the job performance domain. This is no longer the case as we begin to explore ways to increase simulations and games that make the assessment experience transparent and can easily be woven into branding . This will be one of the most significant trends over the next decade as we begin to put the radio buttons of decades old personality tests in the rear view mirror. If nothing else, the next generation of job applicants will begin to demand this type of treatment, and this population is going to begin the redefinition of terms like “job” and “career,” forcing us to adapt our hiring and assessment processes.
Assessment is becoming an integral part of the employee lifecycle. We continue to see progress (albeit slow) toward a more unified vision of what talent is and how it fits within the organization. Assessment has long been used as a tool for succession planning and development. But there has been no continuity with the information collected during the hiring process. Most of this time this info is basically industrial waste, going down the drain and taking value with it. The rise of a talent management mindset has started to help promote a more strategic focus that covers the entire employee lifecycle.
All of the trends above have combined to open the door for increasing levels of value from assessment based on new levels of efficiency and effectiveness. I encourage our readers to take a moment to reflect on just how far we have come and to think about how far we can reach from here. Almost daily I am seeing testing firms use cool new technologies to help meet the end goal of providing realistic, accurate, and efficient ways to predict applicant performance.
In the next decade we are likely to have tons more innovations we can’t even conceive of right now, so prepare to have your mind blown wide open. The strong forward march of technology is going to make all aspects of our lives extremely interesting (and maybe a bit scary?).
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URLs in this post:
 Image: http://www.ere.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/remote-testing.jpg
 assessment: http://www.ere.net/tags/assessments
 IRT: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Item_response_theory
 adaptive testing: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computerized_adaptive_testing
 branding: http://www.ere.net/tags/branding
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