Many of the recent developments in the pre-employment assessment field have come in two inter-related areas. The first of these is an increased interest in the use of pre-employment assessment from the consumer side. In other words, more organizations are using pre-employment assessments. The second area is in increased interest in product development amongst vendors of pre-employment assessment tools.
These two areas are obviously highly dependent upon one another and both are essential for moving the industry forward. Assessment companies have felt comfortable investing in product development because of an increasing interest in assessment tools and the increasing number of success stories related to their use. This is good news; increased investment in new products will help the industry move forward past what I feel has been a plateau. This plateau has been caused by a lack of innovation in assessment content as well as a failure to find new and interesting ways to integrate assessments into the hiring process. To help you understand what I’m getting at here, I’ve identified seven trends which I feel will help move assessment into a new era in terms of its value to the hiring process.
These trends are as follows.
1. Simulations gain more traction.
While the development of new technology for the delivery of assessment has certainly been moving forward at a nice pace, there is still a major plateau in terms of the actual assessment content that is in use today. While delivery, reporting, and analytics all continue to become more sophisticated, the actual content used to assess job applicants has seen little change over the past five to ten years. While research has greatly increased our ability to create more concise measurement instruments, it has done little to change the nature of the content of which assessments are made. We’re still living in a world where applicants click radio buttons and answer questions that seem unrelated to the job for which they are applying. Simulations have the power to change all of this. They can provide an excellent measurement opportunity while actually engaging applicants in a more meaningful pre-employment assessment experience. Simulations offer extra value because they can help provide reinforcement of employment branding as well as allow the incorporation of realistic job previews, which give a good idea of what they will be getting into should they be offered a position. Simulations appeal to our emerging workforce, which is represented by a generation raised on video games.
2. Assessment will find its way into the search process.
Assessment is poised to move into the arena of job searching. Sourcing providers are finally realizing the inherent flaws with the keyword search model. Look for job boards and sourcing providers of all sizes to begin looking to use assessment to try and ensure tighter matches when searching candidate databases. There will be a wide range of products and strategies in this area, some of which will be viable and some of which may push the envelope in terms of legal defensibility. So far, a few companies have made attempts to tackle this, but this year I believe that this trend will be magnified as sourcing providers look to ensure they can deliver more value to both job seekers and organizations paying for access to job seekers.
3. Increasing use of assessment as part of “end-to-end” recruitment process outsourcing platforms.
Recruitment process outsourcing is gaining momentum. This year will see the development of a number of new offerings in this area, all of which will rely on assessment tools as a key component in the value proposition. This makes sense as it offers a parallel to the integration that has been happening in the applicant-tracking industry for the past few years. The main issue here will be the ability of companies to offer assessments that can be used in a “turnkey” or off-the-shelf manner. The short term will see the development of off-the-shelf or transactional assessment products that can be easily configured and delivered via a third-party outsourcer. While this type of implementation may reduce the accuracy of selection decisions, it will provide a significant increase in value over not using any assessment tools at all.
4. Increased use of assessment for professional jobs.
Most of the growth in assessment over this past year has been aimed at what I feel is low-hanging fruit — hourly/entry-level jobs. This makes sense, because performance at these jobs is less complex then it is with higher-level jobs, making it easier to measure. Another thing about these jobs is that the metrics needed to help understand ROI are much more available and objective in nature (turnover, attendance, sales revenue, customer-service behavior, integrity), making it easier to fully understand the value of increased accuracy in employee selection decisions. Now that some form of assessment is starting to be standard for most entry-level positions in medium to large companies, there will be a push to develop similar products for professional jobs. Professional positions are more complex and thus performance at these jobs is much harder to document. This means it will be more difficult to gain a clear understanding of ROI associated with the use of assessments for these jobs. Nonetheless, assessment is just as valuable, if not more valuable, for these types of jobs as it is for entry-level ones. Expect to see some new products that will begin to tackle this issue. Don’t be surprised if some of these are simulation tools, as I believe these are an excellent way to model more complex jobs. 5.
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More vendors throw their hats into the ring.
Given the increased interest in the use pf pre-employment assessments, I expect to see even more new vendors popping up in the next year. I spend quite a bit of time following this industry and not a week goes by that someone does not call to my attention a new product or vendor who is seeking a piece of the pie. Many of these vendors represent a relatively weak effort to cash in on this space, while others have developed very viable products. This means it will continue to be difficult for those who do not have the proper background to differentiate between these types of vendors. Hopefully, the level of consumer savvy and education will also increase.
6. Continued integration of assessment into applicant tracking system platforms.
This trend has been lurching forward for the past four years or so. While an applicant-tracking system is an essential tool for ensuring good hiring decisions, it will fall short of delivering full value because it does not provide decision makers with the data they need to ensure they are making informed decisions. Integrating assessments into the hiring process and using an applicant-tracking system to help summarize assessment results for decision-makers is a critical part of creating value within the hiring process. As organizations finally begin to realize this, the trend of increased integration of assessment into applicant-tracking system product offerings will continue full steam ahead. Look for increases in assessment product offerings in this area from vendors of all sizes.
7. Increasing interest in international assessments.
Most assessments currently in use in the United States have been created and validated with the U.S. market in mind. This creates problems when one considers the increasing globalization of business. It is not acceptable to make the assumption that an assessment tool that works well in the U.S. to select American workers will function in the same manner when used to select workers from another culture in another country. I believe that there will be an increased interest in tools that can be used across multiple countries and locations to help organizations make better hiring decisions on a global level. The key to ensuring the development of viable products that can meet global needs lies in research. The only way to measure the effectiveness of an assessment tool across cultures is to collect real data that can be analyzed in order to reveal the true level of compatibility across cultures.
I expect to see an increase in interest in this sort of research over the coming year. However, I believe that a real understanding in performance differences between cultures and the ability of assessments to account for these differences is still several years off. The important thing is that we continue to conduct the research needed to get us to this point. The trends are positive ones. Pre-employment assessment is starting to come into its own as a viable tool for adding value through its ability to ensure that organizations hire individuals who will allow them to better meet their strategic business objectives. No matter what the business, winning is still about two things: Effective leadership, and having the right people in the right jobs. Pre-employment assessment is an essential ingredient for both of these and thus its value will continue to become apparent as hiring moves forward into the end of this decade.