10 Screening and Assessment Trends for 2008

Jan 7, 2008

Every year, I take a few minutes to reflect on the things I have noticed while working with both producers and consumers of screening and assessment tools. Overall, I am very encouraged by what I have been seeing. The market for screening and assessment tools continues to grow. This makes me extremely happy because we I/O psychologists know the value that is to be had via the use of quality assessment tools.

The science geek in me is also very happy to see strong investment in innovation. I am really pleased to see the ways in which quality content is being combined with technology to collect the mountains of data that are required to uncover underlying truths about the relationship between human traits and job performance.

One of the most valuable means of insight into assessment trends over the past five years has been the annual ERE/Rocket-Hire Screening and Assessment Usage Survey. If you have not taken the time to complete this survey yet, please consider taking five minutes to help us out. Your input really does make a difference, and we greatly appreciate your time. A link to the survey is provided at the end of this article.

The major theme for 2008 will be increased integration of assessment into carefully designed products. Much of the rationale behind these products is the reduction of the work required to implement assessment via a combination of data and technology that results in a turnkey product that is both relevant and easy to use. This trend is going to continue to increase the accessibility of assessment and lower barriers to entry that have long been limiting the use of assessments. A quick look at the trends outlined below clearly demonstrates support for this point. In 2008, I believe we will see the following trends continue to unfold:

  1. Continued Interest and Use in Assessment. The market for assessment tools will continue to increase as it has every year for the past decade. This will be the result of a number of factors, many of which are discussed in more detail below. In my mind, however, the number one reason for increased adoption is still the fact that properly used screening and assessment is one of the most important ways to increase the quality of hiring decisions.
  2. More Vendors to Choose From. As interest increases, so shall the number of options available to consumers. For the most part, this is a good thing, as the bulk of new companies and offerings are being created based on solid best practices. As always, there will continue to be less sophisticated or technically-sound options available. With so many options to choose from, extracting the most value out of assessment tools will continue to require a solid game plan and due diligence as the foundation of the vendor selection process.
  3. Increase in Acquisitions for Content. As companies continue to work toward developing products and increasing use of assessment tools, many are discovering that it is easier to purchase content that has a strong history behind it than it is to create their own. This has also been playing out as existing assessment companies continue to purchase smaller companies in order to increase their product range. Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) is also a huge driver of this trend. RPO will continue to be a major force in the future of hiring, and assessment should end up as a key part of the better RPO offerings.
  4. Increased Integration and Packaging of Assessment into Off-the-Shelf Products. Directly related to the trends mentioned above, there has been a continued push towards the development of product suites that provide a hiring process into which assessment is embedded. The goal is to create a more turnkey product that can be lightly customized and quickly implemented. The more quality assessment that is baked into a well thought-out process that can be implemented relatively easily, the more quickly assessment can begin to return value. This equation also lessens the need for professional services and makes the product a bit more “foolproof.” The more turnkey the product, the less assurance one has that it is “dialed in” to a particular position or job. The decision to use a more turnkey product as opposed to a more customized approach should be treated as a business decision driven by the contingencies of one’s particular situation.
  5. Increased Attention to Products/Sales into Vertical Markets. Again, as the trends noted above unfold, we are seeing an effort to package assessment products that have been developed specifically for certain vertical markets. This is driven partly by the fact that vendors are finding that it makes sense to promote and sell products in a more targeted manner. Health care is one of the hottest examples of this trend, but I have also noticed increases in product creation and promotion in manufacturing and financial services as well.
  6. More Products Designed for the Middle Market. The labor-intensive nature of assessment tools has not traditionally lent itself to use by smaller or mid-sized companies. An increasing number of vendors are creating turnkey products designed to overcome the need for professional services and large-scale data collection exercises. As interest in assessment continues to grow, these products will be well positioned to provide value for a wider range of companies.
  7. Movement into Job-Search Process. An increasing number of job boards/career portals are discovering that adding assessment can provide much better search/match functions than do traditional methods, such as keyword search. I have been pushing this idea for the past five years, but this year will provide a noticeable increase in the use of assessment tools as part of the DNA of many job boards.

While the above represent what I feel to be very positive trends, I also see the perpetuation of a few trends that I am not so wild about. These things include:

  1. Continued Fragmentation. Most users of assessment seem to still take a test-focused viewpoint in which the emphasis is on the use of one specific test rather than on the result of a coherent process. While some situations warrant this type of approach, it is best to build a process in which assessment data is tightly integrated into other decision-making data. The good news is that all of the trends outlined above represent movement in the direction of less fragmentation.
  2. Tactical Focus. Assessment is still being used in a highly tactical manner. It is most often considered as a way to fight fires, as opposed to a preventative measure. As consumers experience more success with the use of assessment tools, a more strategic focus will result. It will be some time before we see this type of usage occur, but we are headed in the right direction.
  3. Continued Lack of Proper Evaluation. My head hurts from repeatedly banging it against the wall over this issue. Yes, it is hard to create the buy-in needed to properly evaluate the impact of assessment tools. However, without proper evaluation, it is very difficult to clearly demonstrate ROI and build a solid business case for the use of assessment tools. While vendors are trying to help design products that can assist in this area, proper evaluation requires commitment from the consumer. The consumer is the one who needs to collect the data relating to the business impact of assessment. While this is not an easy task, if we can put a man on the moon, we should be able to collect relevant performance data.

This promises to be a great year for screening and assessment. Continued interest by consumers has created a buzz amongst vendors who are, in turn, creating products designed to eliminate the headaches often associated with using assessment. Of course, there are always tradeoffs. The more turnkey a product is, the less it will be optimized for a particular local situation. The degree of customization required is a business decision that should be made based on a thorough needs and cost/benefit analysis. Some things never change!

Want to help us learn more about what is going on with the use of screening and assessment? Please take five minutes to complete our survey. We will be sharing the results with the ERE community this spring.

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