We’re Going to Study How Assessment Can Help Shape the Future Workforce

Mar 16, 2017

One great thing about being part of a community is the opportunity to build long-lasting relationships with others who share common interests. One of my fellow ERE community members recently helped me get involved in a really cool study that focuses on my core areas of expertise, pre-hire assessments, and the future of hiring.

I’m excited to give back to the ERE community by sharing an overview of this groundbreaking study both to educate and to create awareness for those who may want to follow it, or even participate. The project is called the Essential Competencies Project and it is being run by the Washington, D.C. based Committee for Economic Development.

The Essential Competencies Project is a groundbreaking research study that centers around the changing nature of education and vocation. The ethos of this study lies in the simple idea of supply and demand as it relates to the labor force.  

Businesses need skilled, high-performing employees, and it is clear that they are not finding them. We are currently experiencing a “skills gap” that has business leaders concerned about the future capabilities of their workforce.

But what if this skills gap is artificial because employers are looking at the wrong information when attempting to hire the skilled employees they require? Perhaps the status quo of using formal educational credentials as a gateway to employment is placing an artificial limitation on employers.

Simultaneously, it is becoming increasingly easy for individuals to self-educate and attain skills in non-traditional ways. While this is great for individuals who wish to go into business for themselves, those looking to get hired by employers are often falling between the cracks.

Individuals seeking a leg up in the job market commonly pay huge amounts of money to formal educational institutions to legitimize themselves. Job-seekers in their teens or twenties — or those changing careers mid life –are finding themselves engaged in a costly “education arms race.” Unfortunately, investments in attaining formal educational credentials do not always actually prepare jobseekers to be hired.  

Educational attainment is a proxy for capabilities to be sure, but one does not have to have a fancy education in order to excel in a job. Yet, educational attainment is often a gatekeeper that keeps qualified individuals from being considered. Who knows just how many superstars were passed over because their academic credentials were not judged to be acceptable? Furthermore, educational barriers also place minorities at a disadvantage, furthering already existing workforce diversity issues.

Companies participating in the Essential Competencies Project will use pre-hire assessments to find high-performing, more diverse hires. The focus of the study is to see what happens when companies make skills and abilities, not educational degrees, a key hurdle in obtaining a job.

To execute the study, the CED has partnered with Rocket-Hire, my assessment strategy and development company, and AON/Hewitt, a leading global assessment provider.  

Rocket-Hire and AON/Hewitt are working with participating companies to choose high-value jobs and properly implement an assessment battery that measures the appropriate combination of eight competencies that are critical to performing most jobs-

  • Teamwork,
  • Writing,
  • Work Ethic,
  • Critical Thinking,
  • Problem Solving,
  • Quant Skills,
  • Adaptability, and
  • Planning.  

These competencies will be evaluated using a tailored battery of assessment tools including:

  • A computer-adaptive personality assessment
  • A quantitative reasoning assessment
  • A logical reasoning assessment
  • An automated writing assessment and
  • A gamified, mobile cognitive assessment

Once the assessments are configured for each client, data will be collected to see whether the use of assessments as a key element of decision making during the hiring process will result in hiring better-performing employees when compared to the use of educational attainment.

The experimental design of the study will require each participating organization to place applicants for the job being studied into two groups. Applicants in both groups will take the assessment; however, gatekeepers in the hiring process will see different information for each group. In group A, gatekeepers will see assessment scores but not educational attainment information. In group B, gatekeepers will not see assessment scores but will see educational attainment information as well as whatever other data is already being collected to support the hiring process.  

Job performance data for those hired (from both groups) will be collected over a two-year period. At the end of this period, analyses will be run to investigate differences in performance for those hired via assessments versus educational credentials.

Because the study involves multiple organizations, the results will provide insight into the effectiveness of this approach across a variety of organizations. The results of this study will be highly relevant for efforts to help improve productivity, prosperity, and the diversity of companies contributing to our economy and the labor force they employ. We expect that this study will help provide evidence that educational attainment is not always required for success, complementing a clear trend in the labor force towards self-education and skills attainment. We know that the labor force is adapting to innovations in education and training much faster than employers,  and hopefully the results of this study will help employers catch up.

CED is still looking for companies to participate in the study.  

If your organization meets the following criteria…

  • Has an interest in helping shape the future state of hiring in America
  • Is interested in gaining experience with pre-hire assessments
  • Has a high-value position which requires skills such as those measured in the study
  • Hires over 100-200 persons per year for this position
  • Is interested in building a business case for your talent acquisition process
  • Has some budget to invest in the program (participants will be provided assessments and related consulting at well below the market rate)

… CED would love to speak with you about participating. Interested parties please contact Monica Herk, vice president of education research at the CED.  Monica’s email is:

The Essential Competencies Project is a unique study that I’m very proud to be a part of. Not only will this study use real-world data to demonstrate the value assessments bring to sound hiring decisions, but it will also debunk the myth that formal education is required for career success. There is still room for your company to do your part in developing the future state of hiring in America.

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