Today's assessments enable organisations to differentiate themselves, raise their brand awareness and provide an immersive candidate experience. Read how today's major employers are addressing their key talent management and assessment challenges. Contributor Dr. Achim Preuss, co-founder and Chief Technology Officer at assessment specialist Aon's Assessment Solutions.
Employers have used psychometric assessments since the 1970s, to identify the most appropriate candidates in their applicant pool. Today’s assessments go much further as they enable organisations to differentiate themselves, raise their brand awareness and provide an immersive candidate experience.
At our recent global conference in Hamburg, Germany, 13 leading organisations from the Middle East, Europe and America showcased the new and innovative ways that they are using assessments to address key recruitment and talent management challenges, including how to attract, sift, assess, engage, interview, onboard, develop and retain all levels of staff.
These major employers presented some fascinating case studies and best practice approaches. Here are some of the insights and lessons that came out of the event:
Are robots the answer in recruitment?
The hotel management company Amaris Hospitality posed an intriguing question: are ‘robots’ better than people at identifying candidates with the right capabilities and values to deliver optimal business results?
By ‘robots’, they meant automated processes that assess candidates. For example, Amaris Hospitality’s Jurys Inn hotel chain receives 40,000 job applications each year. Manually reviewing these applications would have been extremely laborious. However, by using behaviour and values assessments to recruit right-fit candidates, the company saved a significant sum on its recruitment and training costs - and improved its staff retention.
But the possibilities of automated assessment don’t end there. Through integration, you can connect different systems together - such as your Applicant Tracking System, candidate management system and video interviewing system - and allow candidate details to move seamlessly between them.
This can help you to collect, process and organise all of your candidate data in one place, including their qualifications, ability and personality assessment results and their performance in video and face-to-face interviews.
Instead of asking candidates to log into different systems, to take a range of assessments or a video interview, integration allows you to have a single sign-in procedure. Behind the scenes, each candidate will be ‘moved’ across different systems but they won’t be aware of this because, to them, the whole process will appear completely seamless. Also, their details are stored, so if they want to apply for another position, the system will not only retain their biographical details, it will keep their assessment results too. Confidentiality is ensured because the identity of candidates remains anonymous. The data that flows between systems has only a candidate ID number.
This helps to make your application process simple, smooth and straightforward for candidates. But it also makes recruiters’ lives easier. By amalgamating the data from the different aspects of your application process, into a candidate record, integration puts all the information needed to make the right selection decision at your fingertips.
So, already, the early stages of the recruitment process no longer have a human face. Indeed, candidates are unlikely to actually meet anyone from your organisation until they reach the interview stage. Currently, selection decisions are made by a person (or a group of people). But in the not too distant future, ‘robots’ could perform this task too. For example, voice recognition systems can evaluate the footage from video interviews and analyse a candidate’s vocabulary, tone and syntax to assess their personality, motivation and cognitive capability. Facial recognition systems will also be able to decode the facial expressions and emotions of candidates in video interviews. Artificial intelligence could enable you to ‘teach’ your system to automatically rate your applicants, interpret their assessment results and offer jobs to successful candidates.
Incredibly, this could mean that the first time a candidate actually meets anyone from your organisation will be when they walk through the door on their first day on the job! You may not want to de-personalise your recruitment process quite to this extent but technology will soon make this a real possibility.
Put your candidates first
Parks and Resorts, a company which operates some of the biggest entertainment and theme parks in Scandinavia, faces the unusual challenge of having to recruit 2,200 seasonal workers each year, aged 16-18. To more efficiently recruit right-fit candidates, support its employer brand and deliver a positive candidate experience, the organisation has developed a situational judgement questionnaire that appeals to candidates, assesses for its core values and predicts future performance in the role.
When someone applies for a job at your organisation, you judge their suitability for the role through your selection process. Assessments can help you to identify the best candidates in your applicant pool, in a valid, predictive and consistent way. But, at the same time, those candidates are also making their own judgement about you and your brand. That’s why it’s so important to give all candidates a positive impression of your organisation.
This is particularly true when you’re dealing with a large volume of applicants. Your candidates will form opinions about your organisation based on how they feel about the selection experience and how you treat them. To impress them - and reflect your brand effectively - the experience you provide must be engaging.
If you’ve worked hard to attract the right candidates, the last thing you want to do is put them off with a tedious selection process. The simple truth is that you could lose talented candidates to your competitors if your assessment process isn’t engaging. You want to retain the candidate’s enthusiasm and their desire to work with you.
In some sectors, such as retail, an organisation’s job candidates are likely to be its current or potential customers. Even in business-to-business companies, you don’t want to put people off ever applying to your organisation again. A candidate may be unsuccessful this time around but, later on in their career, you might welcome another application from them, particularly if they’ve developed valuable skills or experience. Also, a candidate that you reject may end up in a career position where they’re responsible for hiring your firm, so you don’t want to give anyone a bad impression of your organisation. The best practice approach is to treat your candidates the same way that you’d treat your customers. Otherwise, you could lose their future custom or, with social media, you run the risk of disgruntled candidates damaging your brand by ‘bad-mouthing’ you to large numbers of people.
The issue of rejecting candidates is extremely important. With recruitment, it’s easy to become preoccupied with processing applications, reviewing strengths, assessing the good from the bad and scheduling and conducting interviews and assessment centres. Naturally, your first priority is to create a good impression with those you’re likely to appoint. But every organisation will reject many more candidates than it will recruit. How you handle those rejections matters. It’s surprising how many organisations strive to become an employer of choice - by building a strong brand and creating an engaging culture - only to jeopardise their reputation by rejecting job candidates so tactlessly. Candidates will find rejection easier to take if they can see that they didn’t meet the criteria you were looking for.
Best practice is to provide a positive candidate experience to every applicant, regardless of whether or not you’ll offer them a job. Managing the candidate experience at each stage of your selection process - and treating every applicant professionally - should be a top priority.
Create the right expectations
With job candidates, it is important to set the right expectations at the outset about what it will be like to work in your organisation. This involves being honest about the realities of the role.
In their desire to create an enticing careers site, some organisations over-sell their jobs. They include videos of happy and excited recruits extolling the virtues of their workplace. But this can mean that candidates join with false expectations. Some of them will then leave because the role wasn’t what they thought it would be.
Also, if new recruits are not suited to the required tasks, your line managers will soon want them to leave. Attrition is not only disruptive to the business, it damages the morale of the remaining staff and, ultimately, it can negatively impact on performance. Ideally, you should set the right expectations about the job and your organisation by using a realistic job preview (RJP). This allows candidates to essentially assess themselves, gain instant feedback and determine whether or not they’re right for the role. If this stops unsuitable people from applying, that actually helps them and you, as it increases the number of suitable candidates in your applicant pool - and it discourages people from wasting their time applying for jobs that are not appropriate for them.
Lessons for best practice
13 key lessons for talent management and assessment came out of the conference presentations:
1. Recruit fairly and objectively to a specific profile. The multinational automotive corporation Daimler described its international graduate programme and explained the global, group-wide process it uses to fairly and objectively recruit 250 graduates consistently across 20 countries. The company assesses 30,000 applicants per year, against a very specific ‘success profile’, using ability, personality and English language tests. Portuguese energy corporation Galp Energia also highlighted that recruiting employees with the right values fit is particularly important in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world.
2. Distinguish between ‘big data’ and ‘smart data’. A candidate’s assessment results used to ‘sit in a drawer’ once he or she had been appointed. With integration, it’s now easy to mine, compare and use data in ways that weren’t possible before and this opens the door to a wealth of new analytics. For example, you can compare candidate scores in your aptitude tests against their final interview pass rates. You can share a candidate’s assessment results with your L&D team, so they can create an individual learning plan for each new recruit from day one, that takes account of their strengths and weakness against the competences required in the role. You can also combine pre-hire and post-hire performance and development data to gain fresh insights into your talent and a better understanding of what actually makes people successful in your organisation. By making better use of the information that’s already on your different systems, you can more easily spot and enhance potential, create talent pools and undertake succession planning.
At Aon's Assessment Solutions, we have proactively undertaken 200 systems integration projects for clients worldwide and been included in hundreds more by our integration partners. For example, we helped global financial services company Credit Suisse to combine the pre-hire assessment data of successful candidates with their post-hire performance data in the role, to create useful talent analytics. The results reveal the attributes and characteristics that predict high performance and the company was able to clearly demonstrate that cognitive ability and personality testing improve the quality of the people it hires.
3. Use your talent analytics to prove the value of your services. Recruiters need to prove the value of the service they provide internally or they risk facing cost cutting measures. Credit Suisse uses its talent analytics to provide ‘return on investment’ data which helps to strengthen the position of recruiters within the business. Etihad Airways, which receives 300,000 job applications each year, uses assessments as its ‘secret weapon’ to understand the quality of candidates ‘behind their mask’. These assessments provide Etihad’s recruiters with hard data that they not only use to make smarter selection decisions, they also utilise to prove the effectiveness of assessment to the business.
4. Consider gamification. Games, game-based assessments and gamified assessments can be used alongside traditional psychometric tests to differentiate an organisation, engage and motivate applicants, raise brand awareness and attract and recruit the best talent. Games are a good option for attracting applicants or for creating a viral marketing tool. You can assess candidates with a gamified assessment - a proven psychometric test, such as a logical reasoning test, which has been customised with game elements to make it more engaging - or you could create or customise a specific game and assess how someone ‘plays’ it. However, it’s important to be rigorous and to scientifically-validate your assessment. Generic games should be avoided, as they won’t differentiate your organisation in any way. At our event, Vodafone Spain explained how it has enhanced its employer brand by incorporating a new game to attract young applicants and engage the right talent - and how it uses a talent analytics dashboard to manage its talent pool.
5. Use ‘digital ninjas’ to enhance digital skills. Vodafone Spain also assesses the digital skills of its new recruits, using a digital competency model developed by Aon's Assessment Solutions. An innovative ‘reverse mentoring’ scheme has been set up in which the top performing digital recruits coach the company’s senior managers, to bring them up-to-speed on digital innovations. This not only helps to enhance the digital skills of the senior team, it motivates and engages the new employees and raises their profile within the business.
6. Remember, context matters in assessment. Assessments should ideally be contextualised, because applicants perform better in measures of ability that are contextually-relevant to the job for which they’re applying. Home and business security provider Securitas Direct is one organisation that uses a customised situational judgement questionnaire (SJQ) to identify the potential of sales role applicants - and it has proved the value of this assessment with a validation study. SJQs are more immersive, realistic and engaging for candidates to complete. Aon's Assessment Solutions has now launched a customisable, situational judgement, instant-messaging simulation in the style of WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. Called chatAssess, it is the world’s first psychometric communication game and it can assess a candidate’s strengths, personality and cognitive abilities.
7. Identify your future stars. To meet its ambitious growth plans, Grupo Sacyr, the Spanish construction and facilities management company which operates in 28 countries, realised it needed to increase the number of managers in the business by 55%. It has created two fast-track programmes and cut-e designed assessment centres that would identify and assess individuals from its worldwide offices who had the potential to become future managers. The fast track programmes not only engage and retain Grupo Sacyr’s future stars but also encourage these individuals to be more proactive in their own career development.
8. Be consistent when creating global processes for recruitment. The multinational network and telecommunications services provider Ericsson outlined the importance of global consistency when highlighting a new process it has introduced to assess for leadership talent.
9. Create ‘career navigators’ for your employees. Europe’s largest railway operator Deutsche Bahn highlighted a self-guided career navigator tool, built by cut-e, which analyses the preferences, attitudes and interests of young employees and shows them potential career path options within the company. The organisation has 300,000 staff and eight business divisions. It has created the career navigator to help retain its key talent and to motivate individuals to take responsibility for their own development.
10. Create new partnership links to attract talent. Etihad Airways highlighted that recruiters in some organisations have been forced to introduce new strategies because they are unable to attract sufficient numbers of niche applicants via their websites. The company refers to this as having the ‘careers site blues’. Etihad has responded to this challenge by creating links with Cranfield School of Management in the UK to recruit talented students; it is also undertaking its own in-house searches to build its own talent database.
11. Assess your leadership team. Professor Henning Bang from the University of Oslo outlined the results of his ongoing research study into the characteristics of effective management teams, including 24 factors that he has uncovered which influence and predict high performance. Using this research, cut-e has created a new diagnostic, web-based questionnaire called effect which makes it quick and easy for senior managers to self-assess how well their team works together and gain added value for themselves and their organisation. The results can be compared against international benchmarks and concrete recommendations are provided for improvement.
12. Prevent cheating by knowing who is taking your tests. The way that job applicants process information and respond in assessment tests is as individual as the ridges on our fingertips. For example, the options they choose, how often they correct themselves in the test and even whether they fiddle with the mouse or move their tablet while they’re thinking. Today’s assessments collect such a wealth of data that it is now possible to create a ‘psychometric fingerprint’ of your candidates. This is an exciting new development in psychometric testing. So as well as finding out what score a candidate achieved in a test, you can now detect ‘how’ they completed it. As a result, you can quickly tell if the same individual completed your different tests - and whether or not an individual has ‘trained’ themselves to perform well in a particular assessment.
13. Consider ‘disruptive’ strategies. US-based thought leader Madan Nagaldinne outlined a series of ‘disruptive HR’ strategies, at our event, which are used by technology companies such as Amazon, Facebook and Netflix. These companies aim to ‘raise the bar’ by always recruiting better talent but they recognise that ‘growth creates chaos’. A clear lesson they have learned is that introducing too many internal processes can hamper creativity. Also, they know that 80% of their value comes from 20% of their people - and they’ve learned that if they don’t reward their talent appropriately for their contribution, they’ll lose them. Interestingly, at Facebook, the role of a manager is considered so important that the company assesses its managers every six months. If somebody gets two ‘bad scores’ in a row, they will no longer be a manager. Another key point was: don’t make your teams too big. The ideal-size team can be fed with two pizzas!
Major employers across different industries have taken innovative and practical steps to address the specific recruitment, assessment and talent management challenges they’re facing. Why not take advantage of this and learn from their experiences? Selected case study presentations from our global conference are available at www.cut-e.com/event. A range of white papers and guidelines on topical assessment issues - such as gamification, integration, fair testing and conducting a validation study - are also freely available on our website.
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