The assessment landscape has not been unscathed by technology disruption and innovation during the last decade. Change is as good as a holiday they say, but what good is transformation when ethics and best practices fall victim in favour of over-simplificationin product solutions and securing contracts solely because of presenting the lowest rates?

The primary consideration for a would-be client of assessments solutions should be the range of constructs that can be assessed. Say what now? Yes, very few talent professionals, HR Partners or Recruitment and Hiring Managers are familiar with the concept of constructs.

Constructs are the components that direct human functioning. Multi-construct or holistic assessment solutions should incorporate cognitive ability, personality attributes, behaviour, integrity, emotional intelligence, abilities and skills, as well as evidence of competence through simulations and interactive exercises

Unfortunately, during the pursuit for instant gratification, simplicity, quick fixes and low-cost alternatives which may be easier to explain to hiring managers, ethics may often take a backseat.

The South African Assessment Landscape

In the current South African business climate, companies are struggling to stay above the red line in making ends meet. Therefore, the decision whether to assess or not to assess is based on pricing and speedy results, compromising with low cost solutions prone to a “done is better than good” approach.

Service providers in the assessments space become hell-bent on winning contracts, thus going skint on appropriate product solution offerings to clients. There is a concerning trend surfacing in the industry where suppliers are not applying best practises in terms of assessing candidates holistically, and also using cheaper tools that are not as robust.

We are going down a slippery slope of mediocrity if the scale tips in favour making money as an assessment company by winning RFQ and tenders, as opposed to selecting comprehensive, holistic test batteries. Granted the latter options cost more, but they guarantee unbiasedcomprehensive results which will benefit talent selection and employee development in the long term.

Legal, but is it ethical?

Ethical governance has also been subject to changes during the last few years, and not all of them positive by the looks of it.

According to Section 8 of the Employment Equity Act 55 of 1998:

“Psychological testing and other similar assessments of an employee are prohibited unless the test or assessment being used

  1. has been scientifically shown to be valid and reliable;
  2. can be applied fairly to all employees;
  3. is not biased against any employee or group; and
  4. has been certified by the Health Professions Council of South Africa established by section 2 of the Health Professions Act, 1974 (Act 56 of 1974), or any other body which may be authorised by law to certify those tests or assessments.”

At face value, an excellent summary of ethical standards to adhere to, however, Section 8(d) is no longer a regulatory requirement for the validity of psychometric and related testing. The scrapping of part d, means that tests and assessments do not require certification by the Health Professions Council of South Africa for the time being (Section 8, a, b and c remains in-tact).

The problem with part (d) being declared null and void, opens the door for the freebies and cheapies to saturate the market of unsuspecting clients offering ‘’one-construct’’assessments and one-test-solves-all solutions on which crucial hiring and promotion decisions are supposed to be based.

The problem is two-fold:

  • Firstly, presenting oversimplified solutions to clients at a low cost to sweeten the deal and win the tender is still legal if the assessments comply to Section 8 (a,b,c), but is it really ethical to punt a product that won’t match up to security, validity and reliabilitythus providing just part of the full picture?
  • Secondly, ‘’good enough for now’’ solutions may have a profound effect on the cost of selection errors. For example: Poor selection (hiring decisions) typically results in higher employee turnover which in turn increases recruitment costs such as agency fees, advertising expenses, notwithstanding the real cost of an open vacancy.

Robust beats single construct

How should assessment professionals rationalise assessment costs to prospective clients? The answer is actually quite simple, but requires a mind-shift from short term gains (or savings) to long term sustainability and compound return on investment.

Studies have shown that robust assessment solutions may double or even triple the quality of hiring decisions if the Validity Coefficient or r-value is above 0.35. In laymen’s terms, the r-value refers to validity (appropriateness, relevance) of the assessment.

Single construct, one size fits all tests have mostly low r-values. Holistic assessment practices will ensure that candidates that make it through the screening process are 3x times more likely to succeed in the job they are applying to.

In the end, you get what you pay for. Be sure to make every cent count by opting for robust, integrated and effective assessment solutions providing real value, not cheaper by the dozen promises.