It is important to remember that an assessment instrument, like any tool, is most effective when used properly and can be very counterproductive when used inappropriately. In previous chapters you have read about the advantages of using tests and procedures as part of your personnel assessment program. You have also read about the limitations of tests in providing a consistently accurate and complete picture of an individual's employment-related qualifications and potential. This chapter highlights some important issues and concerns surrounding these limitations. Careful attention to these issues and concerns will help you produce a fair and effective assessment program.
1. Deciding whether to test or not to test
Sometimes a more vigorous employee training program will help to improve individual and organizational performance without expanding your current selection procedures. Sometimes a careful review of each candidate's educational background and work history will help you to select better workers, and sometimes using additional tests will be beneficial.
Consider how much additional time and effort will be involved in expanding your assessment program. As in every business decision, you will want to determine whether the potential benefits outweigh the expenditure of time and effort. Be sure to factor in all the costs, such as purchase of tests and staff time, and balance these against all the benefits, including potential increases in productivity.
In summary, before expanding your assessment program, it is important to have a clear picture of your organization's needs, the benefits you can expect, and the costs you will incur.
2. Viewing tests as threats and invasions of privacy
Fear or mistrust of tests can lower the scores of some otherwise qualified candidates. To reduce these feelings, it is important to take the time to explain a few things about the testing program before administering a test. Any explanation should, at a minimum, cover the following topics:
! why the test is being administered
3. Fallibility of test scores
It is, therefore, important not to rely entirely on any one assessment instrument in making employment decisions. Using a variety of assessment tools will help you obtain a fuller and more accurate picture of an individual. Consider such information as an evaluation of a person's education, work experience and other job-relevant factors in addition to standardized test results.
4. Appeals process and retesting
There are external circumstances or conditions that could invalidate the test results. These may include the test taker's state of mind or health at the time of the test, the conditions under which the test is given, and his or her familiarity with particular questions on the test. To give some specific examples, a person who has a child at home with the measles may not be able to concentrate on taking a vocabulary test. Someone sitting next to a noisy air conditioner may also not be able to concentrate on the test questions. On another day, under different circumstances, these individuals might obtain a different score.
If you believe that the test was not valid for an individual, you should consider a retest. If other versions of the test are not available, consider alternative means of assessment. Check the test manual for advice from the publisher regarding retesting. It is advisable to develop a policy on handling complaints regarding testing and appeals for retesting, so that these concerns can be resolved fairly and consistently.
5. Qualifications of assessment staff
6. Misuse or overuse of tests
In addition, test results usually provide specific information that is valid for a specific amount of time. Therefore, it is unlikely to be appropriate to consider an employee for a promotion based on his or her test scores on a proficiency test taken 5 years earlier.
The test manual and independent reviews of the test remain your best guides on administering, scoring, and interpreting the test.
7. Ensuring both efficiency and diversity
To help ensure both efficiency and diversity in your workforce, apply the whole-person approach to assessment. Use a variety of assessment tools to obtain a comprehensive picture of the skills and capabilities of applicants and employees. This approach to assessment will help you make sure you don't miss out on some very qualified individuals who could enhance your organization's success.
8. Ethnic, linguistic, and cultural differences and biases
Before selecting new tests, consider the composition of your potential candidate population. Are the tests appropriate for all of them? The test manuals may provide assistance in determining this. If you need further clarification, contact the test publisher.
There may be cases where appropriate standardized tests are not available for certain groups. You may have to rely on other assessment techniques, such as interviews and evaluations of education and work experience, to make your employment decisions.
9. Testing people with disabilities
Accommodation may involve ensuring physical accessibility to the test site, modifying test equipment or tests, or providing other forms of assistance. Giving extra time for certain kinds of tests to test takers with dyslexia or other learning disabilities and administering a braille version of a test for the blind may be examples of reasonable accommodation. See Chapters 2 and 6 for further discussions on testing people with disabilities.
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