EPSI’s President on What’s Trendy in Today’s Assessment World

Q: What’s HOT and TRENDY in today’s assessment world?

AndreA: First, I would like to thank you for this excellent question. The assessment world is booming indeed, and, from time to time, it is useful to examine the major trends that affect our field.

First of all, “Big Data” is certainly playing an increasingly important role in the assessment world. Several large companies today are using powerful software to analyze an enormous amount of data, and to draw conclusions with practical applications and a direct impact on their organizational efficiency. For example, a major Canadian bank was facing significant turnover among call center staff. Was this turnover caused by the work environment? Employee engagement? Personal skills of recruited employees? Not so long ago, hundreds of work hours would have been required to uncover the answer to this question. In this specific case, it took only a few minutes to cross-reference data to discover that the greatest factors were the distance between home and work, and the work status (part-time vs. full-time) of these employees. From this perspective, EPSI works closely with IBM to ensure that all data from assessments carried out within the staffing or development contexts can be linked to survey data or any other HR information to draw the best possible conclusions.

Continuing with technology, semantic analysis represents an extremely promising trend. Most organizations have to deal with an enormous quantity of unstructured information—such as CVs, for instance. In some cases, many HR advisors have to sort CVs by hand, which takes a lot of time and energy. However, some advanced software can allow users to automatically sort CVs by analyzing the text of these documents, and by drawing conclusions as to the suitability of each application for the positions to be filled. Through a partnership with a Québec company, EPSI has been able to show that more than 80% of decisions made by these expert systems are identical to those that would have been made by experienced HR advisors. The observed differences (20%) mainly dealt with borderline cases, which could then be manually examined. Therefore, using such a system cuts the amount of time required for this activity by 80%. As a final comment on this subject, we have observed that this type of application allows users to analyze candidate reactions to the organizational recruitment process by analyzing public discussions on social media. This information can be incredibly useful in a world where “branding” is a key factor.

A third example of advances in HR assessment technology is the use of online interviews. Essentially, it is now possible to avoid restrictions associated with long interview processes by carrying them out on the WEB. An EPSI partner developed an application that can not only conduct direct interviews (similar to Skype), but also “delayed” interviews. Here is an example: an organization wants to recruit ten new employees. To do so, it expects that interviews must be carried out with some 50 potential candidates. Only a few years ago, this type of process would have rapidly become a logistical nightmare and would have required hundreds of hours of work by HR staff and managers. Yet, software allows users to record interview questions (in written, audio, or video format) and send them to all potential candidates simultaneously. Using a webcam, candidates can answer the questions from their location of choice. The file is then sent back to the organization, which can analyze and assess the responses provided. The software is very flexible and allows, for example, the user to view the interview questions in the desired order; also, it allows for questions to be rated as being more important than others and to be sorted based on that ranking. Today, hundreds of thousands of interviews per year are carried out using this software.

Concerning assessments, we have observed major changes in how the tools are used. For example, we noticed the emergence of new kinds of assessments, such as “Business Games”, where several candidates interact online in a pre-established scenario. These extremely dynamic tools allow organizations to observe the behaviour of potential candidates and draw conclusions relating to the competencies rated as being most important to the position.

From a logistics point of view, we note that using “remote online testing” represents an increasingly common mode of operation. Candidates can now complete their assessments from home, which greatly facilitates administrative processes. For candidates, this approach reduces travel and creates an impression of modernism that contributes to the organization’s “branding”.

If we examine the assessment tools themselves, we observe that the demand for “integrated” tests is growing. Previously, the assessment of a participant as part of a recruitment or a development process required the use of multiple tests, rendering the process long and tedious. Today, many test publishers, including EPSI, have created assessment tools that combine multiple aspects (e.g. personality, motivation, cognitive skills, etc.). These new tools considerably reduce the time needed for administration, while maintaining an optimal level of validity and accuracy, because they have been designed by combining the best items from a number of psychometric tests.

In conclusion, it should be noted that new assessment tools were created to measure very specific aspects, which may have a major impact on the operations of many organizations. For example, EPSI offers a test that specifically measures “occupational health and safety”. Other tools were created to assess interest in working in a specific job or sector. “Sales” tests for salespeople, skill tests for temporary employees (e.g. summer employees), and so on, are now available to precisely measure aspects that are most important for a given organization.

Therefore, the assessment world is in full bloom and it would be a great idea to contact an assessment expert to help you identify the approaches and tools that will best meet your needs.

André Durivage, Ph.D.