Establishing an Effective Employee Testing Program
There are many elements to establishing a testing program.
This section outlines some of the more important elements. While
establishing a program according to legal and professional standards does not
guarantee that there will not be a legal charge or that an employer will be able
to successfully defend the testing program, following legal and professional
guidelines increases the probability of a successful defense. Many
of these steps may require the services of a professional with training in test
development and evaluation in employment settings.
1. Identify jobs where testing might be
helpful. The use of testing should be dependent on a careful analysis
of the costs and benefits. Testing is often beneficial when there are high
volumes of individuals to make decisions about, when there is high turnover, or
when the consequences of making a poor decision are potentially very negative.
Managers should take time to
carefully consider what the problem is before concluding testing is the
solution. One of the biggest errors managers make is assuming their problem is a
decision-making one, when, in fact, the problem is caused by poor training, poor
supervision, or poor compensation. Once the manager defines the problem, he/she,
with the help of a professional, can determine if a test will help or not.
Another consideration is
assessing the size of the problem. If an organization makes decisions
about only a few people a year, testing may not be cost effective, depending on
the costs of poor performance, turnover and other negative decision outcomes for
those few instances.
As noted earlier, testing can be
helpful for improving employee performance, decreasing turnover, and decreasing
costs associated with negative employee behaviors (e.g., theft, sabotage); a
careful analysis will indicate whether testing is the right solution for a given
2. Define job and organizational
requirements clearly, completely, and accurately. A common mistake
employers make when hiring or promoting a job candidate is paying insufficient
attention to what the requirements really are. Employers should gather
systematic information on what are the knowledge, skills, abilities and other
characteristics required for a given position (or entrance to a training
program), and which are the most important to success. Not all key
requirements will be easy to measure or should all be measured via testing;
however, employers should ensure that any requirements that are assessed are
important ones. In addition to job requirements, employers may go even
further to define requirements as related to the organizations values and
3. Determine whether testing is useful
for evaluating requirements. Review the key job requirements and
determine the best means of assessing these. This determination will be
based on whether a requirement can easily be evaluated by a test, whether a test
exists or must be developed for a requirement, whether a cost effective means of
evaluation is available, whether available tests have demonstrated
effectiveness, and other factors (see section on Information to
Obtain When Creating or Purchasing a Test). This is where professional help can
be of great value since I-O psychologists know the pros and cons of different
kinds of tests or different purposes.
4. Select or develop a test (for more
information about this topic, see the article entitled, Information to Obtain
When Creating or Purchasing an Employment Test). Obtain the names
of test publishers and products from professional colleagues or employee testing
professionals. Before purchasing a test, ask for information regarding the
reliability and validity of the test. Reliability refers to the
consistency of test results. Validity refers to whether the inferences
made on the basis of a test score are correct. Also, ask for information
on the development of the test and for information about the comparability of
test results for different demographic groups. Evaluating the quality of
this information is often difficultwhile knowledgeable and experienced test
publishers provide thorough and accurate information, others may attempt to pass
off weak or inappropriate research and analyses as evidence of reliability and
validity. Once again, competent professional evaluations of testing
information can be helpful.
Rather than purchasing a test,
employers may choose to develop their own test. This would be a good
approach when an off-the-shelf product might not meet needs in the same way a
customized tool would (e.g., using organization specific and job specific
language in the test, assessing a requirement for which tests are not currently
available, integrating with an existing testing system). Once again, the
involvement of a professional industrial-organizational psychologist would be
important to good test development.
5. Implement the test.
Make sure that the people who administer, score, and evaluate test results are
appropriately trained. Depending on the type of test, such training might
include issues related to standardizing administration conditions, scoring
protocols, detecting cheating, what a score means, how to use test scores in
decision-making, how to avoid rater biases, and many other things.
Accurate record keeping of test scores and decisions made about individuals is
typically a legal requirement, and is a necessity if one wishes to evaluate the
effectiveness of the testing program.
Testing procedures should be
consistent for all individuals for which the test is being used. Policies
should be developed and articulated regarding issues such as proper
administration conditions, retesting intervals, eligibility for testing, access
to test scores, and other implementation issues.
Because tests may be the basis
for decisions about individuals or may only be one piece of information used in
making employment decisions, careful thought should go into how test results are
used. For example, test scores might be used in a pass/fail manner or
combined with other information. Test results might be used to set
up score ranges indicating likelihood of individual success on the job.
Once again, professional consultation can ensure that test results are used in
the most effective manner.
6. Evaluate the testing program.
When possible, employers should attempt to gather information to
evaluate the effectiveness of the testing program. This may be difficult to do with any accuracy if the test is
used with only small numbers of individuals, the test is used in a highly
restrictive manner (i.e., few individuals obtain a positive decision outcome
after testing), or the outcome desired from testing is not easy to assess in a
short time period. Consult with a
professional regarding what kinds of record keeping might enable conducting an
effective evaluation of the test.
Employment Testing Table