Is Employment Testing Risky Business?

Subjective selection procedures are what get us into trouble with the E.E.O.C.  It always amuses me that when management brings up the idea of pre-employment testing, the H/R department is usually the department that raises the red flag, proclaiming that pre-employment personality assessments can get the company into "big trouble."  This is the equivalent to saying, "since most car accidents occur within five miles of home, why doesn't everyone just move ten miles away."

There is a big difference between pre-employment assessments and clinically oriented psychological testing.  The courts have consistently ruled that psychological testing generally has no place in the business environment.  For more information regarding those issues, check out the article on legality.

The E.E.O.C. has always tried to promote objectivity in the employee selection process.  The more objective the better.  Without an assessment program, you have a very subjective selection system that is highly fallible and will depend greatly on biases and prejudices.  Recruiters and managers will always feel more comfortable when hiring people like themselves.  Whites will prefer to hire white applicants simply because they can relate to them better.  The E.E.O.C. realizes this as a natural tendency and that is why they want objectivity in the hiring process.

So it won't kill us, will it make us stronger?

Using a good assessment properly ensures protection against E.E.O.C. problems and adverse impact.  When an assessment program is properly implemented and utilized in conjunction with other standard hiring and interviewing procedures, it strengthens the employers' position of taking affirmative action to ensure that applicants and employees are treated fairly without regard to race, color, age, religion, sex, or national origin.

Assessment programs prevent and solve problems, they do not create them.  I have learned that it is a whole lot easier to stay out of trouble than it is to get out of trouble.  A client of mine was advertising for a warehouse manager.  They had tested about three candidates when one of their minority employees came forward and asked to be considered for the position.

The employee had been with the company for a number of years and had done an excellent job.  His personnel file contained many "above average" and "excellent" performance appraisals.  The company did not think that the employee was suitable for the warehouse manager position due to his mental abilities.   They called their labor attorneys to review the situation with them.  The bottom line was that if they promoted the man and he did not work out, the company would probably end up with an E.E.O.C. charge whenever it would become necessary to terminate or demote the employee.

If the company did not promote the warehouseman, he would feel that he had been discriminated against and would more than likely file an E.E.O.C. charge.  It was a no win situation.  The client company then called me to express their concerns and asked me what I would do.  My advice was relatively simple.  I told them that I would not be overly concerned about the E.E.O.C.  The primary concern should be retaining the warehouseman since he was an above average employee.

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The benefits of using a good validated assessment

The hiring parameters had already been established and an objective assessment system was already in place and had been for several years.  I told the company to go ahead and administer the assessment to the warehouseman so that we could objectively determine if he had any potential for the warehouse manager position.

The employee took the Achiever assessment and the evaluation report did indicate that the warehouseman was not a good match for the position and it was also able to show why he was above average as a warehouseman.  The employee scored very low in mental acuity and the company now had an objective evaluation report to support its decision.   This is one reason why it is very important to use a validated assessment.

When reviewed against the other candidates, it was quite obvious that the warehouseman was not a contender for the position.  I told the company to be honest with the employee and actually give him a copy of the assessment report if he wanted to know specifics.  I also told the company that I would be happy to speak with the employee if he had any questions about the evaluation report.

The objective here was to head off an unmerited E.E.O.C. charge.  It was every bit as important to let the employee know that he had been dealt with on a fair and equitable basis.  I could cite numerous other instances where the assessment program has saved the day in what would otherwise have been a no win situation.

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Companies hire their own problems!

Contrary to popular belief, I do not feel that E.E.O.C. charges are filed for harassment purposes nor are they attempts to extort money from a company.  In most cases, it involves an applicant or employee who feels that they have been mistreated or slighted in some fashion.  A prime example is when a very calm and tolerant person has been hired to perform a job that requires a lot of energy and a sense of urgency about getting the job done.

This is a very common mistake that happens with a great deal of frequency.  The usual outcome is that the employee is terminated for being "motivationally challenged."  That is the company's viewpoint.  From the viewpoint of the terminated employee, the company just expected too much out of him and made unreasonable demands that he could not possibly measure up to.

I hate to take sides, but the terminated employee is right.  It was the company that made the mistake.  If the candidate files for unemployment compensation benefits, most states will probably rule in his favor.  The one thing that both parties have in common is that they will always try to justify their own behaviors or actions.  Every pancake has two sides.


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