I’ve been following the assessment market for the past 10 years and I am happy to say that it seems like people are finally starting to realize the value that assessment tools can add to their hiring processes. After five years of standing on my soapbox, I am finally starting to feel like I am not wasting my breath. While we still have a long way to go, I am feeling very encouraged lately and want to use this space to take a brief look at what I feel are some of the main reasons for the increasing interest in these tools. This article provides my opinion on the five main reasons for the increasing interest in these tools as well as a discussion of some of the major obstacles to their use. So why is online assessment gaining in popularity?
- Increased ability to create new and innovative products. Technology has fundamentally changed the world of assessment. Administrative burdens no longer present a barrier to the use of assessments. More importantly, companies on the cutting edge of this market are blending technology and assessment content to create systems in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The rise of companies that are equal parts assessment and technology has resulted in the creation of products that can do much more than the paper-and-pencil products of the past.
- Dissatisfaction with the ability of current systems to help make quality hiring decisions. As the online hiring process has evolved, more and more organizations are realizing that making good hiring decisions is something that goes well beyond the corporate website or the mere presence of an ATS to manage applicant information. While these things are important ingredients in creating a technology-based hiring process, they do not provide organizations with enough data to support effective decision making. By adding assessment to the mix, those making hiring decisions are given additional data to help them better understand each applicant relative to job and organizational requirements. As the adoption curve for applicant tracking systems begins to mature, more and more organizations are looking to assessment to help them extract more value from their hiring processes.
- Increased exposure and learning. There is a small but dedicated group of individuals such as myself who understand the value assessment tools can have for organizations and have been helping to spread the word. My research has consistently identified lack of knowledge about assessment as one of the major reasons that organizations have resisted using it. True, assessment is a relatively complex topic, but there is information and assistance readily available to those who are really interested in learning more about it. More and more assessment companies are sponsoring webinars and white papers dedicated to helping those interested move up the learning curve. Also, there seem to be an increasing number of persons who are seeking out educational opportunities in the field of I/O Psychology. I think that this collective effort will have a significant impact on the availability of information and expertise about assessment tools.
- Increased adoption by non?assessment vendors as a value-added service. Reasons 1 through 3 have created a situation in which vendors of other related hiring tools have begun to understand the value of offering assessment tools to their clients. While creating assessments from scratch is often a difficult and complex process, there are many assessment vendors who are eager to exploit new sales channels. The result is that ATS companies working across markets of every size and shape are beginning to educate themselves about assessment. This most often results in partnerships in which assessment providers gain additional exposure to customers, while the ATS company gains the ability to sell products that can help ensure their customers can optimize the predictive ability of their hiring systems. I expect this model to continue to expand, and I expect to see the trend of acquisitions of smaller assessment companies by non-assessment companies to continue in the near future.
- Increasing collection of positive results. Nothing increases interest in something like the ability to demonstrate proven results. As more and more companies are starting to use assessment tools, there are an increasing number of success stories to be told about the value of assessment tools. When done correctly, assessment can have a significant, measurable impact on many work-related outcomes. Increases in the use of technology to collect and report assessment results have made it even easier to demonstrate the return on investment of these systems. I firmly believe that the ability to demonstrate bottom-line financial impact of assessment tools is essential for their continued adoption. Assessment is an important component of the growing and long overdue HR metrics trend.
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While the above reasons chronicle some really great progress, when it comes to the adoption of assessment tools, we still have a long way to go. While many organizations use these tools, they are still being treated experimentally in most cases. This means that organizations may use them for only a few jobs in isolated locations. This usage pattern is often the result of firefighting tactics employed in a distributed manner. For instance, a VP of sales for a business unit of a large company with the ability to make her own decisions may read an article about assessments and decide to try them as a way to increase sagging sales in her area. We have a long way to go before assessments are used in a more widespread manner. Below are some of the major obstacles that I feel must be faced moving forward:
- Education. More knowledge of what assessment is and how to use it properly is still badly needed. Deciding to use assessment is no enough; knowing what type of assessment to use when can make the difference between success and failure.
- Ability to distinguish between a good product and bunk. As the market grows there will undoubtedly be an increase in the number of vendors who are selling junk assessments. This has been a problem for a long time but the bigger the potential revenue pie, the more hucksters will begin to surface.
- Cultural issues. If the people who will be using assessments don’t believe in them or aren’t willing to help provide the data required to demonstrate its effectiveness, all of the time and effort spent developing an assessment program will be wasted.
- Security and legal issues. Both represent realistic problems, but both are relatively easy to overcome with knowledge and creativity. Neither represent obstacles big enough to preclude the use of assessments.
- Lack of vision for assessment in the big picture. Organizations are still using assessment tactically. While this provides some great hands-on experience, it falls well short of the potential for broader strategic initiatives that tie hiring processes with broad-based and long-term organizational strategy.