Welcome to the HR Department

The scene opens with young Hume Resource starting his first day on the job with Pretty Good Industries. “Well hello there, young gentleman! I’m Bartholomew Competent. My friends call me “Barly.” We fought long and hard to get your position. Welcome aboard, Hume!” “Thank you, Mr. Competent.” “Barly” “Thank you, Barly. I’m very glad to be here. I majored in HR in college, but this is my first opportunity to work in a big HR department. I can hardly wait to begin.” “Well, first things first, Hume. Here’s your certificate.” “Certificate?” “Yes. It says that you are now a professional psychologist…expert in all things human…that kind of stuff.” “But don’t you have to go to graduate school for four years, get a Ph.D., take lots of courses, read all the latest books and research papers, and then do a dissertation that advances the field of knowledge?” “Nah. Grad school is for sissies and eggheads. I could have gone to grad school, but I didn’t like all that reading. We learn as we earn! Ha! Ha! Ha! Besides, we have access to the tests we need. We don’t need any real training to use them. How hard can testing be?” “But, all my professors said we should follow the EEOC guidelines. You know …professional job analysis, business need, job requirements, validated tests, and adverse impact studies. It is the way to get the best people.” “Yeah. I think mine said that too. But we’re running a business here. We don’t have time for all that stuff. Don’t you worry, I ran all our stuff past the company attorney and he was fine with it.” “Is the company attorney a specialist in labor law?” “No, but he does write and review our business agreements.” “Forgive me for saying this, Barly, but writing agreements and contracts is not the same as being a specialist in labor law.” “Hume. Hume. Hume. I can see we have some corporate educating to do here. You see if we get the in-house numbers person to “sign off” on our selection system, we’re off the hook! It doesn’t make any difference if he knows what he is doing or not. His ego gets stroked and we’ve shifted responsibility from our department to his department! Understand, son?” “I guess so, Barly. But what about the impact on the line managers?” “Well, they complain and gripe at the turnover and unpredictable productivity, but they think it’s the nature of the job. We give them test scores, they add up the numbers, and the whole process gives them a false sense of confidence. The rest is left up to chance. Ha ha; they really don’t know any better.” “But, you said you did not validate your tests. How do you know the scores have anything at all to do with job performance?” “Well, the managers took some of the tests in the training class. They said it helped them understand each other and communicate better. We picked the other tests off the web or out of a book.” “Communication tests are only one small part of predicting performance.” “Really? I never thought about it that way! Yes, sir. I can tell you will be an asset around here, young man.” “What kind of tests do you use, Barly?” “We use only the best. The MTIB, 16FFP, CIP, Picky Profile, and the Wonderful test of intelligence.” “Aren’t some of these tests pretty general. You know, not designed for selection?” “I guess so. It’s a good thing we are all professional psychologists in the HR department. We have a right to pick and choose any kind of test and put it to work selecting people.” “Isn’t that like asking a dermatologist to treat a brain tumor?” “You do have a way with words, son.” “These tests are just someone’s general theory of personality. Some are almost 100 years old! I don’t think any of the personality tests you use were designed to predict job performance. Besides, tests like the ‘Wonderful’ have major adverse impact against African Americans and Hispanics.” “Really?” “Yes, sir. Even assuming these tests might, on the outside chance, possibly, predict something useful about job performance, do we have studies that identify the test traits are job-relevant and based on business necessity?” “Study? Job relevant? Business necessity? No. I don’t think we have that information. We did get a group of managers together after a training workshop and, while everyone was feeling good about the ‘Blindfolded Manager and the Light Bulb’ exercise, we sort of agreed the test would be good to use for selection.” “Did anyone give the test to internal people to see if it was associated with job performance?” “Not really. It just seemed like a good idea and we jumped on it. It was one of the few times the line managers seemed to value our opinion. Who am I to pass up the opportunity to win some respect?” “This is all pretty overwhelming, Barly, and ‘much more’ than I ever expected. Let me see if I have this straight. Everyone in HR assumes they are a professional psychologist even though they have no formal education. You have no studies that suggest the traits you are measuring have anything to do with job requirements or business necessity (except for an ad hoc meeting or two with managers). You are using tests that have adverse impact without proof that such tests are necessary for job performance. You are divulging raw test scores to managers and expecting them to make sense of them. Your tests were never validated against performance. And, the company attorney who is not a specialist in labor law has approved your selection process. Is that about it?” “Boy, are you sharp. I told you we were all professionals in this department!” “Would you excuse me, Barly? I think I have an extra strength headache.”

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