Pre-hire tests expose "deviants" and identify talent
A prominent academic has slammed critics of pre-hire personality tests, saying that the tests are better than veteran managers at selecting high performers and eliminating "deviant behaviours" from the workplace.
Deviancy determined by temperamentOnes says scientific personality tests are invaluable for identifying and eliminating candidates prone to deviant behaviour.
Acts of deviance, she says, range from "mild forms" - such as minor time theft or misuse of relatively inexpensive company resources - to unexplained absences, destruction of property, theft, harassment, incivility and violence that can have "serious economic consequences" for an organisation.
She says that while a wide range of circumstances can elicit deviant behaviours (such as financial stress), an employee's decision "to be deviant" is determined, to a large extent, by his or her temperament or personality.
"Traits such as integrity, honesty, and conscientiousness play a key role in determining whether employees steal, embezzle, or otherwise harm the organisation or their co-workers," she says.
Employees who are highly conscientious engage in fewer deviant acts against their employers, and employees who are agreeable engage in fewer deviant acts against other individuals.
"Personality tests... not only predict who will avoid deviance," Ones says, "but also who will actively perform the core tasks of their job reliably and diligently."
Spot high performers for less than $40"Off-the-shelf" personality tests can cost less than 40 Australian dollars per test-respondent, Ones says, which is far cheaper than other recruiting methods such as pre-employment interviews (in terms of person hours invested).
"The practice of online administration and feedback which is now offered for most modern personality tests requires virtually no organisational resources and time," she says.
However, she warns that personality tests won't be effective if the wrong type of test is used.
Employers, she says, should:
"It is true that people prefer to undergo a pre-employment interview or fill out an application [form], compared to taking any standardised test," she says. "However, it is also true that the methods most liked by applicants are less useful to organisations."
In any event, research has shown that candidates who react negatively to selection or screening tests are those who perform poorly in them, Ones says.
"Good candidates typically react more positively."
Further, a history of or propensity for deviancy is unlikely to be revealed during the more traditional hiring process, she says.
Intervene early when deviancy emergesWhen deviancy emerges among existing staff, employers must intervene early, Ones says, and the reaction should always be "appropriate", relative to the act.
In some cases, she says, the employee might simply need to be reminded of company policies. In more serious cases, such as uncivil or aggressive behaviour, disciplinary action should be explored. And in the event of illegal activity, she says, employers should contact the appropriate authorities.
Employers, she says, could also consider monitoring employees to "discourage and prevent deviant behaviours".
However, Ones says that monitoring methods - such as surveillance cameras and internet monitoring - are typically ineffective in curtailing counter-productive behaviour.
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