Morning everyone,

Here is an article that is soon to appear in the AGR’s Graduate Recruiter magazine that I was asked to write on measuring the value assessments can add / have added to an organisation – hope you find it useful – be interested to hear any thoughts / comments!

RETURN ON ASSESSMENT

How confident are you that you have a watertight assessment process? Is each and every element ‘pulling its weight’ and adding value in some way? Ben Williams, Managing Director at business psychologists, Sten 10 looks at ways that organisations are trying to judge this, and offers some practical tips for you to try yourself…

What is meant by ‘assessment’?

‘Assessment’ is a broad term, but for the purposes of this article we will take it to include any method that is used to gain an insight into a graduate’s capabilities for recruitment, promotion or development purposes. Typically this includes elements such as application forms, interviews, psychometric tests and simulations (role plays, group exercises, in-trays).

What is meant by ‘value’?

Firstly: what do we mean by ’value’? Better quality work outputs? Increased employee tenure? Improved morale? Or just the cold, hard financial return on investment?

Why do you want to prove the value of an assessment? Are you wishing to introduce a new assessment process and wish to demonstrate its value in order to get budget sign off? Or do you have a specific campaign that is being delivered and you wish to prove its value after it has been implemented? This will affect the type of information you would wish to use.

Finally, ‘value to whom?’ The key stakeholders who would benefit from a good assessment process could be:

The candidate themselves.
The hiring manager / recruiter
The candidate’s future colleagues / customers (internal or external)
The organisation

Ways of proving value

To help you measure the value of an assessment process within your organisation, here are eight methods to consider:

1. Direct Financial Return. If high performance in an assessment is shown to correlate well with some financial outcome, this will be a persuasive argument for most stakeholders. Ways of measuring this include:

Measurable financial outcomes (e.g. increased value of sales made since the new call centre assessment process was introduced) can be persuasive. For roles with a less tangible link to financial outcomes, then there is a statistical technique known as the ‘utility equation’ that excites academics (but yet often fails to convince in the real world).

Emma Rees, ex-Global Talent Manager at Tate & Lyle, favours working out the cash value of efficiencies introduced: for example, time saved (e.g. if a new automated tool saves 20 days of recruiter’s time, work out what this means in salary terms) or reduced materials / venue cost by moving assessments online.

Calculate the recruitment and on boarding costs saved over the course of a year by improving employee retention.

2. Improved Job Performance. This method looks at whether an assessment accurately predicts how someone is going to behave and apply their skills once in the role. This will be particularly convincing for Hiring Managers, and a simple of way of proving this is to ask Hiring Managers if they feel they know more about the candidates since the new assessment has been introduced.

Ways of measuring this include comparing the average job performance level before and after a new assessment process is introduced; or by correlating assessment scores with job performance scores and judging the strength of the relationship (called ‘validation’).

The key here is to establish job performance measures. ‘Hard’ criteria include things like rate of production (speed of work / amount of work done) and rejection rate for work produced (quality). ‘Soft criteria’ could include aspects such as manager performance appraisal ratings or client feedback surveys.

If you are trying to sell-in the concept before introducing a new process, there is a wealth of both academic and practitioner research that demonstrates this link: simply find one from a similar enough context to your own. A good place to start is the 2001 meta-analysis study by Smith and Robertson from UMIST for academic proof of validity. Business Psychologist Justin McNamara, ex-BT and Network Rail, likes to share examples of where similar clients have achieved positive results – obtained either from his past experience or from reviewing places such as the Graduate Recruiter magazine or RHHR Consultancy websites for case studies.

3. More Efficient Process. If an assessment tool allows recruitment to move at a faster pace, with a lower resource requirements, this will be music to the ears of most recruiters. This could also give an organisation a competitive edge in the war for talent, by being quicker to move to offer. This can be predicted prior to an assessment being introduced or measured post-introduction by measuring things like total elapsed time or number of hours taken before and after.

4. A Fair Process. Most organisations want to prove that the assessment tools they are using do not unfairly discriminate based on factors such as ethnicity, gender or age. By reviewing the pass rates on an assessment for different groups and showing that there is no significant difference, the tool can be shown to be contributing to a more diverse workforce.

5. Improves Morale and Motivation. An assessment that places a graduate in a role in which they can perform well and feel fulfilled will be appealing to both the candidate themselves and their future colleagues. This could be measured by looking at turnover rate; or by comparing job application numbers pre- and post- introduction of a ‘realistic job preview-type’ assessment that should sift on motivational fit.

6. Inform Personal Development. Assessments that can be shown to act as a foundation or catalyst for graduates to improve their performance will be particularly welcomed in a developmental context (and a valuable ‘added extra’ in a selection context). Andrew Cornish, Recruitment Transformation Consultant at BAe Systems advises that this can be assessed via a comparison of performance, speed of promotion and entry into HIPO programmes of new hires using different recruitment methods.

7. Helps Implement Strategy. Assessments that identify graduates who can help to realise strategic and tactical objectives will be highly valued by the business. Designing exercises that measure the competencies, values and behaviours that are relevant to achieving this, as well as choosing appropriate strategic issues for them to deal with, can help to demonstrate this link. An additional benefit is that using competencies and values in an applied selection context can help to embed them within an organisation – both for new graduates and those running the selection process itself.

8. Enhances Brand Identity. Those assessments which leave graduates with a more positive impression of the organisation and its processes than when they first applied (whether or not they are successful) will appeal to both immediate stakeholders and those in other parts of the organisation. Further, those assessments that, through their appealing design, attract the very best graduates will give the organisation a competitive advantage.

As Lucia Hunt, Graduate Recruitment and Development Manager at Johnson Matthey says that ‘we hope to enhance the candidate experience by making the assessment event as friendly, informative and fun as possible – we want candidates to leave the centre, and remember Johnson Matthey as a great prospective employer’. Competitive advantage can be assessed via qualitative feedback surveys or by comparing offer acceptance rates pre- and post- the new process.

Which method you use to prove value will be down to why you need to prove it, the interests of your stakeholders and the availability of data to analyse.