Great returns on psychometric assessments

by 02 Apr 2009

Psychometric assessment is a well-established tool used to help find the best person for a particular role. Teresa Russell looks at how Savills used a new approach with an old tool and reaped great business rewards

Psychometric testing is accepted as an accurate way of assessing an indi vidual’s aptitudes, personality, work styles, motivation and values. It is used by organisations to minimise risk in the selec tion and recruitment process; to identify employees who will best fit the corporate culture; to assess the potential in the talent pipeline and to identify their strengths and development needs.

Surveys show more than three-quar ters of the companies listed in the US Fortune 500 and UK Times Top 100 use psychometric testing, with similar esti mates for the Australian business sec tor, according to Cherie Curtis, head of psychology at Onetest.

There is a wide range of tests avail able in the market and everyone has their favourites. Susan King, national human resources manager for Savills, saved money and significantly decreased staff turnover by changing providers and the way testing was done during the recruitment process.

Savills provides numerous services in the commercial property sector across mainland Australia. Its 850 employees cover the full spectrum from maintenance, operations, sales, customer service and property management through to business support services.

Before King joined the organisation in mid-2007, a psychological assessment provider was used ad hoc for testing recruitment candidates, as well as an assessment project designed to help man age teams better. “Candidates had to be tested at the provider’s offices and, although the information that we received was good, it was inconvenient, expensive and not very timely, as the results took several days to reach us,” she says.

With a staff turnover rate of 33 per cent at that time – well above industry average – King believed they weren’t recruiting the right people, especially as turnover peaked 12 to 18 months after hiring.

As luck would have it, Savill’s CFO received a “fortuitous email from Onetest’s business development manager”, who was then invited in for a presentation. King says that they liked what they saw – not just the assessment management system, but the company’s offerings in recruitment man agement and employee surveys as well.

Changeover

Since then, all shortlisted candidates have undertaken three tests using Onetest’s web- based, online system. The tests King uses are social cognitive ability, a work prefer ence profile and a behavioural profile. She says it has become a very valuable tool in the recruitment process.

By moving to Onetest’s online assess ments, Savills has saved 70 per cent on the cost of each test; candidates can undertake the test from the privacy of their own homes at a time that is con venient to them; and King receives an easy to understand report within min utes of completion, that can then be emailed to the hiring manager, wherever they are in the country.

One example

“Although it is just one of the tools used in the recruitment process, it has become a very valuable one,” says King, citing the example of a job for an HR officer for which they received 103 applications. After choosing 10 appli cants to interview by phone, just seven were considered for psychometric test ing, resulting in face-to-face interviews with four people. One on the shortlist showed a lack of attention to detail in his behavioural profile.

King framed questions around this finding and was pleased that he knew this about himself and answered hon estly. “His honesty was more important to me than the negative trait for this role,” she says.

With many candidates flooding the mar ket as a result of the recently christened Great Recession, King says, “Psychometric testing is a good way to manage an HR practitioner’s time during a time of HR downsizing. It helps them to wade through the increased numbers of applications we’re getting now.”

Outcomes

Not only has the individual cost of each test decreased significantly, resulting in an annual saving of “tens of thousands of dol lars, without including time saved,” King says that the most pleasing result is the sig nificant reduction in staff turnover, which is now running at 19 per cent.

“I know there are other factors con tributing to our decreased turnover rate, but I believe that psychometric assessments have had a real and significant impact on our abil ity to recruit well. We now have a much more stable workforce and an improved employer brand. Our time-to-fill has also decreased. The candidates have been very happy with it, because they do the test on their terms and also get feedback,” she says. King is unable to identify any downsides to using psychometric testing.