Rebuilding the Workforce with Test Development and Validation

The U.S. economy experienced plenty of turmoil over the past year, though it has rallied. Regardless of how the pandemic impacts the workforce, we’re clearly in the midst of a realignment in how and where people choose to work. Employers and hiring managers will need to reconsider the old ways of filling out their ranks, adjusting their hiring practices to be effective in a post-pandemic world.

rebuilding workforceSigns of Life

After a long period of disruption, the job market has started to show signs of life. But workers have an evolving set of career expectations, and some employers are struggling to attract and hire workers.

The result is that vacancies are going unfilled. In response, some companies are using different hiring methods to simply get bodies in the door. But any tactics that result in quick wins but no staying power will greatly hamper the effort to bring on and retain the highest-quality talent.

This shift could have persistent effects both in the immediate future and farther down the road. Rather than make short-term decisions with long-term consequences, employers should focus on using the highest-quality hiring practices and employee screening tools to ensure their workforce has the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary for success in the new business environment.

The Old Hiring Methods Are No Longer Enough

Before the pandemic, many employers sustained the hiring status quo, simply doing what they had always done, which was filling vacancies as they became available. Today, they’re in a different situation: Businesses either cannot reopen or are unable to reopen fully because they lack the staff. Many are desperate to hire, and that desperation is driving missteps.

I once worked for an organization with a very important job classification that was difficult to recruit for and consistently maintained a large number of vacancies. The available labor pool was quite limited, which exacerbated the problem. Even though there were clear reasons people were not applying for the job—reasons that could potentially be addressed in a productive way that maintained quality—leadership decided to lower the standards instead. One individual even said, “I just want to get bodies in seats.”

That mindset is a recipe for disaster when it comes to strategic, effective hiring.

The Right Hiring Methods for Lasting Success

Don’t succumb to the temptation to take the path of least resistance. Bringing on great talent is one of the surest paths to long-term business success, so prioritize getting it right. Here are three things you can do for your next round of hiring:

1. Don’t lower your assessment standards.

Regardless of the state of the hiring market, commit to using highly valid assessments and employee screening tools directly tied to the requirements of the job. This will require you to carefully review the job analysis and identify the knowledge, skills, and abilities critical to the role’s success.

A proper job analysis, using a methodology that has been proven to be effective in supporting test development and validation, can help you create the most powerful assessments. It also gives you some level of confidence that those assessments will survive legal scrutiny if they’re ever challenged.

2. Use multimodal assessments.

A multimodal assessment, whether all on-site or partially online (which can help broaden your applicant pool), relies on more than one type of assessment. Too often, those in charge of hiring put too much emphasis on interviews. Interviews are important, but they can bias decision-makers toward those who can represent themselves well in person but who might lack key skills in execution.

For this reason, it is critical to have candidates demonstrate skills and aptitudes. This could be in the form of written tests, role-plays, leaderless group interactions, and job simulations, among others. Consider my experience in hiring a manager who needed to speak, write, and lead well. I used an interview, a writing assignment, and a leadership activity. Some shined in their interview but were rude and self-absorbed in the leadership activity, which assessed interpersonal and leadership skills. Candidates who did well on all three assessments generally turned out to be wonderful managers.

3. Avoid using artificial intelligence (AI) to screen applicants.

AI-powered hiring tools sound great, promising little effort and excellent results, but they can exhibit bias and screen out excellent candidates. They are trained to identify a specific type of applicant, but that specificity isn’t as important as finding someone truly excellent—a person who not only has the knowledge, skills, and abilities to do the job but also can do it with innovation and excellence. The best candidate often possesses a uniqueness that can transform your team, work, or product. AI tools can be powerful, but they can also miss high-quality talent.

Instead, rely on assessments that are specifically designed to match the requirements of your jobs, culture, and future direction. These are not as complex to develop as you might think. Even if you decide you need help to build these assessments, they will ultimately pay for themselves many times over.

Keep Standards High

Too often, we focus on an employee’s skills after he or she has been onboarded. It is only then that we discover huge amounts of time and effort are spent dealing with performance problems, a lack of skills, or other issues. This could have been avoided if time had been spent investing in the decision before the employee was hired.

This can be avoided if those charged with making hiring decisions do so based on high-quality data and with reliable hiring methods. Keep standards high. Be diligent about test development and validation. And don’t forget the value of good judgment and intuition. In the end, your candidate pool will reflect smart decisions made during hiring.

Jim Higgins is a director of talent assessment at Biddle Consulting Group, Inc., a nationally recognized leader in equal employment opportunity compliance, federal contractor compensation, and employment testing. He has three decades of experience in employment testing and spent 13 years as assistant director of HR for the California Department of Justice.