Cognitive scientist turned journalist, Stav Dimitropoulos continues to explore how smart businesses are swotting up on the brain’s inner workings to assess employees and customers alike, in order to find the most suitable employees and craft the best customer offering.

THE POWER OF PSYCHOMETRIC TESTS: Hire better staff that stick around and support the team.

This is the second part of our Neural Network series. Read part one, here.

It is estimated that the wrong hiring decision can set organisations back by 30%–176% of the annual salary of each vacant position. Perhaps that explains why the popularity of psychometrics – tools that measure psychological abilities and aptitudes – has exploded in the last two decades in all stages of the recruitment process.

“All humans are susceptible to erroneous judgments,” says Sabina Socias, UK Branch Manager at Central Test, a Workspace customer in Kennington Park. This international publisher provides psychometric assessments and training to meet challenges in the human-resources sector. Such challenges include trying to avoid wasting money and resources training a recruit who doesn’t fit the role; helping those employees who prove indispensable for the business to juggle their personal and professional life; and helping business owners manage a pool of diverse employees.

“Psychometrics bypass the biases and stereotypes we all have and allow for a fairer assessment,” Socias explains. They allow companies to make more responsible assessments, and thus to be more socially responsible.” However, they are also highly adjustable.

A 3D render of the brain

The latest trend is to bypass traditional personality assessments in favour of situational-judgment tests, to see how well a candidate fits into the company culture. These types of psychological aptitude tests put people in work-related scenarios and assess their reactions. “This is a more valid assessment of people’s abilities and behaviour,” says Socias.

Situational-judgment tests make it easier to see if an individual fits with the company culture because they place them in a particular context where they have to project themselves and say how they would react or behave, whereas traditional questionnaires ask about past behaviour.

Central Test uses emotional-intelligence questionnaires, tests designed to measure how people understand, manage and interpret their own emotions, and those of others. These types of tests are mushrooming in popularity. Simultaneously, there is a huge shift in mentality in the workplace. Previously, a sign of a good employee was a loyal worker who had remained in a company for a long stretch of time. In 2018, nomads rule.

“We live in a culture where the new generation does not tend to stay in one position for long. You have to change jobs perhaps every two or five years to show that you have variety in your resume, but this makes companies suffer financially. It is very expensive to hire and train people, and then lose them,” says Socias.

Talking neuroscience at a WBI dinner. To see Joseph Devlin, James Naylor and Andy Goll in action you can watch a video here.

Therefore, retaining committed and engaged employees is of the essence, which is why company culture and employee wellbeing are so important. Workplace success is no longer only about chunky salaries; it is also about good working conditions in a balanced environment. Still, keen and committed employees are not a panacea for businesses. Ethics matter too. Ethics-assessment tools, which are used in onboarding to measure integrity at work or whether employees are likely to engage in unethical behaviour, are fiercely on the rise. Central Test has created a tool that evaluates attitudes towards counterproductive workplace behaviours, because attitudes are a strong predictor of behaviour. A candidate who tolerates or finds it normal to engage in unethical work behaviour is more likely to engage in unethical behaviour themselves. “We also look at people’s attitudes towards other people’s behaviours and towards their own behaviour, so we can see whether they are likely to tolerate unethical behaviour in other people or to tolerate it in their own behaviour,” Socias says. “This tool could not be more modern,” she continues. “It speaks to the problems of bullying, corruption and discrimination we are widely seeing today.”

We spoke to Dr Luke Montuori from Central Test to find out exactly what a job in psychometrics might be like – read his interview here.

We’ll be exploring future trends in the next instalment of this piece; what’s the last frontier for humans to explore? Artificial intelligence? Immortality? Or is it the 1.4kg mass of grey matter that fills the upper part of your head? – If you chose the latter you’ll be pleased to now we’re delving into the world of neuroscience!

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