- In This Issue
Reaching 'Hire' Ground
Personnel practices can make or break an organization. An effective human resources applicant-screening process serves as a foundation for hiring success
This article was published in the Q3 2010 issue of Aon One, September 2010.
Formidable competition and exacting cost pressures are inescapable realities of today's business world. Increasingly, what separates the most successful organizations from those that stumble is human capital. "Assessing and understanding who you hire goes a long way toward boosting productivity and reducing overall risk," says Amy Mills, vice president, Aon Consulting, Human Capital.
As a result, organizations are adopting more sophisticated methods to evaluate applicants prior to job interviews. One of the hottest trends: tapping into cognitive and behavioral assessments. "Screening is important because it allows for maximum fit between employee and the employing organization," Mills says.
The screening approach reduces errors, absenteeism, training costs, turnover and legal challenges. It also improves teamwork and overall productivity. As organizations cope with a deluge of applicants amid the lingering effects of an economic downturn, pre-employment screening is moving into the mainstream. In fact, many organizations are also using it to screen and test existing employees seeking promotions.
Elizabeth Varghese, senior vice president and Talent Solutions Practice leader for Aon Consulting, says: "It's all about using data to create a more consistent and less subjective process. It's about building metrics and identifying the candidate with the knowledge, skills, abilities and other characteristics to work most effectively on the job."
Unlocking Employment Possiblities
Finding conscientious, punctual, team-oriented workers is no simple task. These days, labor is typically the largest expense an organization faces—varying between 20 and 80 percent of total business costs. What's more, according to industry statistics, the expense of a bad hire ranges from one to five times the annual salary of the employee. It also leads to higher training costs and a significantly greater outlay for human resources.
A growing number of organizations have turned to credit and background checks to vet individuals for an unsavory or criminal past. Some use behavioral interviews that focus on what an individual would do in a specific situation—say, a customer who yells or a co-worker who makes a mistake. A few also put candidates through "simulations" that gauge job-related skills. However, these evaluation methods—while effective—can be costly and time-consuming for employers, especially if the candidate being evaluated does not meet basic skill requirements.
Pre-employment testing can be done early in the hiring assessment process—before a manager spends considerable time on an interview. And this type of screening takes direct aim at learning who applicants really are and whether they are suited for the position. These assessments, which can range from short online tests to extended paper-and-pencil exams, provide insight into a wide range of traits and behaviors. Among other things, Varghese says, the testing is effective at identifying employees who possess the specific attributes required to contribute at a level that's required by the organization.
Applicants generally access employment tests after clicking through a company website or a job board. An assessment determines whether a person is likely to engage in risky behavior on the job and/or is apt to get injured and file for workers' compensation. The assessment also measures factors such as personal accountability, patience and integrity. "The last thing you want to do is hire someone for a cashier position or a call center and find out after the fact that they're impatient or irritable with customers and co-workers," Mills says.
Human resources assessment software has evolved considerably in recent years. Most screening systems are accessible via a Web browser and available through an array of devices. This makes it possible to undergo an assessment from a home computer, via a smart phone, or at a kiosk or PC at a business site. Many systems rely on branching questions (which let the person choose a topic pathway)—as well as audio and video clips—to walk applicants through real-life scenarios. In fact, scrambled and randomized questions mean no two candidates see the exact same sequence of queries.
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