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Assessment Tools - Are they worth the effort?

Some hiring managers swear by them, while others do not have the time or inclination to make them part of the selection and / or development process.

What are they, why and when should you use them, and where do you find the vendors?

Assessment tools are standardized tests given to candidates or current employees to gauge certain traits, most typically their personality type or learning (intellectual) ability. The results are either measured against an internal benchmark, or the population in the selected job group. Although they can be used for employee development, they are most commonly used for the selection process (external and internal candidates).

In our industry we need to think about using these tools for management positions, sales recruiting, and non-exempt hiring (production associates, RSRs, mechanics). It all starts with writing up a job analysis (JA) for the selected positions, which is no easy task. Many plants do not have a human resource person to tackle this; those that do tend to have a full plate already. The good news is that once it is done you have a permanent basis in place.

The JA is much better than a job specification, and should be both results oriented and include 3 to 5 levels (bars) of performance grading. The person or committee assigned to this project should include an audit (standardized interview) of employees currently in the position.

There is a huge side benefit for getting these JA s done and in the hands of the respective current employees. Besides making the salary and performance review process easier, it gives the employees a way to look inward, and it gives senior management a structure for coaching and development. Did I mention that productivity can be impacted when employees know what the expectations are? Whether you use assessment tools or not, get the JA s done - your business will be the better for it.

Personality profiles evaluate traits such as extroversion, agreeableness, thoroughness, openness to experience, and emotionality. Assessments can also evaluate for intellectual abilities, but the end result should identify the "action" component, not just the competency (ability). It is the difference between "can do" and "will do".

Why use assessment tools?

How often do you interview management or sales candidates? For example, twenty years of business management experience may bring a proven technique and seasoned wisdom to the table, but if you only interview a few candidates each month, it will not give you enough of a reference point.
Sales candidates can especially be difficult to evaluate correctly, and yet the right hire can impact growth and profit dramatically. Moreover, you have to match up the right type of sales skills (and desires) for our type of selling cycle. For example, a personality profile may show the sales candidates as being extroverted and very sociable. The coinciding personal interview would probably impress most interviewers. Unfortunately, many sociable individuals are greatly adverse to rejection, and do not have the fortitude for direct sales. Considering the time frame it typically takes to evaluate a new sales rep hire, you could have six months or more of wasted payroll and lost growth.

Most personality profile systems provide follow-up questions to use in a subsequent interview. In this way, you can reinforce or diffuse any "red flag" aspects without being confrontational through the use of leading questions.

One risk of using personality profiles in the selection process is the tendency to use the results as an arbitrary pass / fail decision on extending an offer. The results should enhance, but not replace your ability to personally evaluate the entire picture, including personal interviews, reference checks and second internal opinions. Even in times of low employment candidates can appreciate an extra "hoop" to go through for a possible job offer, however, it is a risk to indicate to a candidate that they were turned down strictly on the basis of their written assessment.

In the arena of production associates, route sales reps and mechanics you can use assessment tools to identify counter productive behavior and the individual's response to certain types of job tasks. From the positive response to a selected job task you can even pick out key words for classified ads.
Your laundry operation business may be experiencing unusual turnover, you may be second guessing yourself on hiring decisions, or you may just be looking for an extra edge in managing the current team of employees. Where do you go from here?

Next month
Who are the vendors, what are their actual products / services and how do you find them?

Craig Lloyd represents, a management search firm specializing in the industrial / institutional laundry industry.  He holds a degree in Industrial Relations from Rider University and has been a Certified Personnel Consultant since 1979.

Quick Rinse - News From Around The World

Laundry to Reduce Air Emmissions and Fund Cleaner Burning Wood Stove Purchases

BOSTON, Mass. — Alltex Uniform Rental Service, an industrial laundry in Manchester, N.H. has agreed to settle claims by the US Environmental Protection Agency that it violated the Clean Air Act by paying a civil penalty of $65,000. They will also be undertaking a Supplemental Environmental Project with a value of at least $220,000 to replace old, polluting wood stoves in southern New Hampshire with new, cleaner models. Additionally, the company will install equipment at its facility to remove approximately 20 tons per year of emissions of volatile organic compounds (“VOCs”). G&K Services is the parent company of Alltex Uniform Rental Service Inc. The EPA action grew out of an EPA inspection of the facility in July 2008.