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Are Workplace Personality Assessment Tests Fair?

September 30, 2014

by guest blog contributor, Bill Bonnstetter, Chairman of TTI Success Insights, a global talent assessment company

Bill Bonstetter, Chairman, TTI Success Insights, a global talent assessment companyOn Sept. 29, The Wall Street Journal published the article, “Are Workplace Personality Tests Fair?” The article scrutinized the use of “personality” tests and highlighted two accusations of discrimination against a variety of retailers that used various tests as part of a hiring process. The case is under review by the EEOC, which is conducting an investigation of “personality tests,” according to the WSJ article.

Having spent the last three decades in the assessment industry, I am moved to respond.

I applaud the WSJ for taking a closer look at those who provide these sorts of personality tests, particularly those organizations that refuse to comply with federal regulations and provide adverse impact studies. Click here to read our white paper regarding adverse impact and its implications.

These studies are a requirement and best practice for anyone doing business in the assessment realm.

Adverse impact studies provide evidence there is no adverse impact — that no one could be discriminated against — in the use of assessments. It is essential in the assessment industry.

The purpose of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) is to enforce (for the benefit of job seekers and wage earners) the contractual promise of affirmative action and equal employment opportunity required of those who do business with the federal government.

Personality Tests are much moreAs a company, TTI has been aware of the need for a comprehensive adverse impact study that includes much more than race and gender. That’s why we began collecting data over 10 years ago on 13 additional categories of protected classes in addition to gender.

In 2012, we released our initial adverse impact study findings and encouraged our distributors to share these findings with their clients. We regularly revisit these studies to ensure there is no adverse impact against any group and provide updates to our VAAs and their clients.

There must be more accountability in the assessment industry regarding adverse impact.

Sadly, not all assessment companies invest the time and resources to produce adverse impact studies, nor do they base their instruments on deeper scientific understanding and data. Those who don’t risk the reputation of an industry that seeks to eliminate bias from the hiring process and uplift rather than discriminate against individuals.

As the WSJ article stated — and several of the companies using assessments noted — when implemented according to federal guidelines and using a basis of sound science and research, assessments help to empower all and discriminate against none, creating job match, greater employee happiness and better workplace environments.

Our commitment to integrity and research mandates the use of adverse impact, and we encourage all similar companies to commit to the same.

To answer the WSJ’s primary question: Yes, the use of assessments is fair – but unfortunately too many companies place themselves in jeopardy by not using assessments with robust adverse impact studies and based on additional anti-discriminatory research.

It would be wise of companies to scrutinize the structure of any and all assessments and educate themselves on the methodology of the instrument they are using, as well as demand a current adverse impact study with EEOC and OFCCP compliance.

This article originally appeared on the TTI Success Insights blog

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