Virosheni Moodley
Transformation Consultant LabourNet Kwa-Zulu Natal

"Psychometrics", the study of psychological measurements, has become quite the trend in South Africa and has been increasing its momentum within the recruiting Industry. These tests are designed to measure a candidate's knowledge, skills, abilities or personality. In the business world, the key strategic advantage for most companies is the performance of their employees. Employees who are well matched to their positions have higher attendance records, less turnover, higher job satisfaction, and superior job performance resulting in both the employee and the employer sharing the benefits of enhanced person-job fit.

Traditional Methods

The traditional method of recruiting requires the process of placing an advert, screening CV's, developing a short list, interviewing applicants, screening out applicants, checking references and then making an offer to the lucky devil. However, many companies declare that this old-fashioned method does not work. Recruiters and Employers are now more likely than ever to use psychometric assessments during candidate selection and organisational development and promotional practices.

One very well known example is the The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment which is a psychometric questionnaire designed to measure psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions.

Online psychometric tests are increasing in popularity as employers anticipate enhanced convenience, cost effectiveness and efficiency. However, how can employers be sure that these tests are valid, and what are the implications of using an assessment that is not legitimate?

Legal Issues

There are numerous challenges that employers and recruiters have to face with regards to ethical and legal issues in psychological testing. One of the main issues deals with the changes in legislation namely, The South African Employment Equity Act 55 of 1998. Section 8 of the Act states that:

"Psychological testing and other similar assessments of an employee are prohibited unless the test or assessment being used is –
 

  • Has been scientifically shown to be valid and reliable
  • Can be applied fairly to all employees and,
  • is not biased against any employee or group.


Psychological Testing in South Africa was, for a long time viewed as discriminatory and unfair but the perception of these types of assessments are slowly changing especially when companies are keeping the above principles in check. A recent proposed amendment to Labour Law also addresses the topic of psychometric testing. It states that only psychometric tests that have been certified by the Health Professions Council can be used in assessment testing. Failure to comply with this or the above mentioned section of the Employment Equity Act, will lead to serious legal implications for the employer.

A candidate may refer the matter to the Labour court on the grounds of discrimination which can lead to an employer compensating a candidate for up to 24 months of pay even if the candidate has never worked a day for the employer!

It is therefore imperative that any source of psychometric testing used by an employer or company be credible, reputed and registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa.

The Different types of Psychometric testing –

There are many different types of psychometric tests. A recruiter or employer will decide which test a particular candidate needs to undergo. It should be noted, that according to the Employment Equity Act, no employer may force an applicant to undergo medical or psychometric tests.

Below are a few examples of psychometric testing:
 

  • Personality Profiling
  • Emotional Profiling
  • Intelligence tests
  • Aptitude tests
  • Values tests
  • Interests tests
  • Wellness tests


Cost Factors

The cost of psychometric testing varies depending on the battery of tests chosen. Some companies opt for personality tests, while others may choose aptitude assessments. Usually the end result is presented to the company in the form of a report which may also be charged separately as it contains confidential information that is specific to a candidate. Prices range from anything between R650.00 and above.

Benefits of Psychometric testing for South African Employers

Psychometric testing is beneficial to both the Employer and the candidate applying for the job.

Employer benefits:
 

  • The assessment adds to the fairness of the selection process which would usually depend on a verbal interview.
  • The assessment assists the employer to determine a candidates "fit" or suitability for a particular position.
  • It reduces recruitment costs as well as time spent on a particular candidate.
  • It may identify potential that neither the employer nor candidate were aware of and possibly open up new avenues and career paths.


Candidate Benefits:
 

  • The candidate gains insight into their work style and strengths
  • The candidate can utilize this feedback to develop further or apply for other jobs
  • Allows for the candidate to explore new career paths and new avenues of development.


Criticisms

Even though there has been continuous growth in psychometric testing, there are still a few disparagements relating to the use of psychometric instruments not being entirely reliable or valid as well as the reliance of psychometric assessments to predict future performance.Another criticism relating to psychometric testing is to the extent to which tests might discriminate against a particular person or a group of people. It is essential to keep in mind that South Africa is an extremely multi-cultural country. Having said that, organizations need to pay attention to the instruments they use during selection processes as a test may be valid for one group of individuals and not valid for another group. Reliability will vary across different groups of cultures and is imperative that organizations ensure that psychometric testing does not hinder the performance of certain groups. This can be achieved if psychometric tests are not done in isolation, but used as one part of the extensive recruitment process. In doing this, assessments will be fair and equitable and achieve the best results.

Contact LabourNet Recruitment where our skilled consultants can provide advice on the most appropriate skills and psychometric tests for a particular candidate, which can be conducted online with immediate results. Not yet a LabourNet client, but would like to know more about our service and products, visit our LabourNet website or send a mail to sales and they will contact you to set up an appointment.


Disclaimer
The information published in this article or newsletter is of general nature and should not be used without obtaining specific advice as to its application in your business or under your specific circumstances. LabourNet will accept no liability if the information is used without first obtaining specific advice from one of our consultants.