Psychological assessment in human resources management

The term assessment refers to a set of operations carried out to deliver a judgment or make a decision. A situation of assessment arises, for example, when candidates are evaluated in a personnel selection, students are examined to test their learning or patients are visited to make a diagnosis of them. 

In companies and firms, for example, an assessment center is a procedure that organizations can use to evaluate candidates, workers, and employees. It makes use of different methods and techniques, some (i.e. interviews) descending from the so-called idiographic (or clinical) approach, and some (i.e. standardized instruments) descending from the so-called nomothetic (or psychometric) approach. When the assessment center is carried out to train or develop people, it is called a development center. 

Assessment operations require a series of technical measures (for example in the conduction of interviews and observation, as well as in the administration of standardized instruments). They are so well-known and studied in the literature that they make naive and improvised attempts to assess no longer justifiable. 

Examples of researches involving those constructs are: “Big Five for work and organizations: FLORA (Role Related Personal Profile), an Italian personality test based on the Five-Factor Model and developed for the assessment of candidates and employees”. This research analyzes the needs for personality assessment that in organizations are peculiar. For example, personality measures for the assessment of candidates or employees should be related to job performance. Even strong correlations between personality tests and job performance might not be sufficient, though, because some tests make use of a language people working in organizations are not accustomed to and, therefore, the personality profiles obtained by those tests may sound meaningless or even abstruse to organizational managers and decision-makers. The paper reports the results of the qualitative actions and the quantitative operations carried out to create and validate a new Italian personality test (named FLORA) based on the Five-Factor Model (FFM) and expressly developed for the assessment of specific professional profiles in organizations. The qualitative actions consisted of 32 interviews with 16 job profiles. Content analyses of interviews led to the identification of 28 personality traits distributed into the 5 categories of the FFM. For each trait, 6 items were generated. Another 8 items were added to form a Lie Scale. The quantitative operations involved a validation sample of 407 employees, a confirmation sample of 418 other employees, and the monitoring of the concurrent validity with another test (n = 1028) and job performance (n = 220). After analyses, FLORA seems to meet the criteria to be a test based on the FFM and usable for the assessment of specific professional profiles as its dimensions are uncorrelated with the Lie Scale and correlated according to hypotheses to both another test and job performance. 

Another example of research is “Not only correlations: a different approach for investigating the relationship between the Big Five personality traits and job performance based on workers and employees’ perception” The paper presents the results of a study on the relationship between the Big Five of personality and job performance carried out by surveying workers and employees’ perception on the matter instead of passing through the computation of possibly faked (and biased) correlation coefficients between to fill a void in the literature and explore different approaches for such an investigation. The study was carried through three methods: a semi-structured interview; the request to assess the relative importance of each Big Five for job performance (the further investigation was carried out with 21 human resource managers and recruiters); the request to fill in the Big Five Questionnaire having in mind the best performer. Results show that the way workers and employees are asked to report on which Big Five makes the difference in job performance affects their answers. Some regularities emerge though: in workers’ and employees’ perception, to make the difference in job performance is mainly a behavioral trait (Conscientiousness or Extraversion). Emotional Stability is recognized to be the second most important Big Five. Agreeableness and Openness do not seem to make much difference in job performance. These results are partially consistent with the results of research carried out by making use of correlation coefficients. 

In conclusion,  these projects aim also to be an example of what psychological science has found in the field of assessment, in the hope that people dealing with human resources management become aware of the risks related to gathering too much information for assessment purposes. Practical implications surely include the use of new scientific methods such as the ones described above in order to get the best results and guarantee a valid scientific response to this particular and always updated topic.


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