There’s a real trend towards using psychometric testing as part of a recruitment process these days. Many private companies thrive on the invention and distribution of the perfect psychometric test which is supposed to inform your choice of candidate when recruiting for a position. There’s an entire field of psychology, personal and organisational that goes into these things, and they’re quite a comprehensive examination of ‘personality’ and how people perform under pressure, and in a team environment.
I can see why people feel inclined to use it.
Recruiting new staff is always an unknown of sorts, it’s difficult to predict from a 60 minute or so interview and a written application, even with referees, what a person will be like on the job and in the team you already have. With the emphasis on ‘team fit’ right up there with the right skills for the job, it’s difficult to make a decision that you feel comfortable with. So the inclination to use some sort of evaluation or test such as psychometric testing to give you some indicator of whether a person will be a good team player is quite strong.
Psychometric testing is designed to try and measure personality aspects or mental abilities, traits such as potential for leadership or calm under pressure. By unintended design, this will produce test results that favour a particular type of person. The tests are designed using the personality traits and aptitudes of an already successful ‘ideal’, and enable an employer to source ‘carbon copies’ of that ‘ideal’ candidate, which completely eliminates diversity from the employment picture.
A test might attempt to evaluate your numerical aptitude, for example. It might also ask questions about risk taking at work, or in general. And if you score low on the numerical aptitude and high on the risk taking, unlike the ideal candidate the test was based on, you may not be selected for a job in a finance section or as an accountant.
Do these tests actually work?
But, there’s more and more research coming out about the use of psychometric testing, and it’s not all good. There also appears to be an entire industry arising out of this practice to provide coaching and practice tests to improve test results – suggesting that with enough practice you can produce the results on a psychometric test that an employer is looking for – not an accurate representation of ability or aptitude.
And that’s the problem: the results can be skewed. And there is an increasing amount of research and case law showing assessments of people with a disability are discriminatory. In a recent case in the United Kingdom, an employer using a psychometric test was found to have discriminated against a person with Aspergers.
The test contained multiple choice questions which were virtually impossible for the potential employee to answer or interpret due to her difficulty with social interpretation and her reasoning in hypothetical scenarios. She had asked if she could submit short narrative form, a request which was refused.
In the US, employers using psychometric testing are now routinely warned about the use of the testing method when recruiting by the manufacturers of the tests themselves, because of the risk of discrimination defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act. In a recent case in the United States, an employer was found to have discriminated by using such a test to determine the suitability of employees with a disability for promotion.
There’s increasing discussion about the pros and cons of psychometric testing, but because of the growing evidence that the tests are simply unfair and discriminatory towards people with a disability, we don’t use them.
We’ll continue to rely on the ‘old’ method – interview, references and applications - with reasonable adjustment in place for those who require it.
For the past year, since launching on 11 September 2015, Enabled Employment has been winning awards for being a ‘start-up’. Start-up is a term used in the entrepreneur and tech world for a new company which is primarily internet based, and which has a business model which involves seeking private venture capital investment after proving their market worth. The term ‘start-up’ can be used while the company is being established. Some start-ups are only months old, while others are two or three years old.
Enabled Employment CEO Jessica May chose to follow the entrepreneurial path when she formed the business model she wanted for the company, rather than choose a not-for-profit business model.
Private venture capital investment is a whole new world for most of us. I learned about it when Jess was accepted into the GRIFFIN Accelerator. Private venture capital investment is when you are asking investors to exchange their hard earned cash for shares in the company.
An ‘accelerator’ or ‘business incubator’ such as GRIFFIN Accelerator is a group of experienced business people and entrepreneurs who exchange their cash for shares in your company to get your cash flow started, and mentor you through your first three months of business and ‘pitching’ for investment. Enabled Employment was accepted into the GRIFFIN program last year in July, and the knowledge gained from the team of mentors about doing business in the corporate world, and investment, was invaluable.
But why would someone choose a business model based on private venture capital when they could run a not-for-profit and get government subsidies, and tax concessions?
Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show there are approximately 2.2 million Australians of working age with a disability. The current social security system demands that if you receive a government payment such as Newstart, you are required to meet the job seeking criteria. If you disclose you have a disability, you will be referred to an employment service which specialises in placing people with disability into jobs, in return for government funding.
Jess made a decision on ethical grounds about how people with a disability are offered jobs. Currently, job seeking assistance to people with a disability is paid for by the government, and, depending on the level of disability, per person the government pays $890 for 13 weeks assistance from an employment services provider. Then there is a job placement fee of $770 per job placement, bringing the cost of services per individual to $1660.
Employers are subsidised by the government to provide ‘placements’ for people with a disability. Employers receive a 13 week placement fee of $2860, and a bonus of $572, and at the 26 week placement point, a further $7,700 plus a bonus of $1540. That’s $12,672 for six months provision of a placement.
All this adds up to $14,332 per person, per placement. And that’s at a minimum; the figures are higher for those with higher assistance needs.
Enabled Employment does not receive any of this government funding under the current disability employment framework. CEO Jess May considered the practice of government payments to employers for providing ‘placements’ to people with disability, and decided that another option was definitely both needed, and possible.
As people with skills, work experience, abilities and qualifications, she does not believe employers should be subsidised to employ people with a disability. The company she runs believes wholeheartedly that paying an employer to provide a job to a person with a disability encourages a misplaced belief that it is a ‘charitable favour’ to give work to a person with a disability – rather than an opportunity to diversify the workforce, and gain the demonstrable skills and capabilities of a qualified and skilled employee.
Why should I, for example, a person with post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain, be considered any less worthy of a role than someone with out those conditions? I’ve only taken one day off sick in the last 2 years, I work full-time hours, I have two degrees – and over 20 years experience as a professional communicator. Why should an employer get a windfall of some $12,000 to employ me for a short six months?
By not taking government subsidies, Enabled Employment is trying to change attitudes, in every sphere of Australia’s corporate world, towards how we regard the work capabilities and value of people with a disability. We do not believe that subsidies are the answer, for either employers or people with a disability.
So Jessica, and our Chief Information Officer and web wizard Chris Delforce, have ‘mainstreamed’ the recruitment process for our employee cohort, providing a jobs website where people with a disability can access job opportunities with inclusive employers – using flexible working options and a results oriented work environment.
Our approach ensures there is some level of self determination and choice in how people with a disability find work.
There’s a saying in ‘start-up’ world, and that is ‘Be the change you want to see.’
We are the change we want to see, and we hope our journey continues as successfully as it has for the last ten months.
I have spent a bit of time telling you all about the benefits of telework, but now I'm going to get more in to the benefits of employing people with a disability. There are a lot of myths out there about people with a disability and I think Graeme Innes, the former Disability Discrimination Commissioner, gets it right when he says "the soft bigotry of low expectations limits what we achieve". Unfortunately, low expectations is something that people with a disability face all the time. But why is this? Most of us are very highly educated and want to work so why do employers think we can't?
I think this is very much about changing attitudes to people with a disability and some fantastic work is being done by the Attitude Foundation (http://www.attitude.org.au/) and the Able Movement (www.facebook.com/theablemovement) in this space, but I wanted to contribute to busting some of the myths about employing people with a disability. So here it is, hope it's enlightening for you and inspires you to increase the diversity of your workforce.
1. Talent Pool
One of the biggest ongoing complaints from business in the western world is often a lack of a suitable talent pool from which to choose potential new employees. There may be a number of reasons for this, but businesses can maximise their talent pool by consciously attracting people with disability and making their premises attractive and accessible. People with disabilities are just as educated, just as ambitious, often just as experienced and motivated as the rest of the population. We also make up 15% of Australians of working age (15-64 years) so if you're excluding people with a disability this is a big amount of potential talent you are missing out on.
Moreover, you may bring additional skills into the premises (sign language being one such example). Having one person with that skill will make it easier for others to integrate. “People with disability are a resource of abilities, of willpower - they are real economical and social actors” according to President of the ACCOR hotel group.
2. Image and Staff Morale
It will be good for your company image to promote a diverse workplace, accessibility and not keeping your talent pool to narrow criteria (which is against the law in most countries anyway). Companies who actively promote diversity usually gain recognition in trade or national press and have potential to win awards; recent studies have shown that people look favourably on businesses with inclusive employment policies.
There are extra benefits to your existing staff. It can enrich the working lives of your other employees by exposing them to people with disabilities that they may not encounter in other aspects of their life. Breaking down prejudice in the workplace can be immensely helpful to removing the barriers that prevent people with disability from participating in the workplace on an equal footing.
People with disabilities want to work and prove themselves as individuals just like anybody else. Statistics and studies have persistently shown several eye-opening facts:
- They are just as productive and motivated as able bodied people
- There is a greater level of retention with employees with disabilities – in short, they are less likely to move on and more likely to be amongst your longest-serving employees
- A report in Salon in 2013 reported high levels of reported efficiency amongst business leaders when discussing the performance of their employees with disabilities
- Most importantly, there are reported much lower levels of sickness and other unscheduled leave
Further, the Salon article states “Studies of Walgreens’s experience at a few distribution centers show disabled workers are more efficient and loyal than nondisabled workers. Absenteeism has gone down, turnover is less, and safety statistics are up. And the cost of accommodating such workers with new technologies and education is minimal.”
If you are retaining staff for longer, experiencing less unscheduled leave, increasing productivity, improving staff morale and your image what do you think will happen? Your business will grow, you will attract more business, you will attract better employees and you will increase your profits. Now, that's not a bad thing is it?
It is largely the cost of accommodating employees with disabilities, and not prejudice, which sometimes may put off businesses from actively engaging the wider workforce pool. This may be particularly true of small to medium enterprises that have less capital and lower turnover. Fortunately, in the 21st century most countries in the developed world have specific bursaries and funds available to help businesses meet the costs of workplace modification and most modifications are inexpensive anyway. Charities and commissions are on hand to offer advice and services like Enabled Employment remove all of these barriers anyway.
So why aren't you employing more people with a disability? It's very easy and as above you can see the benefits it will make for your business. As always, I love to keep the conversation going so ask me some questions or leave some comments below.
Keeping in theme of my last blog post about telework and the results only work environment, I thought I would go into some more detail about how telework can benefit your business. I know through my discussions with business it is not so easy to see why telework might be right for your business so here are my top five reasons reasons that you should consider telework.
I am positive that teleworking is right for a lot of businesses, it is just a different way of thinking, but once you have seen the results and the potential cost savings in practice, you will want to do more!
In a period of economic difficulty, recession or even the early stages of recovery, a business’ performance is most important to its survival or success. This is the time to look at streamlining operations, cutting unnecessary costs and attempting to maximise output. Telework increases work efficiency by focusing on the targets of individual employees rather than the amount of time they are at work. “Work smarter, not harder” is a common business phrase today and telework allows the business and the employee to work smarter.
Consequently, the focus on targets and achievement encourages the employee to understand the importance of targets, deadlines and amount of work that you are looking to achieve as a business.
2. Job Satisfaction
Many studies have demonstrated that employees are far more productive and happier when offered flexible working patterns. Parents often make decisions about where and when they work, taking into account their extra responsibilities. The ability to set his or her own hours around those responsibilities leads to less stress for the employee and more work produced for the employer.
Never underestimate the importance of a bond of trust. If you have a system in place for your employees to work from home, they are going to feel trusted and valued that they have more freedom and satisfaction in that freedom. Job satisfaction also means greater staff retention.
3. Expands Potential Work Pool
Single parents, people with disabilities and mental illness who may not be able for one reason of another to get into a place of work are able to work from home or any other suitable place of their choosing. Some jobs may exclude these groups merely by requiring them at a place of work. When that is also their home, many of the stresses of other commitments become negligible. With a flexible working system such as telework, geography, commitment and disability need not be limiting factors in the way that they may be with traditional working environments.
4. Saves Money
In a conventional office environment, you are likely to have many overhead costs – particularly in relation to utilities, which can be astronomical if you are running many computers, printers, scanners all at once all day, every day. If you then remove most of those staff to telework, this will drastically reduce your utility costs. Consequently, you may even be able to reduce your total office space and reduce your costs further.
Though an employee’s transport costs may not affect the business, some jobs do pay a bursary for commuting – especially for mid to high-level employees – and usually are responsible for the costs associated with sending an employee to a different work site. Telework will eliminate the costs associated with that; you will also be able to increase your business prestige by reducing your carbon footprint.
5. Unexpected Time Off
Studies have demonstrated that the amount of unscheduled time off such as sick days when the employee was capable of getting in to work and well enough to work, is greatly reduced. When at home, people are more likely to simply get on with their tasks and work through a minor ailment. It also means a whole working day is not lost if they happen to feel better at lunch time.
Have you got some tales about how telework has benefited your business? I would love to hear them. Leave me a comment below and we can continue the conversation.