From time to time I get asked the question, “What are the legal issues surrounding pre-employment assessments?” As we haven’t addressed this topic since Newsletter #35, back in August, 2004, I thought this would be a good time for a review, especially in light of the recent Karraker vs. Rent-A-Center case in the U.S.
In today’s newsletter we will provide a quick overview of some of the key points surrounding pre-employment assessment and testing instruments put forth in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Guidelines. I am using the EEOC guidelines, as Canadian companies tend to look south of the border for direction on legal issues regarding testing.
In response to our opening question, yes, employment testing is legal and it is used by most Fortune 500 companies. But there are three key concepts that you need to be familiar with to ensure that your pre-employment testing tools and methods are above-board.
The first is “adverse impact”. The test should not adversely impact any special population, such as a minority, gender, or, as recently demonstrated in the Karraker vs. Rent-A-Center case, people with disabilities. In this instance, it was demonstrated that the instrument used by Rent-A-Center, the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), was, in fact, a medical “test” that violated The Americans with Disabilities Act. If you Google MMPI you will note that many of the sites that offer this assessment state specifically that it is used by clinicians to assist with the diagnosis of mental disorders. What led Rent-A-Center to use a test for mental disorders in the hiring process? We don’t know, but the message to test-users is clear. Read your test developer’s technical manual to get a better understanding of everything the test measures. Also, take a quick look at the questions that it asks. If it asks the candidate to evaluate statements such as “my soul sometimes leaves my body”, you need to reconsider your company’s use of this test.
The second concept is “job-relatedness”. The assessment must measure dimensions that are related to success in the job. For example, if you use an assessment that measures competitiveness, your company shouldn’t have too much difficulty making a case for using it to assess sales candidates. Better yet, follow best practices and benchmark the assessment by assessing your top sales people. Another good step is to use a job analysis tool that helps define critical success factors. This not only proves job-relatedness beyond any doubt, but it helps clearly define the qualities you are looking for in the selection process and leads to smarter hiring decisions.
The third concept is validity and reliability. The assessment should be valid – it should measure what it purports to measure. For, example, if the assessment says that someone is competitive, is the person really competitive? Does his or her supervisor think that s/he is? Do other validated assessments say the same thing? The test should also be reliable – a person shouldn’t be assessed as competitive this week and submissive next week. Once again, by checking your test developer’s technical manual you should be able to confirm your test’s validity and reliability.
In summary, by following a few simple guidelines you can reap the benefits of employment testing while protecting your organization in the unlikely event that you should be challenged. Review our test developer’s technical manual to ensure that the test is valid, reliable, job-related and does not adversely impact and special populations.
To view a one-page summary of the technical manual for The McQuaig Word Survey® just click the following link: Technical Manual Research Overview
A sister company of The McQuaig Institute®, MICA Centre for Leadership offers a variety of high impact programs to help you on your leadership journey. Our practical business-centered approach to learning will give you the tools, skills and behaviours you need… when you need them. All of our open enrollment programs include pre and post workshop assignments to ensure that learning acquired in the classroom is sustained back on the job.
The Osborne Report - Volume 1, 2006
By The Osborne Group
Click here for the report.
THE WAY WE ARE: OSTRACISM AT WORK
Being voted off the island? Don't ignore it
By JUDITH TIMSON
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Already feeling insecure in the midst of a company overhaul, a senior manager recently
walked by her company's boardroom and noticed that every senior person but her
was around the table at a weekly planning session she'd always attended. Figuring
it must have been moved to a new time, she approached the boss's assistant and
said, "I guess I was so busy I didn't see the e-mail. I'll just go on in." But
the assistant cleared her throat and uneasily replied, "Actually, uh, you're not
on that meeting list any more."
manager was not only mortified but terrified. She hasn't been able to figure out
whether she's paranoid, permanently persona non grata or both, and her colleagues
aren't being particularly helpful. Chances are she is feeling the effect of ostracism
-- a brutal psychological and social tool that, according to one U.S. expert,
is "more powerful than ever" in our modern world. I believe it.
else would such cruelty-based reality shows as Survivor have become so wildly
popular? I remember first thinking about ostracism while watching the original
Survivor television series. It both horrified and, let's face it, thrilled me
every time someone was voted off the island. It was the ultimate shunning. Teenagers
loved the series because it felt just as cruel as high school. Now it often seems
as if the rest of life has become as cruel as high school. Ostracism can take
place on a highly public level.
you think of her convoluted and questionable involvement in the weapons-of-mass-destruction
scandal, recently "retired" New York Times reporter Judith Miller has felt shunning
by her colleagues ever since she got out of jail. In Canada, our new governor-general,
Micha‘lle Jean, has ironically been given the cold shoulder by both sides of the
separatism debate -- shunned by Quebec separatists and, last week, reportedly
given the cold shoulder by some war veterans who perceive her to be a separatist.
In the workplace, ostracism can be a sly backroom tactic that companies use to
ease people out the door.
reason for its impact today is that many people actually have fewer support systems
to call on when faced with exclusion in relationships, the workplace or even on
Internet chat rooms, says Kipling Williams, a professor of social psychology at
Indiana's Purdue University and the author of several books on the subject, including
Ostracism: The Power of Silence.
cyber-ostracism is now very big -- as any parent can attest after hearing their
kids moan that they've been "blocked" by their friends on chat rooms. In the workplace,
cyber-ostracism can be as simple and as deadly as "oops, guess we left you off
the group e-mail list," or in having a superior or colleague repeatedly not answer
your e-mails. "It's the uncertainty that beats people up," says Tim Cork, an executive
coach and president of NexCareer, who says ostracism goes on in every company.
Tony Kerekes, a partner at
Nvision Consulting, adds that ostracism also happens to new employees who may
not initially fit into the culture and who find themselves ignored to the point
that "a high percentage of new hires, especially at more senior levels, fail."
More inadvertently, it also happens to temporary employees, who often feel invisible
to regular staff. And, of course, whistle-blowers suffer from it as well. Prof.
Williams said in an interview that he first became fascinated by ostracism after
watching a 1978 documentary about a West Point cadet who was ostracized by his
superiors and fellow cadets "after not putting down his pencil at the right time."
The cadet stuck it out and graduated, even though for two years his friends "were
ordered to get up and leave when he came into the lunch room." Prof. Williams
concluded that ostracism "is a powerful social tool -- one that we don't study
He recently conducted
a study in which participants in a lab played an invented game called cyberball
that researchers manipulated so that the subject was never thrown the ball. From
clinical observations, the researchers concluded that "just being ignored or excluded
for as little as four minutes activates the same region of the brain that is activated
when you experience physical pain." Ostracism hurts. It lowers your self-esteem
and, "if you're not careful, you internalize it and begin ostracizing yourself,"
Prof. Williams says. Even those doing the ostracizing are hurt by it, he adds.
"It's an addictive behaviour and ostracizers report discomfort when they try to
stop." The difficulty with ostracism, he says, is that it's a "legal safe way
to punish people." You can get away with it. It's hard to discipline someone for
ostracizing because, as he says in a particularly Kafkaesque turn of phrase, it
is "really a series of non-behaviours" -- no eye contact, being left off the meeting
list, being ignored in the lunch room or being passed by in the hall.
is it legal in the workplace? Yes and no, according to Paul Boniferro, a labour
lawyer at McCarthy Tetrault LLP. He acts for management in disputes over ostracism,
which, he says, is more commonly known as "general harassment." The difficulty
in these cases, Mr. Boniferro says, lies in determining whether an employee is
being managed for poor performance or whether, indeed, he or she is being ignored
and frustrated in his or her work to the extent that what the company is doing
amounts to "constructive dismissal, in which case the employee is then entitled
to notice and severance."
too, can manipulatively claim they are being psychologically damaged by ostracism
when, in fact, they've had a justifiable but undesirable change in status or duty.
If you think you're being ostracized at work, the experts says, don't ignore the
ignoring. You must "document, document, document," Mr. Boniferro advises. Be precise,
Prof. Williams adds. "Keep a list of all the incidents of non-behaviours -- for
example, yesterday I walked into the lunch room and people looked away and didn't
speak to me."
Just as important,
Mr. Cork says, are "those three little letters -- ASK. You must, in a non-aggressive
way, confront your employer and directly ask what is going on. If you don't get
a satisfactory answer or cannot resolve it, "then you know you have a serious
problem and it's up to you whether to go to human resources or get legal." You
can even try to ride it out. But if that's what you're going to do, make sure
you have a support group either inside or outside your office, Prof. Williams
And here's a slightly
reassuring note: There is life after being exiled in your office to the village
of the damned. "People do make it back," Mr. Cork assures. That's one major difference
between real life and those reality shows, in which the exiled ones almost never
make it back. So I guess there's hope for civilization yet.
Talent War Looms in Hiring Boom
November 7, 2005 - CATAAlliance Ottawa
A new Report sounds a wake
up call for industry, government and academia to take immediate action to avoid
major roadblocks in the growth of enterprises reliant on knowledge based workers
for growth. Conducted by CATAAlliance, and based on Ottawa as a first study cluster,
the Report focused on how Ottawa-based SME's (between 20 and 500 employees) view
the current and near future market for knowledge workers.
The Report has
a wealth of statistical data and analysis (see Survey methodology and highlights
section). "The perceptions, attitudes and actions captured in this survey indicate
that once again there is a high demand for skilled knowledge workers in Ottawa.
Our research revealed that 75% of the surveyed companies were currently
in the process of hiring. More than 45% of these companies indicated that hiring
the necessary talent was already somewhat difficult to difficult. Combine this
with results that indicated an additional 15% of respondents not actively hiring
today will begin to do so during the next twelve months and you have a strong
argument that the Ottawa high-technology sector is in the midst of another hiring
boom" said Keith Carter, CATA Director and Vice President, Business Development
of Procom Consultants Group, adding "Unfortunately, our research indicated that
these same companies who achieve business success through process- and goal-oriented
practices do not extend a similarly structured approach to what is ostensibly
their most valuable asset: human capital.
What's more, our results showed
that many companies are utilizing the same methods of accessing knowledge workers
used widely during the tech boom and bust, a costly mistake that fed turnover,
accelerated labour costs and contributed to sizable business losses or closures."
Who said the War was over? The country's high technology sector is facing
the highest employment rate since June 2000: the apex of the high tech explosion.
Although 56% of respondents indicated that Ottawa had enough knowledge workers
to satisfy their company's demands, 70% of respondents indicated that they will
search outside Ottawa when looking for additional skilled labour. This suggests
that local demands for skilled labour are already testing the limits of local
supply. In combination with short supply issues, recent Accenture research suggests
that companies will also compete to keep existing talent as well.
generally believed that in the near future the labour market will be extremely
turbulent and that turnover will be a leading concern for most enterprises. It
seems clear that Ottawa tech firms are once again at war with one another for
human capital. Proven HR Management Methods Not Utilized Of great concern to CATAAlliance
was a key finding that the overwhelming majority of SMEs don't utilize best- practices
to obtain and retain human capital.
It is strongly believed that these
practices should be structured and should form the basis for a holistic human
capital management strategy. The results indicated that a mere 6% of the companies
surveyed used a recognized, certified methodology to obtain and retain their most
valuable asset, people. Furthermore, 3/4 of the companies surveyed do not measure
ROI as it relates to human capital.
When companies talk about their people
as being their most valuable asset, CATAAlliance believes they then must quantify
those assets the same way they do other aspects of their operations. Contingent
Workers (i.e., contractors/consultants/part time) Not Fully Utilized Although
almost half of the respondents agreed that accessing the labour market for traditional
knowledge workers was at least somewhat difficult the survey also revealed that
Ottawa SMEs do not appear to consider contingent labour as an option for addressing
this problem and enhancing their overall human capital strategy. The survey results
show that although respondents perceive the composition of the entire labour market
accurately they don't access the contingent market to the same degree that they
perceive it. In short they use far less contingent labour than is available to
These results contrast current significant research that shows that
U.S. companies are heavily leaning toward the use of contingent labour to achieve
address shortages, gain flexibility and achieve cost savings. Carter said "Sadly,
these results strongly suggest that most firms in this survey are ignoring the
root causes of workforce challenges, with obsolete recruitment processes and no
way of measuring their ROI.
At the same time leading employers are beginning
to recognize that a best-practices approach to human capital is a prudent, cost-effective
response that guards the interests of employers and employees alike. Companies
that act on this knowledge will establish a cost-effective and sustainable competitive
advantage through their ability to measure, identify and retain the region's best
talent. Companies that continue with their unstructured and antiquated approaches
to recruitment and retention will have failed to heed the lessons of the previous
high tech hiring frenzy, and are likely to repeat the same mistakes" John Reid,
CATAAlliance President concluded, " The overall results sound a serious wake up
call for the Ottawa and Canadian high-technology sector to take immediate steps
to avoid repeating past mistakes.
Given the current labour climate, companies
seeking growth and shareholder value need to re-examine their overall human capital
management process." CATA mobilized its Board of Directors last week to develop
innovative and practical solutions to the problem of attracting, training and
retaining skilled talent to propel industry growth.
and Highlights Section In August and September of 2005, CATAAlliance conducted
a survey of local executives in the National Capital Region, which encompasses
Ottawa, Ontario and Gatineau, Quebec.
All of the respondents represent
small-to medium-sized enterprises, or small-to medium-sized operations, with between
20 and 500 employees. The Survey was sponsored by Procom Consultants Group. Out
of the 237 companies in the original survey sample, invitations to 180 invites
were delivered and 102 companies responded and completed the online survey, for
an overall response rate of 43.0%.
Their responses help to answer questions
- How is today's executive
structuring his or her organization to meet today's human capital requirements?
- Do executive perceptions
match market realities?
companies compete in today's labour market using yesterday's hiring techniques?
below are the highlights:
High tech in
Ottawa: the current market
SMEs hire the majority of their knowledge workers locally
of them are currently hiring knowledge workers
hire in Ottawa exclusively
- 46% find it is
somewhat difficult to hire qualified knowledge workers
believe the contingent labour market is growing significantly
future workforce and labour market
of SMEs surveyed plan to hire knowledge workers over the next 12 months
of them will hire 3/4 of their knowledge workers locally
hire in Ottawa exclusively
- 40% predict a growth
in traditional labour in excess of 10%
predict a growth in contingent labour in excess of 10%
and process in hiring
of SMEs indicate that primary disadvantage of traditional staff is cost
of them indicate that the prime disadvantage of contingent staff is lack of loyalty
6% of SMEs use a recognized/certified approach to hiring traditional staff
1% of them use a recognized/certified approach to hiring contingent staff
hire traditional workers directly
- 65% engage
contingent knowledge workers directly
do not use metrics to measure ROI on traditional workers
do not use metrics to measure ROI on contingent workers
Obtain a Summary Copy of the Survey and Report (CATA members only), please contact
Cathi Malette at email firstname.lastname@example.org Full Reports will be forwarded to all
survey participants directly. Should you wish to participate in future studies
of this nature please contact CATA VP of Research, Kevin Wennekes at 613-769-8614.
We also encourage organizations to advance recommendation as part of CATA's HR
Contact: John Reid (email@example.com) at
613-235-6550 and Keith Carter (firstname.lastname@example.org)
to win the networking game
Most people aren't
methodical enough and give up entirely too easily, career transition consultant
TIM CORK tells WALLACE IMMEN
By WALLACE IMMEN
March 2, 2005
Mr. Cork has a personal
computerized contact file that he started 20 years ago and represents more than
20,000 people he has met. There are 2,318 people he considers close networking
acquaintances, with complete electronic files that include interests and family
that he updates regularly. Figuring "conservatively" that each of these people
also has a circle of about 200 contacts, he estimates that knowing just this smaller
group gives him networking access to more than 460,000 people. Get to the point.
Whenever you meet someone,
you have 30 seconds or less -- the average time of a television commercial --
to get your networking message across. More than that and attention starts to
wander. Ask each contact for two references. But don't make the request until
you've earned the right. "If I have just met them, I may not ask immediately for
a contact but the next day, I'll follow up with an e-mail," Mr. Cork says. In
that message, you can say: 'I don't want to put you on the spot but there's something
we discussed that was very thought provoking. It would be great if you could give
me two contacts to help me pursue it.'" That means you don't put the person immediately
on the spot and also gives him or her some time to think about the best people
to put you in touch with. Seek help warming up a call. Ask the person who makes
the referral to do a huge favour and get in touch with the contact on your behalf
first. That way, the person will be expecting your call, you avoid uncomfortable
introductions and you can move easily into a friendly discussion.
most cases, all it takes is you asking, Mr. Cork insists. Be politely persistent.
In most cases, you won't get a response from the person you are trying to reach
on the first call. Mr. Cork says that's how a lot of people fail: they don't try
again and again. You should leave a message explaining the reason for your call,
but you don't have to repeat it each time. If you keep getting a recording, try
calling at different times and keep calling until you get the person live. It
may take five or more calls before you should start to take a hint. However, "I
don't think you ever have to give up," he says. "They may not want to talk to
you but if you are courteous, the worst thing that can happen is they will eventually
call and say 'please stop calling me.' " Most often, busy people don't return
your call because they don't know you and you may not be high on their list of
priorities. But most people will eventually reply if you keep telling them you
want to reach them, Mr. Cork says. And invariably, they will try to be helpful,
as long as you have prepared a compelling and succinct reason for them to help.
The approach that works best
is to tell them how much you value their expertise. Follow up with a thank you.
Express gratitude in as many ways as you can. "Tell them they have done you a
huge favour, thank them profusely and offer to help them in the future. Always
indicate your willingness to return a favour.
you are playing the asking game, you have to gain the right by offering something
in return," Mr. Cork adds. "Networking is really very simply about continually
connecting with people, and it is really always about being willing to give, and
not just in tangible things like gifts or services," Mr. Cork says. You can send
them something that relates to their interests. If they're a reader, send a book
about the business topic you've discussed, along with a personal note. If they
say they are not a big reader, ask if they'd like to have an audio version of
the book to play in their car or an interesting music CD you've heard recently.
You can also offer your time,
your experience and networking contacts to introduce them to other people that
can help them. These are the things that will keep influential people in your
circle of acquaintances, he notes. Networking becomes easier and easier through
habit, repetition and breaking the fear of rejection, Mr. Cork says. And it is
the foundation you want to have firmly in place when it comes time to build your
next career. "People aren't strangers once you've met them. It's so much easier
to meet the right people before you need their help."
a 'feel good' biz
by Roger Pierce
no better feeling than knowing you're helping people to change their lives through
your business. Although not every entrepreneur's intention, any business that
helps people to achieve life goals is a winner. "It's incredibly satisfying to
see a client land a great new job or launch a fresh career," says entrepreneur
Cork is president of NEXCareer (www.nexcareer.
com), a leading Canadian provider of career management and outplacement services.
His company helps people to successfully manage career transition through training,
career counselling and placement services. NEXCareer serves individuals and corporate
clients right across Canada. "We love to help people take their 'NEX' career steps,"
In business for four years, NEXCareer is a boutique
career transition firm with a national punch. "We provide support and expertise
in the areas of career management, outplacement, career transition and coaching,"
Cork says. "We focus on delivering quality high-touch services; for example, our
clients are partnered with a career coach who will advise them on their career
options and support them throughout their career transition."
Career transition can be a scary time for anyone. A
person may be feeling unsure of themselves, nervous about their next moves, worried
about money or even a bit blue. In business, it's not what you do for customers,
but how you do it that matters.
While NEXCareer is very good
at helping people to build their careers, Cork believes his competitive advantage
lies in how his firm treats clients. "Think of your customer as wearing a sign
around their neck that says 'make me feel important, make me feel good'," Cork
says. "We've built NEX by delivering a really high level of individualized client
attention to one customer at a time. It takes effort, but it's well worth it."