Previous Article Next Article Online assessments – is it fair for everyoneOn 19 Nov 2002 in Personnel Today With no face-to-face customer contact, Intelligence Finance realised earlyon that staff development had to be central to it operationInternet-based assessment is now widely used in recruitment, selection anddevelopment, and with good reason. Technology allows more efficient andinnovative processes to be delivered consistently and cost-effectively acrossdifferent parts of the organisation – a major benefit for global employers. It is also easier to customise and brand processes and design assessment tasksto closely resemble everyday working practices, giving candidates a betterinsight into whether they are suited to a particular culture and job role. However, fairness and equality remain an issue, both in terms of attractinga diverse range of applicants and avoiding bias, and web-based processes havebeen criticised for creating ‘unequal opportunities’ as users have tended tohave a particular socio-economic profile. Although this is beginning to change, the ownership and usage of PCs canrepresent part of a lifestyle and culture. By using the internet as the onlyapplication method, organisations run the risk of marginalising a significantnumber of suitably qualified applicants. Research suggests, for example, that: – Indian households are nearly 60 per cent more likely to own or use acomputer than black, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, or white households (FRS/Mintel) – There is a digital gender divide – only 25 per cent of internet users inthe EU are female (Cyber Atlas) While employers are becoming more aware of their obligations under theDisability Discrimination Act, there are still many which fail to makereasonable adjustments to their selection processes for people withdisabilities. By building in adaptations at the front end of the online selectionprocess, employers will ensure fair access and a potential broader talent poolin which to recruit. There are other ‘best practice’ guidelines that will help to make onlineassessment effective and fair for everyone: – Computer proficiency will vary, so offer practice questions and time forfamiliarisation (especially if job simulation exercises are included). Noteveryone has ready access to the internet, so allow plenty of time to organiseresources – In internal assessments, inequality of technology and access to equipmentis likely to be an issue because of different software and hardware levels.Carry out bottom line benchmarking, then design the assessment for the mostbasic technology – There is also the question of whether or not online assessment should betimed. The worry is that reliability of technology is not yet of sufficienthigh quality for bias to fail to be an issue. Ensure that adaptions are builtinto the front end of the process rather than once completed – Content of assessment material should be valid, clear and unambiguous ascandidates working online will have little or no opportunity to query the test – Unless your target population is computer-literate, ensure the system doesnot disadvantage first-time users. Include simple, well-signposted navigation,help files and technical support – All assessments, exercises, competency frameworks and indicators need tobe culture-sensitive. Also, check that the level of English required toundertake the assessment is not higher than that needed to carry out the work – Alternative assessment procedures should also be available Jon Whiteley is head of diversity at occupational psychologist PearnKandola which specialises in assessment, development and diversity. www.pearnkandola.com Comments are closed. Related posts:No related photos.