Psychological Assessments in South African organisations faces many challenges at present
Psychological Assessments in South African organisations faces many challenges at present. One of these challenges is the fact that these assessments were developed in racially segregated societies, developed and standardised for white South Africans (Huysamen, 2002). This meant that speakers of the African languages were at a disadvantage when they had to participate in these assessments (Classen, 1997).
This challenge brings about criticism on the fairness, validity and ethical practices of psychological assessment and emphasises the need to develop equitable and unbiased psychological tests.
Psychometric assessments support the talent acquisition, development and career management of employees and it is therefore important that these assessments are valid, reliable and unbiased to any employee or group or culture.
This paper proposes to discuss the nature and value of psychological assessments in the South African work context by looking closely at the history behind the assessments as well as legislation and professional bodies that govern the use and development of psychological assessments. This paper will also discuss the overview of psychological assessments and related concepts.
2. THE VALUE OF PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSESSMENTS IN THE WORKPLACE
The value of psychological assessment or testing is largely contested in South Africa (Foxcroft, 2011). Its critics see it as limited in value, more especially in culturally diverse populations (Foxcroft 1997, Nzimande 1995, Sehlapelo & Terre Blanche 1996). Psychological assessments are commonly criticised for its cultural bias, which may result in unfair discrimination on members of previously disadvantaged groups in South Africa. However, with focus and emphasis being put on valid and reliable tests for use within multicultural societies, the following value can be extracted from psychological assessments:
1) Contributes to the efficacy and efficiency of selection, placement and human capital management in organisations
2) Forms a major part in decision making concerning the human capital in the organisation.
3) Provides guidance and alignment in terms of understanding behaviours and attributes of employees that are needed to achieve business results.
4) Helps identify employee strengths and weaknesses, diagnose mental disorders and come up with interventions to help assist these employees.
3. THE NATURE AND PURPOSE OF PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSESSMENT AND RELATED CONSTRUCTS
3.1.1. DEFINING PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSESSMENT
Cohen and Swerdlik (2009, p14) defines psychological assessment as: “the gathering and integration of psychology-related data for the purpose of making a psychological evaluation that is accomplished through the use of tools such as tests, interviews, case studies, behavioural observation and specially designed apparatuses and measurement procedures.”
3.1.2. DEFINING PSYCHOMETRIC TESTING
Psychometric test is any activity and assessment that is conducted in order to evaluate candidate performance and includes but not limited to skills and knowledge, abilities, personality traits, attitudes and job or academic potential.” The most common areas of psychometric testing include: (1) Aptitude tests (2) Behavioural Tests and (3) Assessment Centres.
3.1.3. DEFINING COMPETENCY ASSESSMENT
A competency refers to a cluster of related knowledge, skills and attributes that are required for performance in a job or role and is measured against well-accepted standards. If there are gaps in competence, this can be improved through learning and development. Competencies outline the required capabilities employees should demonstrate, in order to perform successfully as an individual in a job or role or within teams. A competency assessment is performed to understand the individual’s capability against the organisational job requirements, thus identifying strengths and development areas for the individual.
3.1.4. DEFININING MEASUREMENT AND EVALUATION
Evaluation refers to “… interpreting or attaching judgemental value to an assessment…” (Moerdyk, 2009, p4).
“Measurement is the process by which we attach a value or a number to a phenomenon in order to categorise and or quantify it, using agreed upon symbols and criteria to represent quantities of a property of a property or characteristic that are inherent in the phenomenon…” (Moerdyk, 2009, p4)
3.2. THE USE OF OR CHARACTERIST PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSESSMENTS IN THE WORKPLACE
• Talent Acquisition or Recruitment:
Assessments can provide hiring managers insight into the competencies, strengths and weaknesses of suitable candidates. It also provides employers with insight on whether employees are placed in positions that best fit their abilities.
• Learning and Development:
Assessments can help identify those employees who needs further training and development in order to improve or close gaps in their work. Development activities includes rotation of employees into different roles, coaching, shadowing and secondments.
• Career and Succession Management:
From assessments, leaders can pinpoint talent gaps before they can negatively affect business results. Having the results of such assessments can also enable strategic career planning. It also helps to identify career paths for future-focused development.
• Performance Management:
Assessments are used to measure the potential and actual performance for current and future employees. It also helps us to identify possible psychological problems when an employee’s performance deteriorates and helps recommend appropriate interventions.
• High Performance Culture:
Assessments can help identify those employees who have high potential and focus on specific areas of development. Managers need to ensure that they have employees possess skills, knowledge and attributes that are aligned to the company culture.
(Foxcroft, Paterson, le Roux & Herbst, 2004)
4. FAIR AND UNBIASED ASSESSMENTS IN SOUTH AFRICAN CONTEXT
4.1. HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVES
4.2. FAIRNESS VS BIAS
4.3. MODERATING FACTORS
5. WHAT HAS BEEN DONE TO ENHANCE FAIR PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSESSMENTS IN SOUTH AFRICA
5.1. EMPLOYMENT EQUITY ACT
5.2. LABOUR RELATIONS ACT
5.3. REGULATORY PRACTICES IN THE PSYCHOLOGY PROFESSION
6. STRATEGIES TO ENSURE THE DEVELOPMENT OF FAIR AND UNBIASED PSYCHOLOGICAL MEASURES
6.1. STEPS IN TEST DEVELOPMENT
6.2. PSYCHOLOGICAL PROPERTIES OF PSYCHOLOGICAL MEASURE
9. SELF EVALUATION QUESTIONS