Anthony S. Boyce is a Partner at Aon and currently leads Global Research and Innovation for the Assessment & Leadership practice to develop, design, and deliver selection systems for candidates in organizations, as well as leading the design and validation of a tool called ADEPT-15®, a state-of-the-art workplace personality measure.
Tarandeep Singh is a Partner and APAC & ME Assessment Practice Leader and leads Aon Hewitt's India practices on areas of Employee Engagement, Employee Value Proposition (EVP), HR & business strategy alignment, organization structuring and leadership capability building. Tarandeep has over 19 years of experience in HR Consulting and Outsourcing.
If you look at the past five years, what are the major changes that you have seen in the landscape of assessments?
Anthony: In the past five years, candidate experience has significantly driven innovation around assessments in multiple ways. First, the move to computer-based assessments has allowed more streamlined experiences of compact assessments in shorter span of time. Secondly, assessments can now be remotely carried out in traditional, unproctored settings through virtual proctoring. This has removed the physical barriers for candidates as they can take such assessments on-demand and at their convenience. Third is the use of mobile assessments. More and more clients are moving to mobile assessments that have resulted in seamless interactions with candidates. Also, in my view, candidate assessment has become a medium of ‘information exchange’. Organizations push the information about the value proposition around the organizational role that is on offer in return of the candidate’s information about his skills, expertise, and behavioral competencies.
Tarandeep: When you talk about mobile, it also clearing the whole generational lack of potential fun. Assessments are also adapting to this. There are gamified assessments that ensure that even though the attention span is less, there is a fair rate of engagement with the candidates. I think both candidate engagement and mobile are coming together well and in the way assessments are becoming fun as they go by. Secondly, given that technical and domain skills will become relevant for the future workforce, there can be a combination of domain, technical, behavioral, and leadership assessments that we can see in the future.
Based on your research, what are some of the new innovations in testing and how candidates are measured?
Anthony: One of our new assessments measures a cognitive ability called “executive attention”, which is the ability to separate ‘signal from noise’ when one is processing information, how one apprehends things, and the ability to connect divergent ideas and thought processes. We worked with an eminent cognitive psychologist Professor (Dr.) Randall W. Engle at Georgia Tech to develop our assessments on executive attention. This is also less related to the socio-economic or ethnic statuses of the individuals as it separates traditional cognitive components called ‘crystallized intelligence’ that are present in quantitative reasoning. Instead, it’s getting at what we call ‘fluid intelligence’, which determines how efficiently one processes information.
Tarandeep: We have also created a ‘digital worker model’ that hinges on the ability to be agile, to be able to learn as well to connect with a broader ecosystem, which will be relevant for future. So that’s another good piece of content that is evolving and we have seen some great interest in that.
There’s a lot of interest in making the workforce digital ready. How are assessments being leveraged to prepare employees? What is the future of candidate assessments in this context?
Tarandeep: At the core is the understanding of what a digital mindset involves. It involves a confluence of technical, domain, and industry, as well as an understanding of a clients’ business context. Therefore, when you look at hiring people, it’s no longer about an MBA who can make a difference. It is about somebody who understands say for example, how Blockchain is shaping the future of an industry and then reflects on how a process can be built to understand trends and prepare for the future. From a whole broad bucket of competencies, we are talking about somebody who is a: 1) Thinker, 2) Achiever, 3) Socializer 4) Explorer.
Also, the way and the manner in which people socialize is fundamentally changing. When we talk about an explorer, we’re referring to someone who is open to new ideas continuously, someone who goes out to figure things as we move around. There’s a detailed model of 16 competencies that underlie this and the intent here is not to come up with a cookie-cutter approach and start to say that this is the only way to move. But this becomes like a digital type of framework rather than just a model that we are trying to apply.
Anthony: If you look at the first competency, a thinker is really measuring baseline intellectual curiosity and the way you embrace novelty. We measure those through mastery orientation. How much do you live to learn? Do you have an extremely broad interest? Do you read very broadly and consider varied perspectives? Some people enjoy the discomfort that comes from a new experience. So, walking around in a city where you don’t speak the language, trying the new food that you haven’t tried, experiencing something that is brand new to you. But there are others who find it frightening and anxiety-provoking. And that is what differentiates them. That’s a key thing that we measure.
If you want to pick one trend that you are excited about for future, what would it be?
Anthony: One trend that I am excited about is the ability to distill features and measurements that are traditionally not assessments. For example, the idea of doing a digital interview and distilling behaviorally relevant features from micro-facial expressions, eye contact, utterances, in addition to the analysis of the content. If we do that properly and if we do it in a way that explains what we are measuring and how we are measuring and why it matters for performance, that’s huge and amazingly powerful. Another focus is on measuring performance on-the-job with knowledge-based work where there is no specific objective outcome. I think that with technology, we are going to harness all of that data and use it to define what successful performance looks like.
So that’s the trend I am excited about because I think it will allow us to increase the precision with which we are able to measure success and the fit of individuals for particular roles.
Tarandeep: I will say something which is more here and now and is relevant for our market and that I believe is about ‘reach and connect’. Using mobile technology to reach more than a billion users in our country is actually an opportunity to provide equal opportunities and provide a platform where people from anywhere can start to apply. Secondly, I think what we are lacking today is candidate engagement. That’s my definition of connect. Even, when the candidate has taken the test and walked away, irrespective of the outcome - have we really left the candidate with an impression? Have we made an impression on their journey and experience? That’s the brand that will continue to build the organization.