Psychometrics: The Science Of Measuring The Human Mind

Psychometrics: The Science Of Measuring The Human Mind

“The use of technology in assessment, in contrast with the deep and long-standing tradition of self-report measures, has taken human analytics to the scientific level of evaluation that it needs to be in. Tests enabling immersive and realistic simulations and serious gaming provide opportunities for candidates to demonstrate knowledge, emotions, and behaviours as is expressed within realistic scenarios.”

– Shruti Chadha

With the battle for talent becoming fierce, ensuring a skilled and fit for purpose workforce, is a top priority for every HR manager. In the advent of getting the best, recruiters are tuning into psychometrics for effective decisions around recruitment and talent development. The attraction is valid, because of the promise of identifying, measuring, describing and forecasting behaviour, aptitude, interest and personality of prospective candidates.

Test development professionals have been using the Item Response Theory(IRT) methods to provide the mathematical foundation for most of today’s sophisticated and structured assessments. IRT models relate the properties of test items (e.g., difficulty/extremity) and examinee trait levels across knowledge, skill, ability, and interests(e.g., math, verbal, and spatial abilities, conscientiousness, emotional stability, and motivation) to the probability of correctly answering or endorsing items. For practical reasons, most large-scale tests have been constructed, scored, and/or evaluated using one-dimensional IRT models, which assume that an item responding is a function of just one ability or dimension. To obtain a profile of scores representing an examinee’s proficiency in several areas, a sequence of one-dimensional tests is typically administered, with each being sufficiently long to achieve an acceptable level of reliability.

The use of technology in assessments, in contrast with the deep and long-standing tradition of self-report measures and ratings from peers and supervisors, has taken human analytics to the scientific level of evaluation that it needs to be in. Tests enabling immersive and realistic simulations and serious gaming provide opportunities for examinees to demonstrate knowledge, emotions, and behaviours as it is expressed within realistic scenarios.

State of Psychometric Assessments in India by Wills Towers Watson

According to a research done across 100 Indian companies by Wills Towers Watson, the top 4 areas where psychometrics is used in organizations are:

1. Candidate assessment: Recruitment and Selection

Irrespective of the level, hiring the right talent is most critical and so it comes as no surprise that assessing the quality of hire is the top objective.

“81% companies use psychometrics for candidate assessment and selection at entry level, 77% at senior management level, 74% at junior management and 65% at middle level”- Wills Watson towers research

2. Talent assessment and development

Psychometrics aid organizations in establishing desired behavioural traits and identifying individual development gaps. While the survey found that the usage of psychometrics for talent assessment and development was around 50% for most management levels, surprisingly at entry level it was a mere 7%.

3. High potential assessment and development

Organisations are realizing the need to not only identify high-potentials but also nurture them with focused development interventions. The use of psychometrics for high-potential identification and development increases with the level, with 19% using it at entry level, 29% at junior management level and 52% at middle management level.

4. Succession Planning

The survey finds that despite succession planning being a key stated challenge for companies in India, the application of psychometrics in addressing this is comparably low with only 28% using them at senior management and 13% for middle management.

Illuminating the Right Choices

“On the other hand, the fact that some choice is good doesn’t necessarily mean that more choice is better.” 

― Barry SchwartzThe Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less

 The future of psychometrics is indeed illuminated with choices from online assessment platforms, to simulations and gamified apps that are not just friendly to use but are also structured around valid and reliable psychometric theories that were the backbone of understanding human behaviour at work. However, this length and breadth of choices could easily become overwhelming for the HR manager. Here are some tips for HR professionals to test the test so that they can make a well-informed choice.

“A test needs to have three properties for it to be considered for usage across organizations. Data on reliability, Validity and no discriminative language”

A test needs to have three properties. Firstly Reliability, if I take the test on two different occasions, today and maybe after a few days, it should give me the same scores. Eg: If I measure my intelligence today and after a week the test should give me the same scores. If I am measuring personality test today and tomorrow, it should remain within a narrow range.

Secondly, HR professionals need to check whether the test measures what it proposes to measure. This is the Validity of the test, which is its correlation with other tests that measure the same thing. Finally, the tests shouldn’t have any discriminative language and should not have a bias against any social group, minority etc.

Gamification of Psychometrics

While personality, aptitude, ability and knowledge tests have been used for selection and recruitment purposes, the disruption of technology has now changed the way organizations are measuring human personality traits and behaviour at work.

While on one hand organizations continue their faith on reliable tests such as Belbin’s team roles, FIRO-B®, DiSC®, and the Hogan Development Survey to uncover potential sources of relationship tensions at work. MBTI, Big 5, WPI pro continue to be widely used for personality profiling, for developmental needs of mid to senior level executives.

The new entrants in the field are gamified psychometrics offered by organizations like Cut-e, Seven twenty, Revelian. These are the next generation of cognitive ability assessments for recruitment that are built on the foundations of traditional psychometrics while enhanced by game design thinking and technology advances to offer a simply better candidate assessment experience.

These machine learning based systems measure each applicant’s skills, abilities and potential to perform in a given role, based on characteristics such as their appetite for risk, tolerance of ambiguity and persistence. This information then enables recruiters to match individual profiles against their own requirements. It is indeed the genesis of new age psychometric assessments for the multigenerational talent pool that organizations are competing for. The ones, who can create the best talent experience through innovative new tools backed with years of research and scientific evidence, will be the ones walking away with the best talent.


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