With recruitement tests 1.0 you get (outdated) managers 1.0

Summary : Tomorrow’s managers will need to master a bunch of new know-hows and behiavors that fit into a digital workplace, where information comes in flow through several channels. The rarity of such skills is, in a fact, one the the things that prevent organizations to transform work models today. But, while organizations are struggling to deal with this issue and undertake the right actions in terms of training, the deep cause of the problem is often overlook. As a matter of fact, in the meanwhile, many recruitment tests, most of all for managements, are still aiming at validating skills in contexts that don’t apply anymore to today’s workplace.


A few days ago, I was chatting about recruitment tests with a couple of friend, one of them being about to go through an assessment center process to be hired by a large organization. It reminded me of lots of memories from the time when I was an HR consultant and had to conduct similar things.

So we talked about the kind of tests applicants have to take in such situations and discussed the fact that, if the scenario and methodologies did not perfectly match the requirements for a given position in a given enterprise and the process not conducted with rigor, the whole process may fail.

Among these tests, one is very usual : the “in-basket test”. It’s a simulation where people are briefed about a “virtual” company, its context and are provided with memos, mails etc…. They have a couple of hours to decide what to deal with first, set up action plans, prioritize or delegate things… The purpose is to assess if one has the competences to understand one environment, prioritize, make decisions in a limited amount of time. I have to admit that the test is often very demanding for energy and nerves and I’ve used to be surprised by the number of people I saw ‘blowing up’ while taking it.

Then my friend told me : “So you really believe that the person who will successfully pass the test will be the right one for such positions ?”. Me “yes…if the whole assessment program is well designed …”. Him : “According to what I know, I seems to be the best way to assess competencies that are not enough and will cause inaction whereas organizations need to reinvent themselves”.

He was right.

“Demonstrating one’s ability to prioritize, delegate etc.. matters…but the problem is that it’s done in a context that does not exist anymore and that if the person that pass the test want to preserve the context in which they’re successful, the whole organization is going to suffer”.

Let’s go back to the “in-basket test” (as it’s often conducted)

• Documents are paper ones =>today people have to work with electronic documents. Is it only about a change of media ? No. Today we can see that a major issue for many people is to deal with lots of electronic information and interact efficiently with such tools (for a manager the words that are used, the number of people copied etc… matter a lot too).

• The situation is static. Applicants know the situation and have a pile of documents on their desk => Today they need to prove they can work in flows. We need to know how they react if a new information that changes everything comes 30 min. before the end of the test. What’s assessed is the ability to work on stocks while we need managers who work in flows.

• We start with the assumption that all the needed information has been pushed to the applicant=> In the real workplace, people should prove they are able to look for information, people, learn information about the organization, the context. Applicants should be facing a simulated intranet to assess their ability to find and articulate the right people and information. Even more, while the test is “single media”, reality is different : electronic repositories, email, enterprise directory, instant messaging etc…

Organizations are full of people able to be successful in the context of the test..which is what the workplace looked like 10 years ago…and even more. What prevents organizations from reinventing themselves today is that employees struggle to transpose their assessed skills in a radically new context, to acquire some new know-hows and behaviors that will help them to succeed in a digital workplace.

So, while organizations should be assessing their current employees in this new context and train those who need help to be as good in our new digital workplaces as they used to be before, nothing is done and, even more, new employees are still being hired on criteria that are less and less relevant today.

Let’s think about it…



Bertrand DUPERRINhttps://www.duperrin.com/english
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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