News from PSA
Government departments spent $1.5 million dollars on psychometric testing last year and the Public Service Association is calling for a halt on its use in organisational restructurings.
Under the Official Information Act the PSA asked government departments if they used psychometric testing last year, how much they spent, and for what purpose.
Most departments provided information although Internal Affairs did not provide a figure, saying the costs were included within general placement fee costs. MBIE did not provide figures, as the department did not exist in the year requested, while MFAT said while it did use psychometric testing, it couldn’t isolate the cost.
The biggest spenders were the Department of Corrections ($376,439) which used the testing for recruitment and the Ministry of Education ($198,823) which used it both for recruitment and internal restructuring.
PSA National Secretary Brenda Pilott says the PSA is very concerned about the use of psychometric testing in the public service, particularly in internal restructuring situations.
“It is very difficult to understand why psychometric testing is being used in organisational restructures. Staff may have worked in an organisation for years and will have had numerous performance reviews. Their skills, aptitudes and failing should be well known to their employers. It’s also frightening to think they could be uses to make judgements on whether people keep their jobs or not.”
Over the past year, departments which have used psychometric tests on internal candidates for jobs or promotion include Internal Affairs, Conservation, Corrections, Culture and Heritage, Primary Industries, Environment, MBIE, Education, Foreign Affairs and Trade, Health, Transport, Customs, Statistics.
Brenda Pilott says there is now a legal precedent against the use of psychometric testing as part of restructuring.
Earlier this year the Employment Court awarded a former Transfield Services worker $15,000 for wrongful dismissal after a psychometric test was used as part of redundancy considerations. The judge ruled that the test was “irrelevant”, of dubious value, and led to a ‘plainly wrong’ conclusion.
The PSA has written to the States Services Commissioner asking him to use his leadership role as head of state services to ensure psychometric tests are not used in restructurings, especially where redundancy is a possible outcome. If employers insist on using it, the PSA would like to see it limited to appointments of senior management positions only.
Statement from Ministry of Education’s Deputy Secretary Andrew Hampton
The Ministry of Education did not spend $198,823 on psychometric assessment. The correct figure for psychometric assessment was $96,933 ex GST in the 2011/12 period.
Another $101,890 excluding GST was spent on development assessments, interviews and development plan preparation using 360 degree assessment tools. This cost is not related to psychometric assessments. However, we also supplied this information as part of our response to an Official Information Act request.
Psychometric assessments were part of the Ministry’s recruitment and selection process – the Ministry has 2500 FTEs and will in most years hire approximately 350 staff. Typically psychometric assessments $310 plus G.S.T per candidate.
The above figures are now nearly two years old and the Ministry is reviewing its use of these assessments as part of its recruitment processes.
Historically the Ministry has used psychometric testing when assessing candidates for appointment, or for development purposes of existing staff. Candidates for appointment may include external candidates or candidates for roles which have arisen internally due to changes to the Ministry’s organisational structure. These tests examine candidates numerical ability, critical reasoning ability and personality profile in terms of preferences and job related traits. The assessment is only one of the assessments used in the evaluation of a candidates ability to perform successfully the role they are being considered for; and are a key input when reference checking the suitability of candidates for roles. These assessments are part of the Ministry’s recruitment process for roles which include the processes of:
· Short listing based on the selection criteria (Internal applicants must be assessed in the same way as external applicants)
· Behavioural Event based panel interviews which explore the competencies required for the position (mandatory)
· Relevant, valid and reliable psychometric assessments
· Reference checks (mandatory). A minimum of one reference is required for internal applicants; a minimum of two references is required for external applicants.
The 360 degree assessments are also used from time to time as part of the Ministry’s development of staff. This involves a robust feedback process from a individual’s peers, clients, manager and subordinates.
The use of psychometric testing for internal roles or during organisational change is uncommon.
The Ministry’s change protocol is designed to provide certainty to “affected” staff as quickly as possible following the announcement of the decisions relating to a organisational change proposal. Where possible the Ministry aims to reconfirm staff into roles. Where this is not possible staff may be reassigned to new by matching the skills, knowledge, qualifications, experience and past performance of the staff member with the requirements of the position. The selection process for these roles may include the use of psychometric assessments.
Psychometric assessments are employed in the assessment of candidates for both manager and individual contributor roles. This is only one of the factors in the assessment process.
The tests employed are provided by reputable providers and are widely used across the state sector.