To be effective and accurate in matching the abilities of current or potential employees to jobs, Physical Abilities Testing (PAT) must produce consistent results. Consistency is essential for making objective and reliable employment decisions, maximizing the benefits of testing, and ensuring a legally defensible PAT program.
So what does it take to produce consistent PAT results? Here are five key factors that can help.
- Use detailed testing protocols with standardized scoring.
A PAT built upon such protocols offers objective evaluations of job-specific physical capabilities. By using standardized criteria to evaluate specific factors related to safe, effective, and efficient job performance, you ensure that every person tested is treated equally. Solid testing protocols also helps to assure consistent results and a legally supported PAT program.
- Use job-specific tests.
If you have done some research into PAT providers, you have probably run across many who offer general, one-size-fits-all tests, such as general strength assessments or aerobic capacity tests. However, these tests have serious limitations in assessing potential job performance since they are not designed to correlate with specific job demands. This lack of correlation to the essential functions of a specific job can put your company at risk for regulatory and legal issues.
- Base tests on a detailed job demands analysis.
A detailed on-site job analysis performed by a qualified professional provides the necessary information on which to base defensible screens. The devil’s in the details when it comes to creating defensible screens. Law suites are won or lost over a few inches, pounds, or repetitions.
- Conduct comprehensive training for test administrators.
Tests must be administered consistently in order to provide consistent results. For that reason, it is essential that those who will be administering yours are adequately trained to ensure that they are able to conduct them effectively, providing accurate, objective evaluations in each and every case.
- Do QA and validation work.
While the factors above are essential to consistent results and a legally defensible PAT, taking the right steps beyond the design phase matters too. This includes doing some quality assurance and validation work to ensure that your test program works as well in the real world as it does on paper. For instance, "incumbent testing," where existing employees already doing the job for which new applicants will be screened are given the same PAT you will use for new hires, is a critical measure of screen validity and accuracy. Without this, you may find yourself screening out otherwise capable individuals and putting your company at risk of litigation in the process. Reviewing certain factors – like injury rates, injury costs, and employee turnover rates, for example – to make sure these numbers are moving in the right direction can also provide an indication of test quality.
Taking these steps can go a long way towards ensuring that you produce consistent PAT results. However, it is very important to note that applying those results consistently is equally important to maximizing the benefits of these employee assessments and to ensuring regulatory compliance and legal defensibility. For instance, if your company has an established policy of rescinding conditional job offers when a candidate fails their PAT, that policy must be enforced across the board, even if the candidate has connections in the executive suite. Making exceptions not only compromises the effectiveness of your test program, but can also leave your company open to regulatory scrutiny and/or lawsuits.