Friday, August 14, 2009

Jargon Jousting - Valid Assessment

Assessments can and should be key elements in such talent management processes as selection, promotion, and development. And choosing the correct assessment is critical for the success and the legality of these processes. A quick internet search or reviews of assessment publisher catalogues yields a bewildering assortment of assessments and equally bewildering claims about their suitability. Perhaps the most problematic of these claims is the pronouncement that a particular assessment is a “valid assessment”. Even more questionable is the claim that a particular assessment has been declared valid by the EEOC or other governmental entity.

Let’s start with the fact that there is no such thing as a “valid assessment”! Validity is not a property of an assessment; validity is a property of the relationship between an assessment and its use in a particular situation with an identified population. Repeated demonstrations of validity do not result in an assessment being valid; each demonstration is unique and must be made in compliance with established professional psychometric and legal guidelines. All that can be said about an assessment that has repeatedly demonstrated validity, is that the assessment has a history of demonstrating validity under certain known conditions.

As for the EEOC or other government entities, none of these organizations are in the business of declaring an assessment “valid” or “invalid”. They know better! What they can and will declare is the finding that a particular assessment has either demonstrated validity or failed to demonstrate validity in a particular situation with an identified population. They also may determine that the use of a particular assessment in a specific situation is not justified by business necessity or that the assessment disadvantages protected classes within the population from which applicants typically are or should be drawn.

So buyer beware. The claim that an assessment is a “valid assessment” is a guarantee that it is not!

by Leslie H. Krieger, Ph. D, SPHR, President of ATG

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