The nation’s largest distributor of office supplies was focusing on operational excellence in all aspects of its business. Key to excellence was having the right people in its national network of distribution centers. To ensure this, the organization wanted to add a testing phase to its pre-employment screening process. The tests needed to focus on identifying those who could learn the full range of distribution center jobs quickly and perform them efficiently, accurately and with a consistent level of energy. Identifying individuals whose attendance would be exemplary was also important.
Polaris Assessment Systems conducted telephone interviews with job experts from across the country to define the requirements of the organization’s jobs. It then structured tests that contained the personality, attitude/belief and basic ability components identified by the organization’s experts. Figure 1 shows the Key Success Factors addressed by the testing system.
The tests were administered on a trial basis to a nationwide sample of over 200 incumbents from both “high-tech” and “low-tech” centers. Statistical analyses verified that the tests predicted both overall performance and key facets of performance (e.g., attendance) at statistically significant and meaningful levels. For example, Figures 2-4 show the increasing proportion of Outstanding employees—and the decreasing proportion of Weak employees—among high versus low test scorers.
The organization implemented an un-timed test that took most applicants about 30 minutes to complete. The test contained personality, attitude and belief, and workplace aptitude components. PC-based software was created to score the tests and produce reports that supplied interviewers with information about a candidate’s responses to the tests (e.g., problematic answers to certain items, marginal scores on key test dimensions). This enabled the interviewers to probe potentially troublesome areas in greater detail.
The organization was able to seamlessly integrate a testing phase into its existing pre-employment screening system. Additionally, the organization’s interview process was enhanced by (a) reducing the need to interview large numbers of applicants due to the test screen, and (b) the “pass through” information supplied to interviewers. The result was a system that not only supported the selection of excellent employees; it also exemplified the “operational excellence” the organization was building into all of it processes.