Sunday, October 6, 2013

Avoid Specific Feedback on Integrity Tests

Having been told an opportune holiday shopping season may lie ahead, many retailers are ratcheting up the hiring of short-term employees. Having been told about the prevalence of theft by seasonal employees, retailers are ratcheting up the use of integrity testing.
     Professionally-designed integrity tests do help predict the probability of employee dishonesty. Researchers at Manhattan College find that inventories which validly assess conscientiousness and agreeableness are especially useful. High scores on these two are associated with lower rates of workplace theft, absenteeism, tardiness, and uncooperativeness.
     However, if you use integrity testing to screen job applicants, give only general feedback on the results to the test-takers.
  • A Cornell University white paper concludes specific feedback to job applicants who fail the screening frequently results in them learning to fake out the test the next time. These people will use the information you’ve given them to change their answers so they’ll look better. That’s understandable in any job seeker and especially likely in people who, according to the test, have flawed ethics. 
  • These instruments do a better job of spotting people who are dishonest than spotting those who are honest. Telling a new hire that the test identified him as having high integrity could create an impression that, “I can steal a little and not be suspected.” What constitutes thievery may not be clear to the short-term employee. Borrowing tools from the store to work on projects at home and then returning the tools? Taking home samples left by vendors or merchandise the store management has discarded? Using computers in the back office for personal correspondence? 
  • The personality tests are good, but not perfect. Telling somebody, “We think you’re dishonest,” is psychologically damaging, invites retribution up to and including a lawsuit, and might very well be incorrect. 
  • Another limitation: Situational factors enter into employee decisions to steal. Severe economic deprivation, seeing other staff steal, and getting ready to leave store employment are among these factors. Researchers at Penn State Erie, Mercyhurst College, Benedictine University, and Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company found that fast food employees in their sample said they’d be more likely to steal if leaving employment in two weeks than in two years. Integrity testing does a better job of evaluating enduring personality traits than reactions to situations. 
     When we deny applicants employment, it’s good to give specific advice to help them in the future. Yet not with integrity test results.

Click below for more:
Fight Employee Theft With Expectations
Stab Sweethearting
Shrink Your Shrinkage
Warn Employees of Theft Audits
Tally Tradeoffs in Paying for Honesty

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