Assessment Technology Is Revolutionizing How We Understand Talent

By Stephen Yadzinski, acting general manager, JFFLabs & Tyler Nakatsu, manager, JFF.

How do we develop a workforce with the skills we urgently need today?

The disruptive shift to the Future of Work has been accelerated by the COVID-19 Crisis. The scale of this change is massive, and at JFFLabs we are focused on opportunities to help people access high-quality careers that pay family-supporting wages. In order to achieve this, we must train a tremendous number of new workers over the coming years. Assessments have a meaningful role to play, and they can be particularly effective because they support career exploration and help guide workers to the pathways where their skills are most in-demand and where they have the highest likelihood of success.

We face the stark reality of a labor market and an economy upended by the COVID-19 pandemic. As businesses and millions of workers now navigate an uncertain future, both must find new ways to demonstrate their own skills and understand the skills of others. Traditional approaches to hiring that focus primarily on criteria such as background, degrees, and professional referrals are insufficient to address the current situation.

Advances in assessment technology are helping to create more effective solutions for understanding what workers know and what they are capable of from the get-go. Furthermore, assessments have demonstrated that they can help us move towards a more equitable and inclusive world of work. One where opportunity is based on individuals’ capabilities, skills, and talents. And one where companies benefit from better data.

Assessments can help provide increasingly important insights that will help employers build diverse teams, achieve superior performance, and foster productivity. By completely altering the employment landscape, the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the value of the latest assessment technologies, which can meet the immediate needs of employers and jobseekers alike in the new labor market that will take shape as the recovery gets underway.

IT Poised for Impact

Perhaps no industry is better poised to harness the power of today’s assessment tools than information technology (IT). IT continues to be a powerful force that drives the economy and job-creation forward. And given the way COVID-19 is driving companies to embrace new digital realities, the IT surge is likely to grow even stronger.

At JFFLabs, we believe the advances in assessment technologies will open up new opportunities for young people and individuals in transition to access high-quality careers that pay family-supporting wages. But to take advantage of those opportunities, hundreds of thousands of new and returning workers will need training to develop the skills employers will be seeking in a transformed economy.

JFFLabs Assessment Technology Market Scan

That’s why we partnered with Salesforce.org to scan the market and identify exceptional assessment tools that are poised for impact. What we’ve learned is that assessments paired with IT apprenticeship programs can be particularly effective in supporting career exploration and identifying job candidates most likely headed for success. What we didn’t foresee was the scale of the potential impact assessments and training could have even in the face of an economic downturn.

Companies in the Spotlight: Driving Down Adoption Cost Sparks Innovative Solutions Inside the Hiring Funnel

Innovations in technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and immersive learning have significantly reduced costs and increased the efficacy of assessment solutions across the board. Companies are now able to use assessment tools more comprehensively, and much earlier on in the hiring process. This grows business capacity so companies can assess more talent, more effectively, faster, and earlier in the hiring process. With the latest assessment technologies, employers can ensure that recruiting remains unbiased by identifying applicants’ true capabilities and skills, while using AI to manage the high volume of applications they receive.

Since the pandemic displaced millions of workers, the dynamics of the labor market have shifted dramatically. Applicants for open positions were once in short supply, but now the market is overwhelmed with jobseekers, including many people who are looking for work in IT. Using assessments at the top of the hiring funnel has never been more important.

Vervoe is a standout example of a company that’s revolutionizing recruiting by moving assessments to the top of the hiring funnel. An AI-powered skill testing platform, Vervoe helps companies hire the best candidates by focusing on who can do the job, not who looks good on paper. Vervoe’s machine learning system creates tailored assessments that allow companies to test candidates for any skill, and it automatically evaluates their responses at any scale.

By making it possible for employers to assess job applicants early on with made-to-measure, skill tests that are automatically graded right away, Vervoe’s technology expands the pipeline to reflect more diverse candidate pools, improves the candidate experience, identifies the best people, and leads to overall better hires.

The COVID-19 crisis has created a new urgency to connect displaced workers to jobs in sectors where labor is in demand, such as health care, logistics, and e-commerce. In many cases, employers must quickly learn how to hire remote workers as they find themselves flooded with unprecedented numbers of applications. To help both the people who need jobs now and the companies with immediate needs for new employees, Vervoe has created hiring guides that outline best practices for virtually connecting workers to jobs and careers.

In an example of the scale of project Vervoe can handle, Australian health insurer Medibank is using the company’s tools to screen applicants for more than 2,000 telehealth counseling positions as it staffs up an initiative to expand mental health services during the pandemic.

And before the coronavirus outbreak, Walmart had turned to Vervoe for help with an effort to improve hiring efficiency for two of the retailer’s most in-demand roles: fresh produce associate and cashier. The number of applicants for those particular jobs is overwhelming, and a skills assessment at the top of the hiring funnel makes it easier to identify the best talent.

Walmart stores across the country have remained open during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the company is expanding its workforce in response to unprecedented consumer demand. Walmart has hired an additional 100,000 workers since mid-March, and it plans to hire another 50,000 across its supply chain operations.

Together, Vervoe and Walmart are reshaping the way assessments are used to drive skills-based hiring. Here’s a look at the scope and impact of the initiative:

  • With a worldwide workforce of more than 2.2 million employees, Walmart hires for thousands of roles annually across its retail stores, warehouse clubs, and corporate, health care, IT, and distribution divisions
  • Walmart receives 1,500 applications daily, and Vervoe is able to review all applicants at scale using job-specific assessments — including Spanish-language assessments that can be graded automatically
  • Candidates report that they have a clear understanding of what specific roles entail, and they say the system gives them the flexibility to explore employment options
  • Walmart now has a better understanding of its potential for social impact, and it is better able to fulfill that potential by respecting and fostering diversity and inclusivity

“Everyone wants to hire superior talent. The trick is to excel at defining and identifying it. Vervoe helps organizations hire top candidates based on merit. Its AI helps scale the hiring process, bias-free. Candidates love the user experience, and hiring managers love how fast they get lots of great talent.” –David Castro, Talent Acquisition Manager for Central America at Walmart

Assessing People’s Talents to Help Them Find the Right Career

Technology and globalization are rapidly shifting the skills required, and incumbent workers are at risk of being left behind. At the same time, there is a critical demand, in particular, for workers with contemporary, relevant skills in Technology, IT and related fields. The COVID-19 Crisis has further accelerated these trends. It is now more critical than ever that employers deploy more efficient assessment tools to quickly and confidently identify the talent they need to meet both new and pent-up demand for products and services.

They can do that with career fit assessment tools, which are designed to identify people’s innate skills, abilities, and personality traits and match them with careers they will love. By aligning career advice and training recommendations with the actual job opportunities that companies have available, they provide workers with meaningful, actionable insights that help them jump-start new careers.

HR technology company GreatBizTools offers a career fit assessment tool called MyInnerGenius that helps employers find the best people and helps people discover what they do best. With MyInnerGenius assessments of students, employees, and jobseekers, companies can identify pre-employment training needs, rebalance their workforces, identify the best roles for applicants, and offer workers career planning advice, regardless of education or background.

GreatBizTools has a 40-year history of helping large enterprises and small businesses improve their hiring and skills programs and is currently working with IBM on an initiative whose goal is to help people get started in new IT careers even if they don’t have technology backgrounds. IBM is offering a free service in which it uses MyInnerGenius to match people to careers and then recommends IBM training programs that will help them attain in-demand skills. It’s a global campaign that spans in the United States, the UK, Germany, France, and India.

More recently, IBM has responded to the COVID-19 crisis by launching new initiatives and sharing computing resources to help researchers, policymakers, and individuals around the world tackle the pandemic. Amid the ongoing crisis, MyInnerGenius offers a huge benefit to global users like IBM because it is a remote solution for administering and scoring assessments that offers instantaneous and completely unbiased reporting.

Strengths-Based and Bias-Free

Pedigree based hiring, and making recruiting decisions based primarily on the schools candidates attended, the subjects they studied, and the grades they earned introduces bias into the selection process. Replacing traditional hiring approaches with a blended strengths-based assessments model helps companies to level the playing field for all candidates.

Cappfinity is a global leader in strengths-based hiring. The company designs and builds bias-free assessments for a variety of roles, functions, and seniority levels using real-life scenarios and a mix of mediums to create an authentic and unique experience for candidates. Among other things, bias-free, algorithmic assessments can help employers meet their diversity and inclusion goals by enabling them to look past candidates’ backgrounds and instead focus on their ability, fit, and potential.

Founded in 2005 by Dr. Alex Linley, an expert in positive psychology, and Nicky Garcea, a psychologist and strengths expert, Cappfinity now has teams in the United States, the UK, and Australia. The company works with more than 200 organizations and upward of 5 million individuals internationally in pursuit of a shared goal: to strengthen the world by bringing the best companies and the best people together.

Following the success of Cappfinity’s #StrengthsTogether campaign, which helped more than 25,000 people discover their strengths, the company is now working with New York Times best-selling author and workplace expert Lindsey Pollak on a groundbreaking global research project that is exploring the impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on the graduating class of 2020 and the way it may affect hiring of college graduates in the future.

Based on expert opinion from talent acquisition leaders in the UK, the United States, and the Asia-Pacific region, #2020Strong, as the new Cappfinity project is known, will look at how the global pandemic is causing businesses to reshape their approaches to hiring graduates. It will focus on shifts in on-campus recruiting and virtual hiring, while also exploring the impact on social mobility and diversity.

Cappfinity will share its findings with employers of entry-level talent and university career services professionals through a range of digital content, including a series of webinars. Moreover, to help members of the graduating class of 2020 discover their strengths and explore potential career paths, the company is making its online Strengths Profile and digital Career Guide available free of charge through to the end of May.

Accelerated Adoption Drives Social Impact and Superior Performance

Assessments can also play a critical role in helping workers get connected with relevant, in-demand jobs and skills. Each year millions of workers engage with career services through the Workforce System. In 2020, due to the COVID-19 Crisis, the Workforce System has been inundated with demand for people looking for career services and support.

PAIRIN’s My Journey platform matches individuals to optimal careers, professional development, and jobs with their behavioral science-based SaaS (software-as-a-service) products.

The platform uses their behavioral assessment and a needs and desires survey to personalize career, education, and development recommendations for each individual based on their unique abilities, situation, and life stage. My Journey also facilitates direct connections to resources, tools, and support services available through state agencies for seamless navigation and task management.

PAIRIN works with the Workforce System to reach and engage jobseekers by providing them with tools and technologies that are more intuitive, useful and effective.

State governments and large workforce networks use My Journey’s flexible structure to integrate data across multiple agencies and departments to create a seamless and simple experience for those they serve. The Virginia state government has been using the system since 2019, and George Taratsas, staff leader of the Virginia Board of Workforce Development, says it has improved operational efficiencies:

“My Journey allows us to connect clients to the workforce services most relevant to their needs. It brings access to resources from across workforce agencies into one place and streamlines the referral process.”

PAIRIN recently became an affiliate member of the National Association of State Workforce Agencies (NASWA). This could not have come at a more critical time, given the overwhelming demand currently confronting these agencies — as they work to keep up unemployment insurance, re-employment services, and pre-employment training at a time when some economists say the U.S. unemployment could climb higher than 20 percent.

What’s Next

It’s clear that assessment will become an even more integral tool in today’s dynamically changing world of work and learning. These tools will no doubt be especially important in IT, a particularly vibrant sector of the economy that is likely to see an exponential surge in demand for skilled workers.

But our work isn’t done.

While assessment has evolved tremendously in recent years, we expect to see an urgent call for new technologies that support new approaches to handling this important step in recruiting and HR processes. We also see a robust opportunity for additional providers to introduce even more sophisticated assessment tools that make use of emerging technologies such as AI and virtual reality.

Assessment technology is perhaps most important to employers and jobseekers in times of economic downturn. Now is the opportune moment for talent teams to prepare for a future-ready job market in which millions of new and displaced workers join and re-enter the workforce, and millions of other people continue to work, reskill, and upskill remotely.

Innovative assessment tools will continue to revolutionize the way we evaluate talent, and they will catalyze the transformation of education and workforce systems worldwide. We hope you will join us in our vital ongoing effort to seek out and support the development of innovative workforce solutions that drive positive change by making economic advancement accessible to all.

Learn more, visit JFF.org today.

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