[IPAC-List] Would you rather.....?

Dennis Doverspike dd1 at uakron.edu
Tue Apr 7 11:24:56 EDT 2009


One thing that would have to be clarified is whether you are talking about
the public or private sector. So lets say public sector.

Then there is a slight terminology problem. In the United States, many times
temps or temporaries are hired from or through temporary agencies. Their
contracts may specifically prohibit them being hired as permanent employees
unless some large fee is paid to the temporary agency.

So, I am guessing you are talking more about probationary employees. It
seems like we already do probationary periods and I am not sure that
research would suggest it works all that well. Basically, we know that if we
ask two supervisors if someone is a good employee, the correlations will be
very low. In many studies I have seen, the correlations is actually close to
zero. Now I do not know if that is because we would not know good
performance if it hit us over the head, if we just tend to disagree on what
is good performance, or if we are just differential observers.

Further, as I stated on some other issue recently. We do not really hire
based on "Merit" but on the temporary result of a competition assessing
merit on that day.

The problem then with your scenario, what do you do when you have 10,000
people for 10 positions? How do you use temporary hiring then?

And lastly, a few years ago everyone was big into managerial discretion.
Whether it be in compensation, broadbanding, or in hiring. We have seen what
happens when you hand executives and managers baskets full of money and say
- here do what you think is best. I trust managerial discretion without
appropriate measurement, review, and accountability.

Dennis Doverspike, Ph.D., ABPP
Professor of Psychology
Director, Center for Organizational Research
Senior Fellow of the Institute for Life-Span Development and Gerontology
Psychology Department
University of Akron
Akron, Ohio 44325-4301
330-972-8372 (Office)
330-972-5174 (Office Fax)
ddoverspike at uakron.edu

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-----Original Message-----
From: ipac-list-bounces at ipacweb.org [mailto:ipac-list-bounces at ipacweb.org]
On Behalf Of Mark Hammer
Sent: Tuesday, April 07, 2009 9:56 AM
To: ipac-list at ipacweb.org
Subject: [IPAC-List] Would you rather.....?

Select a candidate using a half dozen of the crème de la crème of
relevant tools out there, or get to hire them as temps for 8 months and
see what they can do before making a decision?

Where do you place your faith *more*, in well-developed tools or in
what you think you see with your own eyes?

I add the following caveats:

1) This obviously assumes that the position *permits* this kind of
choice to exist. I doubt many would want to "try out" people as
temporary incumbents in public safety/protection or emergency

2) This also assumes that performance is actually observable by the
hiring manager. I understand that jobs, and work contexts, vary in the
likelihood that 6, 8, or even 18 months provides adequate opportunity to
get a clear and confident sense of whether the incumbent meets, and
possibly exceeds, the requirements for the position.

3) In some respects, "good" tools serve as a proxy for on-the-job
observation. I.E., "If I can't try them out for real, I can at least
see what they do in a simulated situation, or what I can expect in such

4) I have a definite bias towards a monitoring perspective. In other
words, merit is great, but I have to be in a position to count it and
argue its existence (or reduction) before legislators and senior
officials. So, **common sense** says that if you hire someone
permanently that you've had on contract for 18 months already, that 18
months probably predicts future performance at least as well, or perhaps
better than, a handful of scores. But the monitoring imperative says
that I cannot simply ask 2000 managers "Are you happy with the person
you hired?", then turn around and present that to senior officials as
"proof" of merit. Similarly, if you get someone on a casual/contract
(and non-competitive) basis to fill a short-term need, is it reasonable
and guided by merit to appoint them eventually because, after all, "they
can do the job"? Or is there something missing?

5) People WILL use testing, and people WILL attempt to convert
short-term contracts into long-term or permanent ones, simply because it
is more expedient than running a competition. Can all of that (formal
competitions, try-before-you-buy, "well, they're doing the job already",
sham competitions, etc.) peacefully co-exist?

So that's the challenge: Do we absolutely NEED testing to be assured
of merit, or are there dependable substitutes?

Mark Hammer
IPAC-List at ipacweb.org

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