[IPAC-List] Value of cognitive ability testing for Journey-Level skilled trade jobs

Lance Seberhagen sebe at erols.com
Tue Mar 15 19:05:41 EDT 2016

Hi Kevin:

I have faced this question with some of my clients.  If PG&E has been 
giving the full test battery to experienced journey-level candidatesfor 
some time now, what percentage of these candidates pass the basic 
aptitude and cognitive tests?  If all candidates pass with flying 
colors, perhaps those tests aren't really needed.  On the other hand, if 
a significant number of candidates fail, perhaps those tests are needed, 
if PG&E wants to maintain the same quality of employees that were hired 
in the past.

PG&E's personality tests probably measure things like safety, teamwork, 
and work ethic.  These worker characteristics still have a high degree 
of variability among experienced candidates, so PG&E should probably 
continue administering those tests to experienced journey-level candidates.

So how much savings are we really talking about?  How much does it cost 
to administer the basic aptitude and cognitive tests?  How much extra 
time is required to administer these tests?  Would the benefit from 
dropping these tests be enough to out-weigh the risk of hiring skilled 
trades people who lack basic reading and math ability?  Is that risk 
greater forPG&E than for other employers?  What could possibly go wrong?

Lance Seberhagen, Ph.D.

Seberhagen & Associates

9021 Trailridge Court

Vienna, VA 22182


www.seberhagen.com <http://www.seberhagen.com>

On 3/15/2016 5:10 PM, Reindl, Kevin wrote:
> Hi all,
> I wanted to get others’ opinions/experiences on a question that our 
> company is grappling with (if you can point to specific research that 
> helps shed light on this, even better):
> Here’s the situation: We typically hire employees into entry-level 
> training or apprentice-level jobs for our skilled trades (electrical, 
> mechanical maintenance, etc.). When we hire entry level employees, we 
> use an array of basic aptitude, cognitive and personality-based 
> assessments in the selection process (e.g., mechanical aptitude, 
> numerical reasoning, spatial skills, conscientiousness, etc.).
> However, because of recent gaps in our journey-level workforce (e.g., 
> due to retirements, etc.), we have been recruiting and hiring 
> experienced journey-level employees…i.e., those who have been 
> performing the same work at other companies or have already completed 
> apprenticeships elsewhere. For these jobs we have been using the same 
> set of aptitude/cognitive and personality assessments, PLUS a test of 
> technical knowledge required in the trade. There is also a 
> behavior-based interview and technical interview to round out the 
> selection process.
> There is debate in our company regarding whether there is value in 
> continuing the use of broad-based aptitude/cognitive tests for these 
> journey level hires.
> 1.On one side of the argument, the cognitive tests are well-validated 
> assessments that have shown to be predictive of success in a wide 
> range of similar jobs, and since we “require” candidates to take them 
> for the entry level jobs, why wouldn’t we require them for higher 
> level jobs?
> 2.On the other side of the argument, why would we need to assess 
> general cognitive ability for experienced journey-level candidates, 
> since they have presumably been performing similar work at other 
> companies. Also, since we also assess their technical knowledge in 
> other tests, require X years of experience, and in many cases require 
> them to have completed a certified apprenticeship…then what added 
> value is measuring their basic aptitude to do this kind of work?
> I know that internal local research/a validity study might provide 
> some answers, but before we initiate that level of research, I’d be 
> interested in thoughts from the IPAC group…
> ·Which side do you lean toward #1 or #2 above, and why?
> ·What do you do for similar situations in your organization?
> ·Do you know of any research (single study or meta-analysis) that may 
> shed some light on the matter?
> As always, I look forward to your thoughts!
> *Kevin Reindl*
> Pacific Gas & Electric
> Human Resources
> Assessments and Organizational Insights
> 245 Market Street, N2J
> San Francisco, CA 94105
> Office: 415-973-7013
> Mobile: 619-322-3368
> k1rq at pge.com <mailto:k1rq at pge.com> or kevin.reindl at pge.com 
> <mailto:kevin.reindl at pge.com>
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> IPAC-List at ipacweb.org
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