Friday, May 9, 2014

Test Monkey

I am all for technology and its use to make things easier, faster and cheaper. Sure but then at what cost does that mean for human interaction and in turn employment?

Well it explains the sudden overdrive in Education reform to be tech centric. This is the idea that online education programs can supplant curriculum, make it more universal, standardized and eliminate human error as in Teacher/Student connection.

Education reform is all about eliminating Teachers and turning education and classrooms into internet centers with monitors and little else. I have experienced it first hand in "alternative" education for those students who have either elected to or dropped out of mainstream schooling. You see them for hours sitting at a screen as one prompt comes up after another. They are test monkey's.

And it shows as they have little ability to time manage, anger manage, communicate and when asked to put pen to paper to write a calculation or a sentence they simply struggle. Funny I met a teacher today who used to teach at said alternatives and now teaches the advanced placement kids at a conventional high school. He said nothing when I asked why he left and what he thought. He just raised his eyebrows. In other words if he believed in it he would still be there. But what was he doing this morning? Proctoring the AP tests. Nuff not said in this case.

We have become a nation of test taking to assess and determine our worth. It's not who you are it is how well you test.

Ever been to a school for the elite? They don't emphasize or do that. In fact in some schools that cater to the tech elite they have no device zones. Interesting that learning falls into the more explorative and socratic method that these same denziens of the valley abhorr when it comes to education for the poor.

Well this article explains why. We need service workers and what better way to train them but get them early on to learn how to sit for hours at a screen and jump with each check the box, hit enter and move on. Save hours of actual training, interaction and well talking and interacting with the poors. If you think CEO's or Executives are subject to this, think again. Think... that is what is missing from this picture the ability to think, process and in turn respond to each individual as an individual. One size fits all.

We are becoming a service economy and service nation. From scheduling programs to eliminate managers, to self service check outs and in, to the robotic conversations scripted and programmed on how to help a customer is just another way for data mining a profit generation for those who actually create these programs.

All of this talk about STEM education, well little of it has to do with actually writing programs, understanding engineering or the skills needed to update, improve or create. We can import those people from foreign countries, hang an H1B1 visa over their head and in turn use their supposed better education to do that heavy lifting.

So in this case if you are older, have language issues or are not net savvy does this mean you are out of luck or in fact if you can simply perform well on the test regardless then you should be candidate number one right? I wonder.

We are becoming a nation of test monkey's.

Online tests are the latest gateway to landing a new job

By Sarah Halzack,
Published: May 8

If you’re applying for a job as a customer service representative at T-Mobile, you’re bound to encounter Jason Easton, a cranky mock customer who has been on hold for nearly an hour.

“Ah! It’s about time,” he says, demanding to know why his bill has gone up.

From a scrappy space start-up founded in 1982 by three Harvard Business School friends, the Dulles-based company has come a long way.

As Easton rattles off his name and phone number, you’ll have to quickly pull up his account, help him with his bill and determine whether he’s eligible for a $30 credit that he wants.

T-Mobile asks job applicants to take this test before inviting them for an interview because the company has found powerful correlations between the online assessments and success on the job. High scorers tend to resolve customer calls about 25 seconds faster than those who receive low scores. That means they can handle one more call a day and about 250 more a year.

At T-Mobile and legions of other companies, Web-based tests have become a key gateway to landing a job, a potent screening tool that can effectively bump a résumé to the top or bottom of a manager’s pile.

Companies are using these tests to evaluate skills and personalities for job openings at every rung of the career ladder, from bank teller to C-suite executive. They are not merely on-screen versions of decades-old paper employment tests. They are built on the power of big data: Creators have harnessed a massive trove of results to help companies pinpoint the kind of worker who might thrive in a particular job.

Test makers say their offerings bring a consistency and objectivity to a process that can sharply improve the odds of hiring the right person. But in a highly competitive job market in a tepid economic recovery, the increased use of online testing could mean that workers who aren’t digitally savvy or lack Web access might face one more hurdle in getting a job.

“Assessments are right more often than they’re wrong,” said Elliot Clark, chief executive of SharedXpertise Media, a firm that puts on conferences for the human resources industry. “But like anything else, when you do a prediction, the forecast has a percentage of accuracy. The issue is: What percentage of people get screened out that should have gotten a shot?”

CEB, an Arlington-based company that is among the world’s largest providers of such tests, says it is administering 30 million talent tests a year — one for almost every second of every day. Another online test provider, IBM, says it administers 36 million assessments a year, most of which are pre-employment tests.

In 2013, more than a third of new hires reported taking such a test, compared with 18 percent in 2008, according to CEB data.

Some tests evaluate a specific skill, such as how quickly and accurately someone can make change from an onscreen cash register or program software in the Java coding language. Many tests incorporate simulations of scenarios one might encounter on the job. Marriott International, for example, shows housekeeping applicants a photo of a landscaped area at one of its hotels and asks candidates to determine what’s wrong with it. (Perhaps a gardening tool was not put away properly). In one of CEB’s tests for a supervisory role, applicants might have to demonstrate how they would talk to an employee who was coming in late and missing important meetings.

Providers say the tests hold the promise of leveling the playing field for job applicants by removing the chance of bias that comes with a traditional résumé screening. The tests can’t distinguish, for example, if a candidate didn’t attend a top-tier college, is currently unemployed or is a woman or minority.

“In many cases, algorithms can trump instinct on staffing,” said John Boudreau, a professor in the business school at the University of Southern California, adding that decades of research have found that tests can serve as reliable barometers of certain personality traits, such as conscientiousness.

Experts say this type of testing is on the rise now because innovations in technology have made the assessments markedly simpler to administer while improvements in data analysis have made them more useful. The software also helps hiring managers sort through the ever-growing volume of résumés they receive, as the application process increasingly moves online.

T-Mobile, for instance, received about 1 million job applications last year in the United States and hired about 14,000 people. Jared Flynn, head of talent acquisition at the wireless company, said the tests have become a crucial part of the hiring process for store associates, managers and call center representatives. Although hiring decisions are ultimately made based on a combination of test results and interview performance, Flynn says, managers will look first to the “top of the barrel”—in other words, those who scored best on the tests.

“This saves a third to half of the recruiting labor. It’s huge,” Flynn said.

For T-Mobile sales associates, data show that those with high test scores bring in more revenue per hour and that the customers they assist have lower rates of service cancellation. Meanwhile, those who performed poorly on the T-Mobile assessment were twice as likely to quit a job, which can cost the company thousands in hiring and training expenses.

To make the simulations as realistic as possible, CEB uses professional voice actors and bases the movements of its 3-D animated characters on those of a person in a motion-capture suit.

At IBM, which makes tests as part of its Smarter Workforce initiative, Zahir Ladhani, a vice president, said the assessments help companies hire better salespeople by making them rethink assumptions about the kind of person who will thrive in that role.

“The perception out there is [you need] outgoing and persuasive,” Ladhani said. “But our studies show you want somebody who’s sensitive and helpful.”

Josh Bersin, principal of the human resources consultancy Bersin by Deloitte, said his firm estimates that employment testing is a $1 billion market.

“They’re very, very good things for both sides,” Bersin said.

Still, Web-based tests might present obstacles for some workers.

Many of CEB’s tests, for example, cannot be taken on a mobile device. That is by design, because the company’s research has shown that people score lower on cognitive ability or problem-solving tests when they’re taken on mobile devices. CEB is trying to figure out why. One hypothesis is that people who use mobile devices are taking the tests while on the go and, therefore, distracted.

“As scientists and as ethical professionals, we’re keeping the brakes on it a little bit,” said Ken Lahti, CEB’s vice president of product development and innovation.

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