One of the challenges of improving diversity is to prevent individuals from self-deselection. People who think that a specific career path, role or organisation isn’t for them, even though they might have the talent. Improving diversity is a major objective of the Civil Service, an organisation with an ambition to become the most inclusive employer in the United Kingdom by 2020.
The brief was to create assessments that would be accessible and engaging for all candidates. The solution was a series of multimedia Situational Judgement Tests (SJTs) that explore how someone is likely to behave in workplace situations similar to those they would encounter on the job.
SJTs are an opportunity for an employer to find out more about candidates’ behaviour and approach – quickly, without bias and in high volume. At the same time, they give candidates an immersive experience of what it would be like to work for an organisation.
The SJTs for the Civil Service needed to reflect the vast array of job functions and roles, to make each test relevant to the applicant. Over 200 job descriptions were reviewed and we carried-out over 60 deep dive interviews with experts looking at what different roles involved and what behaviors were required. Scenarios were then developed reflecting the most common challenges, tasks and situations candidates would experience in post. These situations were then thoroughly tested by over 4,000 Civil Servants internally and over 10,000 people externally to ensure they were realistic and relevant.
As well as being realistic, multimedia SJTs are more inclusive and accessible than other assessment types, making the recruitment process much fairer. Using a mobile-first design that is accessible to best practice standards means that candidates are able to complete SJTs remotely. Assistive technologies also make tests more accessible to individuals from lower socio-economic backgrounds and candidates with disabilities.
Access to practice tests helps to reduce anxiety and provides an accurate sense of what behaviours and activities are being measured – and valued – by an organisation. In the case of the Civil Service, the number of requests for adjustments by disabled test takers has reduced by an incredible 80%, giving a clear message that the organisation is keen to appeal to all candidates.
A multimedia approach gives you the opportunity to visually communicate that your organisation is open to everyone. Different ethnicities, disabilities and regional accents were all represented in the actors selected for the Civil Service SJTs. Care was also taken to reflect diversity across the different junior and senior roles in the scenarios portrayed.
We visited Civil Service offices to observe the dress code and briefed the actors accordingly, so that candidates are able to see that the environment they would be working in isn’t completely formal. All of these elements give candidates an accurate insight into the organisation.
Inclusiveness for the Civil Service is also reflected in how things are done. The cultural importance of drawing on a wide group of individuals to come up with a shared solution was something that needed to be reflected and assessed. So the task-based scenarios show a need to consult with different teams and pilot projects before full implementation.
In addition, SJTs make it easy to provide automatic feedback. This shows candidates what competencies they have been measured against and how they have performed. Giving people the opportunity to learn and develop if they want to reapply.
Since the launch, multimedia SJTs for the Civil Service have been completed by over a quarter of a million applicants and saved over £3.5 million pounds in resources. These tests have helped to fill thousands of jobs in 40 different departments across six grades of seniority. Research has shown that SJTs are a reliable way of accurately predicting job performance, but when used with innovation and creatively they can also be used to recruit from a wider pool by showing candidates that your organisation has a genuine commitment to increasing diversity.