Can you use psychometric tools in redundancy decisions?
Redundancy has been a constant background worry for many British workers since recession started to bite in late 2008. Recent news stories suggest that no-one is exempt, from Olympic coaches to council employees. Redundancy can result in very turbulent times, and it’s an area where real leadership is needed.
Making someone redundant involves difficult choices, and it is only natural that leaders will look for tools to help them with such decisions. For OPP, this means that clients sometimes approach us with the question: ‘can your tests and questionnaires be used in redundancy situations?’ The answer of course is no – and yes.
OPP believes that psychometric tools should not be used in the following redundancy situations:
- When the psychometric instrument being considered is only suitable for developmental purposes (so one would never use the MBTI questionnaire for the purpose, for example)
- When there is much stronger evidence already available for deciding which staff will be made redundant
- When the role is unique to one individual
- When a redundancy decision has been made already
- When the psychometric information is out of date
- When the psychometric information was initially collected for a purpose irrelevant to the new role
There are two areas where an ethical use of psychometric instruments may be possible:
- In outplacement counselling
- When the redundancy process has resulted in genuinely new jobs that people need to be ‘selected in’ to
(This is just a very brief summary of our approach to using psychometrics in redundancy. Additional OPP guidelines can be found on pages 12-14 of the Autumn 2010 edition of Psyche, the Psychometrics Forum newsletter).
Back in 2008, we realised that we would need to take a clear position on using psychometric instruments in redundancy situations. We researched published information but found little dealing specifically with redundancies. This spurredus on to create our own guidelines. We are acutely aware that redundancy is a life-changing and worrying experience for employees, which needs to be approached with great care and sensitivity. We felt that rather than avoiding involvement in redundancy initiatives due to concern over poor practice and potential fallout, OPP had an opportunity to contribute to best practice in redundancy situations.
Please note that this article does not constitute legal advice on the topic of redundancy. There are many other factors to consider in redundancy decisions, and this blog looks only at considerations to be applied to the use of psychometric assessment. It is not an exhaustive guide on how to handle redundancies, and you should take your own legal advice on any legal aspects of your own situation.