What are virtual assessments? A quick trip down the memory lane.
From paper and pen assessment to the addition of audio/visual technology, assessments have come a long way through the ages. From a hiring perspective, the concept of an assessment center took off during World War II. The origin of such centers was in a military context to help armies recruit hands in large numbers. In the 1950s the concept was adopted into commercial use by large organisations such as Sears, GE, and AT&T among others. Soon assessment centers evolved and turned out to be an effective means for consulting psychologists to help organizations select and train managers and personnel.
With the advent of technology, assessment centers were perceived to be on the brink of either an even more significant transformation or facing the risk of becoming obsolete. Fortunately, with many firms embracing new technology to develop virtual assessment centers (VACs), it was the former that became a reality. With globalization and the rise of MNCs, technology makes it possible for an enterprise to conduct virtual assessments for its employees across its branches or holdings in the world.
The components and application of virtual assessment
VACs are a technology-enabled means for an employer to use standardized forms of evaluation. For example, an online assessment test that can be taken simultaneously by geographically dispersed candidates. VACs are used to assimilate information such as work experience, domain expertise, background, and areas of interest, from groups of candidates.
They are also used to conduct:
- Information or teaching sessions, followed by a quiz
- Question-and-answer (Q&A) sessions based on the material taught
- Group exercises
- Case study-based exercises
- Tutorials and follow-up sessions
- Job interviews, video interviews, presentations, and Q&A
- Pre-employment testing, and software-based examinations
- Continuing education modules and learning assessment
In fact, current and emerging technologies have brought forth a suite of products and tools that drive talent management across the entire hiring cycle – from recruitment tests to upskilling through the career path.
Metrics and analytics for virtual assessment
Recent trends like the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), immersive technologies like virtual reality (VR), and the creation of interactive, collaborative virtual environments have led to increased adoption of virtual assessment. COVID-19 has given added impetus to the development of virtual assessment, and to online assessment tools for recruitment in particular.
Virtual assessment processes are particularly effective when they leverage data and analytics for individual as well as team assessments. Doing so, reduces decision bias and promotes effective decision-making. It can also provide a dashboard view of an individual or team’s performance over a specified time, highlighted strengths, and flagged areas that need improvement.
Metrics in the virtual assessment scenario are designed to correspond to a framework of quantifiable activities that enable an employer to remotely monitor and assess the efficacy or other objectives of e-learning programs.
Enterprises today use metrics ranging from standard metrics such as completion rates, time spent on a particular module, or learning hours completed, to highly intuitive metrics that are in sync with avant-garde technologies such as VR-driven training programs. They include the tracking of not just user data, speed of completion, progress rates, etc., but also body movements and retinal tracking.
Off-the-shelf and bespoke assessment tools: when to apply what
Virtual assessment tools can be customized as per the goals and objectives a company is trying to meet. However, companies can deploy a standard suite of products for more mundane processes. For highly interactive and immersive virtual reality training or recruitment programs, such as those for flight training, combat, or surgery settings, the complement of assessment tools and metrics would be completely different and customized to a significant extent.
How COVID-19 made virtual assessment popular
Due to COVID-19 and the massive shift to working from home, virtual assessment took on a new life, and new learnings and insights came to the fore. Virtual assessments were in turn assessed and fine-tuned as per requirements. Some of the elements examined were:
- How comparable is an in-person assessment with a virtual assessment?
- Can there be an element of bias, however, inadvertently?
- What sort of alternative assessments can companies come up with, on the fly, to reflect and do justice to these changed circumstances?
The key is to strategize, run trials, and validate using metrics. Artificial intelligence, which learns from new “experiences” and data inputs and then builds upon itself, can help, too. AI, incorporating inputs from HR experts, psychologists, and interviewers, can mimic in-person, competency-based interviewers. Furthermore, using a natural language processing AI, video interviews can be conducted in a ‘speech to text’ manner, providing a legal, fair, and transparent recruitment process. This provides a layer of objectivity to hire more diverse talent.
COVID-19 has driven organizations to come up with alternative modes of virtual assessment. The full impact of this agile switch to virtual assessment, in terms of cost and time optimization, resource utilization, operational scalability, and the like, will be evident in future outcomes.