Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Every organization is striving to hire, promote and retain the best talent. You need to make sure that you achieve that goal in a fair and unbiased manner. There is an article in today's Wall Street Journal about a Supreme Court ruling regarding a landmark discrimination ruling on a lawsuit originating in the fire department in New Haven, Conn.

The author asserts that the job-test ruling will inspire some companies to consider broader use of exams but that others believe there is still too much uncertainty. The issue in this lawsuit was that when you use job testing you must make sure that the test itself is not biased. In this case the test was certified as not biased yet when only white firefighters passed the test the city concluded it must be biased and wanted to administer a test. The firefighters that passed the test sued and after many years the ruling was issued this week. The ruling was that the tests can not be biased or discriminate but if the test is not biased you can not tinker with the results to favor any one group over another group.

Promotion tests are much more common in the public-sector. However, many private- sector companies use a variety of tests and are now considering using promotion tests.

I feel strongly that leaders in the private-sector need to be careful using any test or metric exclusively to make decisions. Leadership judgement is an important element. If judgement were not necessary, excel spreadsheets could run businesses. Hmmm, maybe they would do a better job. Metrics and tests can be critical tools and often help to eliminate un-intentional bias. Leaders are human and therefore fallible. When we like or dislike someone, even when we are not intending to have a bias, we can give more slack to the employee we relate with better. Tests and metrics can help balance our own biases.

Overall, this case was very interesting and thought provoking. You may also like to read another article in the Wall Street Journal that provides more of the background.

Until Next Time,

No comments:

Post a Comment