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Recent articles about the RST are shown below:

Recruitment of a Trainee Trading Standards Officer

Dumfries and Galloway Council LogoBackground

In the autumn of 2015, DWHRC were contacted by Sandra Harkness, Service Manager for Trading Standards at Dumfries & Galloway Council, to assist with the recruitment process for a Trainee Trading Standards Officer (TSO), with the potential use of the RST.  Sandra had had to work hard to secure funding for a Trainee TSO and the gloomy budgetary forecasts suggested that this may be a one-off opportunity and therefore the right candidate absolutely needed to be found. Having previously recruited for a variety of temporary posts, she was aware of how difficult it could be to assess a candidate’s capabilities from the basic and traditional recruitment process.  As this was a rare opportunity to appoint a much needed and permanent post then recruiting the wrong person was an inconceivable prospect. Key issues included:

  1. Effective drafting and placement of a suitable job-advert, in order to produce a good number of applications of the desired quality.
  2. The need to be able to objectively assess applicants for suitability for the role at a relatively early stage in the process, in order to make good long/shortlisting decisions. 

When Sandra became aware of the RST in October 2015, she was keen to explore in what ways the RST might be able to assist her in improving the quality of the recruitment process for this role. 

An anticipated benefit of using the RST would be that as it is available as an on-line assessment, identified applicants would be able to take it at a time and place of their own choosing, well in advance of any formal interview/assessment day, and that it would provide objective data to assist with the assessment of the applicants.

Approach & Process

Initially, Sandra took the RST herself and received feedback on the outcomes.  Fundamentally, she thought that her profile of scores was a pretty accurate description of her, which encouraged her to trust the “scores-on-the-doors” which would be produced for applicants for the Trainee TSO role, most of whom she would not know.  She was also therefore able to experience what it would be like to actually take the RST herself.  Generally, she liked the format in which the RST is presented as an on-line assessment, but did make one or two observations about how it could be improved.  This feedback was taken on board and one or two changes were made to the RST on-line assessment interface, before any actual candidates for this role were asked the take the RST.

A time-line was then produced for this recruitment process, to include all the key milestones:

  • The placement of the job-advert in suitable media.
  • The closing date for receipt of applications.
  • A deadline for the completion of the long-listing stage.
  • A deadline for the completion of the shortlisting stage.
  • Dates for interview/assessment days.

Astonishingly, 272 applications in total were received for this role by the closing date!  This was somewhat surprising, as previous recruitment efforts for temporary posts had always resulted in disappointingly few applications.

At this stage, it was decided to whittle the 272 applications down to a more manageable long-list of 35 by strict comparison to the criteria specified in the Job Description and Person Specification.  The long-listed 35 were then asked to take the RST, with the objective being to identify a final shortlist of a maximum 10 candidates who would be invited to attend a formal interview.  This was accomplished by means of the RST “Short Profile Report”.  (For a Short Profile Report example please click here).   Then, an RST “In-depth Interview Prompts” report was produced for each of the 10 shortlisted candidates.  This contains suggested interview questions, designed to explore the candidate’s scores on each of the RST’s key themes or dimensions, in more detail.  (For an example of the RST “In-depth Interview Prompts Report”, please click here).

Ultimately, an eight question, question-set was compiled, featuring four areas derived from the RST, together with another four which were specific to this Trainee TSO role at Dumfries & Galloway Council.

 

Outcomes

The RST was initially used at the long-listing stage, where 35 candidates were invited to complete it.  A spreadsheet of all the candidates’ scores was compiled, which made the shortlisting process much easier. Ten candidates were identified for the two interview/assessment days, which took place in December 2015, with eight candidates ultimately being interviewed on these days.

At the end of these two days, the selection panel had a very difficult job in identifying the preferred candidate, as the quality of the shortlist was very high.  However, a preferred candidate was identified and offered the role, which she accepted.  Additionally, both second and third-choice candidates were identified, as contingency against the first-choice candidate ultimately not taking up the role.

Some Benefits of Using the RST

  • Helping to objectively and fairly sift a large number of applicants for the role.
  • Providing the selection panel with a set of bespoke-designed interview questions, together with “behavioural indicators” for each – examples of the type evidence the candidates would need to provide to score well.
  • Helping the appointing manager and the selection panel focus in on the key selection criteria for this type of role and how to probe the candidates for evidence around them.
  • As the RST is a thoroughly researched and professionally designed psychometric assessment instrument, this contributes objectivity, fairness and administrative convenience/efficiency to the process, thereby helping to justify the decisions made in the process, should they be challenged.
  • Conveying a professional approach to the candidates, encouraging the preferred candidate to accept the job-offer when made.
  • Generally, providing the appointing manager and selection panel with a range of useful information and data to facilitate the selection process.

 

Feedback from the Appointing Manager

At the conclusion of the process, Sandra Harkness, Service Manager for Trading Standards at Dumfries & Galloway Council said:

“We could have appointed any of the eight we interviewed! We did, however have a clear top three and had an agonising time trying to decide which one to offer the post to….but this gives us a second and third option that we would be more than happy with.

 I honestly don’t know how we would have got down to the final few without the RST.

It was a difficult selection process because all of the shortlisted candidates were of excellent quality!  We used 4 general questions at interview and then gave them 4 of the RST questions. The RST questions were excellent at probing the weaker areas and definitely gave us a better insight into each candidate. We also did a written test which was very worthwhile.  I would definitely recommend the RST to anyone doing a similar recruitment process.”.

Filed Under: All Categories / Case Studies

Developing the RST

The RST was originally launched in 2007, with various interim reviews being carried out in subsequent years, most notably in 2011.  Best practice with any psychometric assessment requires that a systematic review be carried out from time-to-time, to ensure that it is properly up-to-date and fit-for-purpose.  As the context within which regulatory services operate within the UK has changed comprehensively over the course of the last few years, the time is now right for such a review to take place.  Consequently, a thorough developmental process is now underway, with the ultimate aim of creating “RST2”.

This project has two phases.  Phase 1, which is currently underway, contains the following tasks and objectives:

  • Carry out a thorough analytical review of the RST and all the data that has been collected since 2007, in order to further demonstrate its utility and enhance its accuracy and predictiveness.
  • Upgrade the testing part of the RST website to enhance its resilience and stability.
  • Improve the graphic design of the existing reports – to view a new “In-depth” sample report, which contains bench-marked scores and suggested interview questions. A new “Short Report” is designed to be used in conjunction with an application form to assist shortlisting decisions.
  • Produce a “Summary Test-Takers Report” to be included in the “In-Depth” report – this is designed to be something that can be given to everyone who takes the RST in the selection context, to summarise the main outcomes and to provide some suggestions for appropriate developmental activities.
  • Produce a “Coaching & Development Report”, in order to provide managers and other senior people with a bespoke-designed tool to assist with formal developmental processes, using the well-known GROW model of coaching.
  • Re-launch the RST to senior people within the Regulatory Services professions, via e-mail shot, emphasising all of the above, together with the objectives of Phase 2 of the project.

Phase 2 of the project will include:

  • Carrying out some market research with previous, existing and potential users of the RST, around what they would value as products from the RST and what issues they would like it to address.
  • Carrying out a literature review, together with interviews with key informants, who have done relevant, recent work or research in this field, e.g. LG Regulation and IES 2014.
  • Carrying out more job analysis to review the RST’s theoretical framework, and to expand it as necessary, possibly to include concepts such as “change-orientation”, “learning consciousness” and “team-orientation/propensity to collaborate”.
  • Exploring the “work-style preference” issue in more detail, e.g.:
    • To investigate in more detail the validity of the “enforcement” and “educative” work-styles, i.e. do these two distinct style-preferences really exist and if so, how can they be described as accurately as possible?
    • What are the linkages between “enforcement” and “investigation”?
    • Where does “inspection” fit in to all of this?
  • Constructing appropriate additional dimensions for the on-line instrument, as indicated by the above process, effectively creating RST2.
  • Launch RST2 via the RST website, journal articles, conferences, webinars etc, in Autumn 2015/Winter 2016.

It may well be that we will contact you formally in due course, to invite you to contribute to the research that will need to be carried out in Phase 2, as described above. However, if you would like to contribute informally by offering your views on any of the issues mentioned above, we would love to hear from you.

Filed Under: All Categories / RST News

Departmental Restructure

City of York Council LogoMatt Boxall, Acting Head of Public Protection City of York Council talks about his experience of using the RST in a Department Restructure.

Like everybody else, the City of York Council’s Public Protection team is under pressure to save money. As part of the process, the Environmental Health and Trading Standards teams were to merge and create two new teams. One would deal with Business Support and Regulatory Advice and largely deliver "discretionary services" for which we would charge businesses and others. The other team would deal with investigations and complaints from the public. We figured that if we could be more efficient in this way, officers would no longer be "broken off" from an investigation because of a phone call from a trader wanting detailed advice. We could train a pool of officers to deal with PACE interviews and "achieving best evidence". Likewise, our businesses could access the advice they wanted, when they wanted it and it wouldn’t be delayed whilst we dealt with a cold call for example. In late January 2015 we had around 25 staff to accommodate in this restructure, and had around about a month to implement it into practice.

We clearly needed to have the right people in the right posts. We recognise that we're all different and have different strengths/preferences in how we work. But the posts we had created needed specific skills. Whilst officers may report that "they like the variety of work", we need to get the best out of our officers. In order to do this we have to exploit their strengths – as David would say - it's rather like an athlete being "in the zone" when competing. Alternatively, if there are aspects of work that people are naturally less comfortable performing, we need to understand this so we can put appropriate measures in place to help.  

The Regulatory Services Test (RST) was the perfect solution, because it's a psychometric assessment specifically for Regulatory Officers, whatever their discipline. Although the RST was originally designed for the selection context, we feel that it can equally be used in the development setting and restructures. We had used the RST a few years earlier for a smaller scale restructure in Trading Standards, to good effect. The RST describes the key attributes we all recognise that help us to perform well, when carrying out regulatory work. It also provides a "work-style preference" scale, which assesses preferences around the extent to which someone may prefer to adopt an "enforcement" oriented approach or a more "educative or advisory" approach.

We made the assessment available for all staff prior to the restructure. It wasn't compulsory to complete, but it was explained that it may help people to express a preference for the team they wished to be in. About half of our staff took the test (the majority of those who didn't had taken it before and/or it was obvious which team their post was fitting into). Only one or two officers declined the test outright – they were apprehensive that it could be used as a selection tool and couldn't be persuaded otherwise.

Having been "coached" on providing feedback by David, I provided the feedback to officers to put the results into context. All of the officers reported the test useful, and they recognised their behaviours in the feedback. Some officers had particularly strong scores and were able to recognise where this in itself can create challenges – where a strength may be overdone and tip into less constructive behaviours, or dark-side tendencies. An example of this is where strongly assertive officers may come across to others as arrogant or aggressive, or those who are very planned and organised, coming across as obsessive about detail.

Crucially, the test was also able to identify where staff weren’t giving a true reflection of themselves, either too rosy a picture, or where they may have been overly self-critical, in the answers they gave to the questionnaire. I was able to explore the reasons for this with them, and thus, more accurately determine their true scores on the RST's dimensions.

Officers used the test to opt for a "team" preference and all but one officer, who hadn't expressed a particularly strong preference, were accommodated. We are almost three months into the restructure and so far, so good!

It has been much easier to introduce new performance measures, like income targets which are new to us, to individuals who are comfortable with them. Officers now have the kind of work that suits them and the right drivers to motivate them. The Regulatory Service Test helped facilitate this. It was a very useful tool for the City of York Council and David’s help, advice and other timely assistance made the whole process easy to manage.

Filed Under: All Categories / Case Studies