Why New Hires Don’t Stick

Systemic challenges in human resources and hiring processes are a key explanation for why employee turnover is so high. What can be done to address these issues?

Finding the right candidate to hire is a tough enough challenge, but having that employee flame out, is even more frustrating -- and costly.  The rate this happens though, is depressing -- the probability of a new employee failing after 18 months is close to 50 percent. The financial cost to companies should be an eye-opener, but other factors such as continued productivity, company reputation, camaraderie, and employee morale should not be neglected either.

Systemic Challenges

The reasons why new employees don’t always stay in their jobs vary greatly. Some are role-specific (working for a poor manager or accepting a lower salary than really desired) and must be addressed on a micro level. However, there are certain trends which are systemic to the recruiting and human resources sector, and which can’t be ignored by companies who aim to grow their business.

For starters, only recently have studies been conducted to assess the real cost of high employee turnover. Senior management is (naturally) only going to enforce changes in an inefficient process if it perceives a significant financial loss to the company. Because most companies don’t realize just how much they’re losing from this churn, they don’t feel the need for change.

In large part, recruitment is terribly inefficient because it lacks scientific or data-based assessments — companies rely too heavily on intuition and unstructured interviews, which are often flawed. A great comparison was made in The Guardian newspaper on how scouting for sports relies heavily on statistics and recommendations but how scouting for employees does not. In fact, studies have shown that interviews can do more harm than good.  Judging a candidate’s capabilities largely on interviews instead of on quantifiable data (academic merit, references, etc.) is more likely to lead to poor candidate selection.

Another systemic challenge is that hiring failures often aren’t tracked or quantified internally, which means that it’s impossible to know – and therefore address – the root cause of these failures. Learning where improvements can be made will lead to better candidates being hired, who are likelier to stay with the company longer.

Hiring processes (from applications process to interviews) and employers’ focus on hard skills (knowledge on a particular subject necessary to get the job done, such as proficiency in a particular software program) are unable to evaluate power skills or soft skills. It makes sense to guarantee that qualified candidates possess those hard skills. But in reality, the biggest complaint employers have — namely in regards to recent graduates — is that they are deficient in power skills such as critical thinking, communication, and teamwork.  These foundational skills are integral to success in any role, particularly in today’s workplace.

How to get new hires to stick

What if there were a way to make hiring more data-driven, and therefore more likely to select the most suitable candidates? Authess uses authentic assessment software to evaluate how candidates perform in real-life scenarios compared to benchmarks set by current employees in that company and role. These authentic assessments have two-fold value. First, they represent a clear indicator of a candidate’s approach to actual on-the-job scenarios, as compared to their potential future peers.  Second, these types of tests have shown to reveal more intangible skills like empathy, and power skills such as critical thinking, which are crucial to any role but which only become evident during this type of real-life scenario. Ensuring candidates have the right hard skills and power skills is one challenge these assessments overcome. Meanwhile traditional personality tests, in use by many talent acquisition professionals, have been shown to be poor predictors of job performance.  

Now, imagine a candidate has a degree in a relevant subject for a role, they interview well, and get the job. But without an understanding of their actual skills, there’s no way to know for certain whether they understand how to apply their knowledge in real-life. This is incredibly valuable knowledge for employers to have prior to making an offer. Undergoing an authentic assessment as part of the hiring process also exposes to candidates the type of functions they would be expected to perform, which means they’re less likely to have a false understanding of the job (another cause for leaving a new role).

If hiring processes--both filling the hiring pipeline with qualified candidates and narrowing down to the best candidates--were more scientific and data-driven, there would be a great deal more accountability (and trackability) from a cost perspective for the company. Additionally, because employers are provided with full reports on performance, they can identify positive or negative trends to address internally, if appropriate.

Looking ahead

Authentic assessments are currently being utilized by an array of sectors, due to the positive results they produce — especially in revealing skills that are nearly impossible to identify during the application process. As companies start to appreciate the value of recruiting the right candidates the first time around, more of them will start looking to data-backed tools like Authess to evaluate and redesign their human resources processes. Doing so will increase company profitability, employee satisfaction, and employee retention.


How Credo Education is Using Authentic Assessments to Measure Summer Interns’ Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving Skills

Discussing the theoretical value of authentic assessments is one thing; proving its efficacy in real-world scenarios is another. And that’s precisely what Credo Education, in partnership with Authess, has started to do.

Credo Education is a small, Boston-based company with big aspirations: to change the way higher education institutions prepare students for the workplace. They do so by selling foundational skills instruction and assessment solutions to those institutions. This summer, Credo will pilot a study using Authess’ authentic assessments to track and evaluate the skills development of 45 interns from various companies. These companies belong to sectors including educational technology, data and technology, digital media, and accounting and consulting. The real value of this pilot study will be revealed when foundational skills teaching and assessment is proven to be relevant across a wide range of sectors.

The Pilot Study

The process is straightforward. At the beginning of the summer, interns and their managers attend a 1-hour-long orientation. The interns then take a foundational skills-test on the Authess platform and their performance is assessed on a baseline (established by other employees) before their internships begin. The Authess assessment evaluates real-world problem-solving skills, critical thinking, reading comprehension, communication, and organization.  Over the course of approximately 8 weeks, interns go through the foundational skills program for an hour a week in addition to their internship tasks. At the end of the internship, the intern is assessed once again on the Authess platform to measure progress relative to their initial assessment, and a survey by both interns and managers is carried out. Credo then delivers a full report to employers.

Evaluating Foundational Skills

What are foundational skills and why do they matter? According to the National Foundation Skills Strategy Project, they are “employability skills, such as collaboration, problem solving, self-management, learning and information and communication technology (ICT) skills required for participation in modern workplaces and contemporary life.” Other examples of foundational skills include the ability to work in a team, to communicate professionally (both verbally and in writing), and to critically evaluate evidence. Time and time again, employers state how important these skills are, but for which many colleges fail to prepare their students. Most importantly for employees and employers, foundational skills are portable: they can be transferred from company to company and role to role. Employees with these skills are much more desirable to employers than those with purely hard skills (the skills specifically required to do a particular job, like knowing how to write CSS code, or speaking French). And just like hard skills, foundational skills can be learned.

Interns taking part in the study will learn these foundational skills throughout their 8-week internship and incrementally start applying them in the workplace. Interns who integrate the hard skills they learn in classes with the foundational skills they learn in the Credo coursework will have the best chance of success in real-world scenarios.

Benefits to Employers

The employers taking part in the study have much to gain from these authentic assessments. The obvious benefit is that their interns develop foundational skills much faster. A whopping 93% of employers surveyed by Hart Research Associates agree that “a candidate’s demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than their undergraduate major.” But in addition to having more qualified interns, employers receive quantitative reports from Credo on the interns’ performance before deciding which interns they plan to offer full-time positions to. Because the students are responsible for their own foundational skills learning throughout their internships, employers are not required to devote time and effort to teaching them these valuable skills.

Benefits for Interns

Naturally, the interns taking part in the study will also benefit greatly from the experience. Interns will finish their internships significantly more career-ready than they were two short months before – and they do not have to pay for this additional experience. Interns will receive a progress report on different areas of growth and be able to compare their performance with that of other participants in other companies. The certificate of completion they receive will serve as an added achievement on their resumes.

Authentic Assessments

One of the greatest benefits of Authess’ authentic assessments is that they serve to identify and develop crucial foundational skills, which are transferable to any undertaking. It is precisely because they are transferable that results are expected to remain repeatable, regardless of industry sector. This pilot study will be completed by the end of summer 2017 with published results to follow. It will be interesting to evaluate the impact these authentic assessments will have on interns’ foundational skills development, and learn more about the value employers stand to gain.     


If you are interested in learning more about the Credo pilot study, please contact askus@credoeducation.com. For more information about Authess, please visit their website or contact info@authess.com

Reducing Employee Turnover: Why the Art of Recruiting Candidates Should Be a Science

Losing an employee is financially and logistically costly. High employee turnover places added pressure on recruiters to find the “ideal candidate” who will remain and prosper with the company. Herein lies the HR challenge: recruiting management employees and reducing turnover.

The Challenge Presented by the Status Quo

The problem of turnover is linked to societal conventions: The usual methodology for recruiting involves collecting resumes and cover letters from candidates, screening (by a human or a computer), short-listing for interview, rounds of interviews and final candidate selection. Of course, it would be unthinkable to hire a candidate without interviewing them. But according to the research reported in a recent NY Times article, interviews are flawed and can even hinder the hiring process.

Candidates rehearse answers to anticipated questions, preparing responses that they know the employer wants to hear. Candidates also lie about their experience (because they can get away with it) and knowledge. Richard Branson is famously quoted for saying, “If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!” The problem is, future employers don’t want candidates who say they know how to do something when in fact they don’t.

Naturally, this qualification gap is felt more strongly in certain roles than in others. A graphic designer, for example, may have to produce a sample piece as part of their interview process, but it’s rare that a management employee, for example, would be tested on their skills. But the question is: why aren’t they? Wouldn’t this address so many of the competency and knowledge – and to some degree – cultural mismatches that are a large contributing factor to high employee turnover?

The Opportunity to Change the Future

Authentic assessments, where candidates are tested on real-life scenarios specific to a particular role, may be the future of recruitment. Much like testing cars on the road before choosing the one you buy, testing candidates before offering them a job would ensure greater compatibility between the role and employee.

Those who have used authentic assessments for training and evaluations have been impressed by the results. The level of knowledge and experience in subject matter quickly becomes evident. But, interestingly, these assessments also are also capable of detecting nuances and “power skills” that a particular employer might be looking for in a candidate. For example, stricter/more lenient decision-making, or prioritizing one particular detail over another can reveal skills like judgement and critical thinking. Especially in managerial positions, these subtle differences can differentiate between a competent candidate and a great one. Differentiating between good candidates and great ones using only interviews and a resume involves an undefined level of risk: people (yes, even professional recruiters!) are often misled or influenced by factors which are irrelevant to the job and, surely enough, mistakes are made. Some people can certainly “talk the talk”, but when it comes time to “walk the walk”, they fall behind.

The Power of Power Skills

Research carried out by LinkedIn suggests that close to 60% of companies struggle to find people with the skills they need. Power skills like critical thinking and problem solving (chief concerns of employers who hire millennials), communication, conflict resolution, teamwork, and adaptability are regarded by many employers as just as crucial to long-term success as job-specific knowledge or skills. On paper, a candidate may appear to have all the right knowledge, but an interview can’t tell you for sure whether they will be able to collaborate with team members, or work efficiently to get the job done. Essentially, will the candidate fit in to the company culture? The more confident, motivated and satisfied an employee feels in their role, the less likely they are to leave. Authentic assessments provide insight into power skills like critical thinking and adaptability: how well a candidate can assess or adapt to a situation, how they choose to use available information to do so, and how that compares to benchmarks of expertise in the field or even other candidates.

So, while employers should seek employees with the necessary technical knowledge to do a job, they shouldn’t underestimate the importance of power skills when it comes to big-picture goals like employee retention and satisfaction. The particular duties within any job, especially in management positions, are bound to change and evolve; power skills are what enable the necessary flexibility and adaptability for long-term success.

If training and evaluating management employees were treated less like an art (learning about someone through a back-and-forth Q&A session) and more like a science (backed by algorithms and AI), the world would undoubtedly be filled with more competent and satisfied employees, fewer financial losses for companies, and more assured recruiters.

Thirty-Two Million Adults Need to Develop Critical Skills –Who Will Meet the Challenge?


Access to training for employees, and quality skills assessment tools, can solve a growing problem in the workforce.

One-in-ten odds does not make for a good bet. Yet those are the odds employers will find on whether a graduating student is up to the challenge of a particular career. It’s a damning statistic that shows a societal need to better develop, prepare, and assess the skills of adults entering or already in the workforce.

The original bombshell came in 2013, when a Gallup report revealed that just 11 percent of employers believe graduating students have the necessary skills to perform in the jobs they seek. Things haven’t improved— additional studies have since shown that up to 96 percent of employers are generally unhappy with their labor pools and new hires.   According to Village Capital, this is a double-sided issue crippling the potential of the US workforce and employment marketplace alike. 


The challenge isn’t limited to the key tasks of a particular job. According to innovation engine XPRIZE, the gap in the U.S. workforce is particularly troubling when assessing “power skills” such as communication, teamwork, collaboration, adaptability, conflict resolution, problem solving, and critical thinking. These skills, according to XPRIZE’s research, are just as valued by most employers (or even more valued by some) as the particular technical skills for which job candidates are hired.

Without the tools necessary to assess these hard and soft skills, employers are in the dark as to whether their hires are equipped to fuel an organization’s success. Mere completion of a university degree program or technical certificate no longer gives employers the confidence that a job candidate is fit for a position.

This issue manifests two challenges for which solutions are critical to buttress the workforce. First, adults need better access to systems that will ensure their skill sets are up to par. Second, employers will need better tools beyond job interviews and reference checks to assess a candidate’s fit for a particular job.

On a grander scale, society needs employers big and small to have confidence that the future workforce has the skills necessary to thrive in the professional world — otherwise, the costs are tremendous. Employee turnover is nearly as costly as keeping the wrong person in a job. Solving this problem will create a win-win-win for job candidates, employers, and the institutions of learning that are tasked with making the education-to-employment journey work for everyone.

Part of this problem is the quick drop-off of skills education and development after the traditional university experience. This becomes plainly apparent in the numbers. According to a study by consulting firm Tyton Partners, there are approximately 36 million adults in the U.S. who are compromised in their job opportunities because of deficient skills, yet the entire adult education industry accommodates only 4.1 million of them.

So, while employers believe that roughly one in ten graduating students is actually prepared for a job, the adult education system is similarly serving only one in ten adults who need skills enhancement. Tyton’s study makes it clear that improving the quality and access to adult education is critical for the benefit of individual job seekers’ welfare and broader societal impact.

ONE SOLUTION -- For the 32 million non-consumers of basic education that need to gain critical skills to bolster their lives and society

Both employers and educators — not to mention job candidates — want a strong, skilled workforce. The challenge is the ability to define, measure, and test the most important elements that demonstrate ability and skills, at scale. For all parties in this equation, meaningful assessment can rapidly enhance the workforce and solve the critical challenges faced by those tasked with scaling their organizations. A renewed focus on effective assessment methodology can empower schools and businesses — especially those focused on the adult education market — to escape this obsolescence.

Afocus on leveraging technology can certainly help. Using machine learning and advanced analytics, for instance, the team at Authess has built a methodology to equip employers and the adult education system with the tools to engage and assess their candidates authentically, in real-world scenarios. This approach enables stakeholders to truly measure if job candidates have the needed skills and are able to meet the professional challenges ahead. This methodology is designed to help educators and employers determine not just what their candidates know, but, more importantly, if they have the ability to apply that knowledge in the real world.


Village Capital notes that 83 percent of HR managers say their systems need an overhaul in order for them to effectively identify and hire top talent. And this isn’t just an issue that employers recognize. Village Capital’s research also shows that 46 percent of U.S. workers consider themselves underemployed, and 75 percent of those with a job indicate that they do not believe they are harnessing their degree or training. Both sides are left wanting.

There is a wide-open market to advance adult education and better teach the skills necessary for success in the modern workforce. And there is a need to examine the legacy credentials that have been standard bearers in determining a candidate’s suitability for a job. But in the end, employees and employers must find the right tools to validate the skills of a particular job candidate, allowing the employer to make the right hire — and allowing the employee to find the right training needed to advance in his or her career.

Authess will continue to advance effective tools designed to align the assessment needs of educators and employers with a system that works, at the scale they require. To learn more about Authess and the ability to assess skills and competency, visit our website at www.authess.com.