Computer-Assisted Staffing Systems: The Use of Computers in Implementing Meta-Analysis and Utility Research in Personnel Selection

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Computer-Assisted Staffing Systems: The Use of Computers in Implementing Meta-Analysis and Utility Research in Personnel Selection

Recent advances in methods of cumulating research results across studies (i.e., meta-analysis) and related advances in utility research have rapidly increased our knowledge about the usefulness of personnel selection procedures in identifying capable job applicants. This paper describes two computer-based systems, one designed to disseminate the existing knowledge base on personnel selection, and the second to expand this knowledge base. The dissemination system, called the Staffing Decision Support System (SDSS), is a computer-based information system designed to assist staffing decision makers in answering two questions: 1) What is the best personnel selection procedure for identifying capable applicants for a job 2) What is the economic value of a personnel selection procedure? This paper will summarize the research which forms the basis of the SDSS, and explain the capabilities of the system. This paper will conclude with a description of the research support system designed to update and expand the SDSS system.

Consider a real life situation. A personnel staffing analyst is assigned the task of developing and implementing a selection system for an occupation in his or her organization. The analyst knows that there is a vast research literature in the area of industrial/organizational psychology on the validity and utility of various selection methods. However, the staffing analyst may lack the technical knowledge to fully understand this technical literature, and may not have the time needed to survey and absorb the vast literature.

What are the alternatives? A computerized system that can retrieve the needed research information and present it in an understandable manner based on relatively simple input provides an ideal solution to this problem. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management has developed such a system. The first step for the analyst interested in using this system is to look up the job of interest in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (U.S. Department of Labor, 1977). This massive reference book lists information on all jobs, providing a narrative description of the job, and assigning each job an occupational code number. The staffing analyst locates the occupational code number, turns on a personal computer, executes the Staffing Decision Support System (SDSS) software, and in response to a computer's request, types in the job's occupational code number. The computer then searches the SDSS data files looking for relevant information. If data are located, a report is displayed that lists information on many personnel screening procedures and their expected usefulness for the occupation of interest, The report references the sources from which the information was obtained. If validity information on the specific occupation is not available, the SDSS system directs the user to another program option that identifies appropriate selection procedures based on the complexity level of the job. Again the staffing analyst types in a code from the Dictionary of Occupational Titles. Using this code the SDSS system determines the complexity level of the occupation and makes recommendations on the most useful personnel selection procedure. A utility option provided by SDSS may then be used to estimate the dollar value in improved work force productivity that is gained by using one selection procedure over another.

Recent developments in the study and implementation of personnel selection measures enhance one's understanding of the value of systems such as SDSS. In many disciplines, it is common for applied practice to lag behind current knowledge. This situation occurs because it takes time for new knowledge to be disseminated and accepted by practitioners. This gap between knowledge and practice is widened when the knowledge base expands rapidly. The knowledge base in the area of personnel selection is expanding very rapidly. …

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