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I/O Solutions: Outsourcing HR for Public Safety

Written by Jennifer Gavigan

Outsourcing is becoming a common practice for public safety agencies because of the costs savings. In a time when budgets are continually being cut, outsourcing Human Resource (HR) responsibilities is a way to reduce spending.

I/O Solutions provides HR for the public safety sector, as well as testing and evaluations. I/O Solutions was founded in 1997 by an industrial / organizational psychologist who was dedicated to improving entry-level testing practices in public safety. After years at a public safety consulting firm, Dr. Fred Rafilson realized there was a fairer (less adverse impact) and equally valid method for selecting police officers and firefighters than the cognitive ability tests that had been used in the past.

Rafilson developed a revolutionary method for enhancing the quality of entry-level public safety testing and used I/O Solutions as a conduit to bring this model to national prominence. I/O Solutions is founded on the philosophy of improving the validity and fairness of public safety testing.

“In these difficult economic times, there is obviously far less money to support the recruitment and screening of candidates for law enforcement agencies. Although this is an alarming situation, it is indeed a reality. Outsourcing HR functions is a viable solution to this problem. By charging a modest application fee, many police departments are able to outsource their entire job application and testing / assessment processes and obtain state-of-the-art products and services at no cost to the agency,” Rafilson explained.

After more than a decade in the business, I/O Solutions has established itself as the preeminent public-safety selection consulting firm. They work with the largest and most demanding clients in the nation and have established a solid reputation for excellence in work product and customer service. In a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in June 2009, the Court granted summary judgment to 20 firefighters from New Haven, Conn., requiring that the city certify results from a 2003 fire lieutenant and captain promotional process. This ruling hinged on tests that were developed by I/O Solutions. The court found that I/O Solutions’ tests were overwhelmingly valid and fair.

I/O Solutions is basically a human-resources consulting firm that specializes in personnel selection. Specifically, they develop, validate and implement entry-level and promotional tests and assessments. They provide an array of tailored consulting services and off-the-shelf examination options. A majority of their work is performed in the public safety industry. I/O Solutions operates three primary divisions: Consulting, Off-the-Shelf Test Sales and Public Safety Recruitment. While each division deals with testing and assessment, the products and services provided vary. Following is an overview of products and services that fall under each division.

Consulting Division

The Consulting Division’s primary purpose is to develop and validate custom, tailored assessment solutions for public safety organizations. Generally, the Consulting Division is engaged through a formal Request for Proposal (RFP) procurement process. Typically, the Consulting Division provides services such as job analysis, entry-level examination design and validation, physical ability test development and validation, promotional job knowledge exam development, assessment center development, and various other test development and validation projects. I/O Solutions’ consultants are at the top of the testing industry, and their principals remain involved in the day-to-day consulting work of the company.

In addition to the consultants, they maintain a dedicated team of three technical writers who specialize in the development of written examinations for the law enforcement and fire service industries.

Off-the-Shelf Testing Division

I/O Solutions developed and maintains approximately 40 unique examinations that are distributed nationwide. Exams range from entry-level basic abilities tests to promotional knowledge exams and integrity assessments to emergency medical services certification exams. All exams have been carefully validated and are ready to be used by any agency. I/O Solutions offers agencies assistance in locally validating or transporting their off-the-shelf products to ensure the test will be valid for specific applications.

I/O Solutions’ off-the-shelf (OTS) exams are developed with the explicit purpose of measuring the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary for competently performing the job in question. The first step in developing any OTS exam is a job analysis. I/O psychologists gather information about a given job through incumbent interviews, job observations and questionnaires. This information is then distilled down to the critical elements of the job, and the necessary knowledge, skills and abilities are identified and linked to these critical elements. Each OTS exam is reviewed by experts to ensure it is psychometrically sound and job-related.

Evidence of validity can take many forms, but at its core, evidence of validity suggests that a tool is measuring the intended constructs, knowledge, skills or abilities. For this reason, validity evidence is among the most important aspects to demonstrate in selection. Many of I/O’s exams are supported by multiple forms of validity evidence, and their Research and Development Division continually gathers evidence that their exams appropriately measure intended job constructs, knowledge, skills or abilities.

Legally Defensible

Each I/O Solutions exam has been developed to rigorous specifications and is supported by validity evidence. They offer assistance with both local validation and transport validity evidence for their OTS exams. Through these methods and the generalized evidence of validity they gather during development and ongoing R&D efforts, their OTS exams have never legally been challenged successfully.

I/O Solutions was founded on two key principles: scientific rigor and fairness. It is their mission to develop psychometrically sound tools for selection that are supported by the latest scientific theories as well as to ensure their methods and models are designed to mitigate adverse impact on protected groups. Their first OTS exam (the NCJOSI) brought a unique alternative selection tool specifically designed for the public safety industry with a compensatory model that combined cognitive ability and personality. Research suggests this model could maximize validity while minimizing adverse impact.

Promotional Exams

Promotional exams are best suited to assess the required job knowledge for a given position. I/O Solutions’ state-of-the-art promotional examinations have been constructed to test candidates’ knowledge in critical law enforcement areas. The critical elements of the job were identified through rigorous job analyses with command-rank law enforcement personnel throughout the country. Subject matter experts were utilized not only to identify the critical elements of the job, but also to identify the knowledge necessary to perform these job functions.

To assess the required job knowledge areas for a given job, the most respected and current law enforcement training texts in the country were consulted. Specifically tailored and psychometrically examined items were written for each specific job in order to assess the necessary knowledge for that position.

The Law Enforcement Investigator Examination (LEIE) was developed specifically for promotion to detective or investigator positions. This examination is distinct from traditional job knowledge tests in that it is based primarily on situational scenarios. These types of questions require the candidate carefully consider how to act in very specific situations rather than demonstrate rote memorization skills. The LEIE is a highly content-valid exam, developed with the help of subject matter experts, including investigators, detectives and command-rank law enforcement personnel throughout the nation. These experts have provided I/O Solutions with ratings of the most relevant knowledge areas that should be evaluated in a written examination of this type.

I/O Solutions has worked with several state and regional agencies to develop and validate examinations and assessment programs to be used on a statewide basis. These products and services include academy entrance examinations, entry-level and promotional examinations, state emergency medical services and paramedic licensure examinations, and other assessments. These assessments are designed and dedicated solely to the state and regional agencies for which they were developed.

Public Safety Recruitment® (PSR) Division

I/O Solutions is a full-service public safety recruitment and testing agency. They provide advertising and free job listings to increase the recruitment pool. By leveraging substantial knowledge of public safety testing and assessment, I/O Solutions is able to act as a third-party recruiting and testing agency. Public Safety Recruitment maintains the website, www.publicsafetyrecruitment.com, which enables applicants to identify and apply for law enforcement and fire service positions. They also provide personnel to administer examinations and physical ability tests.

I/O Solutions’ staff will do the following: handle an agency’s candidates’ applications and paperwork using state-of-the-art Internet services; proctor written examinations and physical ability tests; develop and provide oral interview training; provide background investigations; conduct psychological evaluations and polygraph testing. Beyond these services, I/O Solutions develops physical ability tests and oral interviews for agencies and trains personnel on proper implementation and use. They also conduct psychological assessments and fitness for duty evaluations.

I/O Solutions is passionate about providing agencies with tools to find and promote the best employees. I/O Solutions utilizes cutting-edge technology and methodology in their exams and assessments to provide fair and valid testing systems. Not only are they dedicated to the science and technology of assessment, but they also pride themselves on being client focused. This focus is evident in their approach to managing projects. The staff understands and applies the intricacies of personnel selection and psychometrics on a daily basis.

In addition, I/O educates their clients. Part of working with them is learning about why they do things the way they do them and what the benefits are to the agency. They seek to improve client practices by evaluating an agency’s selection system and making suggestions for future improvements.

Job Analysis

Job analysis, the in-depth study of a given job to determine the duties and specific tasks that employees in that job would be expected to perform, is a fundamental tool for the practice of industrial / organizational psychology. Analyzing a job involves the determination of what tasks make up a job, the tasks’ relative importance, and what knowledge, skills, abilities and “others” (e.g., personality traits) are necessary to successfully carry out those tasks. Results from job analysis studies typically yield both job descriptions and lists of knowledge, skills, abilities and other attributes that may be required of individuals who perform these jobs.
The result of job analysis studies can be of upmost importance in determining pre-employment selection criteria (i.e., test scores, educational requirements, physical abilities, etc.), performance evaluation criteria, training needs, salary ranges, etc. All human resource or personnel decisions should ultimately be based on the results of detailed and thorough job analysis. I/O Solutions’ team has developed and perfected job analysis techniques to investigate, observe, and measure the critical elements of a job.

Whether it’s developing a valid assessment tool or simply updating job descriptions, I/O Solutions is more than qualified to service any public safety agency’s HR needs. “Outsourcing Human Resource functions can save law enforcement agencies thousands of dollars while ensuring they meet best practices,” Rafilson said. From advertising to the job offer, they provide services to streamline and simplify the hiring process for LE agencies.

Jennifer Gavigan has been writing about cutting-edge topics in the field of law enforcement for LAW and ORDER for more than eight years. She can be reached at jgavigan@hendonpub.com.

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Published in Law and Order, Oct 2011

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