Annick de Buman joined the Föderation der Schweizer Psychologinnen und Psychologen (FSP, Federation of Swiss Psychologists) in 2018 as project manager for professional policy.
SNV Story No. 2: How a DIN standard becomes a Swiss standard
What does aptitude testing do? It is used to assess whether employees are suitable for the position to be filled – a major responsibility with access to sensitive data. By using everything from the simplest interviews to assessments over several days, candidates are tested for ability, values or personality in a professional environment. But who assesses and controls aptitude diagnostics? Until today, no one. The professional title of aptitude diagnostician is not protected in this country and the professional field is an unregulated area except for federal data protection. For the Föderation der Schweizer Psychologinnen und Psychologen (FSP, Federation of Swiss Psychologists), it is high time to change this situation. The idea: To launch a common basis of standards and, based on this, a certification for the professional title. Annick de Buman, specialist leader of the working group “SN 33430 Requirements for job-related aptitude diagnostics”, has taken us along on the journey.
Found: the solution is on our own doorstep
Fortunately, a comparable standard already existed as a working basis in Germany – namely the “Suitability assessment according to DIN 33430”. “Next we approached the Swiss representative, the SNV. We found open doors here and received optimal support”, Annick de Buman says, looking back. “It was confirmed to us that a national adaptation of the DIN standard is feasible and that Austria has already gone down the same path.”
Sought: 5 independent organizations
The next step was to put together the working group. There are clear regulations for this. At first glance, one of SNV’s requirements was simple: find five independent organizations and start working. “Five is doable”, thought Annick de Buman initially. But it turned out that gathering them was not entirely easy. For experts with busy schedules, volunteering is often difficult to implement and thus, unfortunately, at the same time a missed opportunity for co-determination. Another hurdle was that only SNV members are allowed to have a say in the panel. “The SNV gave us strong support in finding suitable participants and ultimately, we are now at work with a broadly supported competence base: two universities, three associations and a private company. The majority of the participants have a psychological background. In December 2021, the kick-off was held.”
Lead: a harmonious team
The working sessions run according to a predetermined procedure and the division of tasks between the SNV’s project management and that of the FSP is clearly defined. Roughly speaking, the SNV is responsible for procedural matters, the organization and the record keeping; the FSP for the content of the standard. The sessions last two hours and are perfectly orchestrated. “During the virtual sessions, we go through the DIN standard sentence by sentence and section by section. In the subsequent discussion, we explain whether and in what form adjustments are necessary for the Swiss situation”, explains Annick de Buman. “The choice of words plays the most important role here. At the same time, we focus on not unnecessarily inflating the standard. We generously discard what is irrelevant.” The SNV is usually present with two to three experts.
Desired: consensus-based decisions
All adjustments are to be made on the basis of consensus. Simply put: everyone must agree. Accordingly, individual discussions tend to drag on. Surprisingly for some, not surprisingly for others, these proceed also among psychologists in an extraordinarily constructive and solution-oriented way. A crucial success factor here is that the discourse did not have to be started from scratch. In addition to the unanimous adoption, the working group also takes into account the diversity of the language regions. Thus, individual staff members represent associations in French-speaking Switzerland at the same time. The approved standard will later be translated into French.
Designed: the groundwork and the future
“After seven meetings, we are currently about halfway through the German draft standard. We have set ourselves the goal of meeting on a monthly basis. Sometimes we also welcome guests at our meetings who are invited by the SNV or the members of the working group. They are allowed to participate eagerly in the discussion, but have no vote”, explains Annick de Buman. Inspired by the Austrian variant, it was important for the Swiss group to also increasingly introduce current topics into the standard. The concept of fairness was therefore defined. Fairness means that no one is discriminated against in aptitude testing on the basis of origin, race, gender, age, language, social status, lifestyle, religion and ideological or political convictions, or because of physical, mental or psychological impairment. In addition to the topic of fairness, there are already plans to include aspects relating to digitalization or the use of artificial intelligence. In the end, the standard should be comprehensive enough to provide the best possible starting point on the way to a quality label.
Tested: the quality label as a long-term goal
Thanks to the future Swiss label, quality-conscious Swiss experts will no longer have to rely on certification in neighbouring countries. Currently, a two-part examination procedure with a theoretical and a practical portion is being planned. The first universities in German-speaking and western Switzerland have already registered their interest with the FSP in helping to develop scientifically sound tests and in acting as a subsequent examination centre.
Learned: standards are fascinating and a constant companion
“I find it impressive how everyone gets a voice in standardization work and can thus influence standards. I was not aware of this fact in the slightest before I joined the team”, Annick de Buman gushes. “Norms are everywhere in our everyday lives and they often help determine our lives from the background. The possibility to lead the constructive exchange between all the experts in a systematic way and to create something tangible for today and the future excites me. We do not want to construct something abstract, but to achieve a pragmatic improvement of the professional image. Everyone should be happy to voluntarily apply our standard.”
How does artificial intelligence (AI) influence vocational aptitude diagnostics?
“AI influences many parts of society or the economy. ChatGPT is currently on everyone’s lips and shows amazing progress. In other areas, AI lags behind expectations as well as promises. The basis of an AI is always large amounts of meaningful data. If human biases are programmed into the system, the artificial intelligence behaves identically. For example, in the US, judges should be able to calculate the recidivism risk of convicts and thus help them in their sentencing decisions. It turned out that the system was just as racist in its judgement as the American justice system. In the assessment of human skills and competences, technologies today support the systematic as well as unbiased recording of emotions during a conversation. I am thinking of systems such as Affectiva, which has also proven its effectiveness in the field of advertising research. The Cambridge Analytica scandal has shown how social media data can also filter out predictions about personality traits, political opinions and values.”
How should this development be integrated into the standard SN 33430?
“AI holds promising opportunities and various dangers at the same time. This must be taken into account in the standard itself. From my point of view, we should insist at this stage that all aptitude assessments must be the sole responsibility of human beings. Applied algorithms, or rather the underlying data, should be understood by these professionals, at least in principle.”
Sébastian Simonet is an aptitude diagnostician, managing director at Nantys AG, member of the FSP and one of the co-initiators of the standard SN 33430.
Profile SN 33430
Started: December 2020
Published: planned 2024
Number of pages: draft currently at 30 pages
Initiator: Federation of Swiss Psychologists (FSP)
Specialist leader of the working group: Annick de Buman
Participating countries: Switzerland. Based on a template from Germany and the adaptation of it in Austria.
Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW)
University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW)
Föderation der Schweizer Psychologinnen und Psychologen (FSP, Federation of Swiss Psychologists)
Schweizerische Gesellschaft für Arbeits- und Organisationspsychologie (sgaop, Swiss society for industrial and organizational psychology)
Schweizerische Gesellschaft für Laufbahn- und Personalpsychologie (SGLP, Swiss society for career and personnel psychology)
Schweizerisches Dienstleistungszentrum Berufsbildung (SDBB, Swiss service centre for vocational education and training)
Status: in development
Next review: 5 years after publication
Annick de Buman
She holds a Master of Science in Psychology from the University of Bern. Since 2018, she has been working for the Föderation der Schweizer Psychologinnen und Psychologen (FSP, Federation of Swiss Psychologists) as a project manager for professional policy. In this function, she leads, among other things, the project for the introduction of a quality label in the field of job-related aptitude testing.