By removing recruitment standards do we actually understand what they are for

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This week, in response to a cultural review, it was identified that Victorian Police (Australia) were unable to meet their 50% gender target during recruitment. One of the main reasons for not meeting the targets was placed squarely on the pre-recruitment physical standards which are now effectively being eased or practically erased.

While I am not going to get into the politics of why this decision was made, or even the rightness or wrongness of this decision on that basis, it occurred to me that maybe, just maybe people don’t understand why it is that standards are there in the first place. I am a big advocate for physical standards in physical jobs and even more so for ongoing maintenance of those standards

In the policing setting the world has certainly changed in the past 20 or 30 years, with more emphasis on “soft skills” and de-escalating situations rather than relying purely on brawn. However, eventually one way or another, the physicality of the situation will require someone to have the ability to either protect themselves or ultimately apprehend someone who doesn’t want to be apprehended. 

  • We know that grip strength correlates highly with the ability to shoot straight.
  • We know that the load on our police (body armour etc) is far higher than it was even 5 years ago.

Whatever we might think about the work that police, firefighters or military personnel do, it is critical that a contemporary view of this is undertaken and that our tests reflect that. Tests developed 20 or 30 years ago, when the world was different can no longer be used. Likewise testing based on “what we reckon” or tests designed to “test toughness” based on gut feel of a few who passed that test when they were younger, can no longer be used either.

In the world of Physical Employment Standards, they are developed and employed on the basis of

  • Does the test reflect the job?
  • Are the standards in those tests reasonable to ensure that a worker can do that job safely and effectively?
  • Were those tests rigorously devised based on best practice approaches?

I don’t know how the VicPol standards were developed. However, assuming that they were properly devised and that they met the two criteria above then my question is, as an employer, is VicPol or indeed any other agency redefining or removing standards purely to meet quotas complying with their obligations under the WHS Act – that being to ensure the safety of their staff. Of course, if the test wasn’t developed with any stringency or any adherence to best practice then maybe, just maybe, removing this test could be justified. However, we still need something.

We at Optimised Human Performance can help your organisation here.

Dr Anthony Walker

Dr Anthony Walker

I'm a human performance specialise, using cutting edge research and science to optimise the performance of workers in high pressure environments.

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