Predict Counterproductive Work Behavior

Can an amoral cash investment by an investment banker or the illegal sale of a CD with sensitive data by a programmer be traced back to one common denominator? Being able to predict counterproductive work behavior is of great practical importance in order to save enormous costs.

Research shows that employers are keen to assess for ethical working (loyalty, honesty, integrity, commitment), leadership, creativity, cultural fit, emotional health/ability to cope with stress and long-term potential. 

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squares, the new integrity test from Aon

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Press release

Aon presents about squares at SIOP 2016

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The Aon Integrity Test: squares

cut-e Situational Behavior

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What does this assessmemt measure ?

The likelihood of counterproductive behavior in a work context.

What is the task?

The test taker is presented with statements on-screen and asked to rate their behavior in comparison with others.

It is based on a model of counter-productive behavior that takes into account the individual’s specific situation. Thus, it does not stigmatize the test taker’s results and offers the opportunity for change through training thereby enabling a greater acceptance of results by the individual.

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Clients Who Use squares by Aon

What Can an Integrity Test Be Used for?

Here are some examples of where squares can add value:

  • Online screening: Using squares can significantly reduce the probability of counterproductive work behavior in people screened. squares adds particular value to jobs where security and risk management play an important role (e.g. security personnel, police and also personnel in the finance sector).
  • On-the-job development: Staff productivity can be significantly increased with targeted training measures based on the squares results.
  • Corporate citizenship strategies: squares can be used for teams, departments or entire companies to identify critical aspects and to provide an ideal starting point for corporate development processes.
  • Predicting tenure: squares gives a good insight into whether an employee is likely to stay in an organization, thus allowing companies to reduce undesired fluctuation and recruitment costs.
  • Safety: The safety report available from squares shows how safe, compliant and cautious someone is. This can be used in selection or incorporated into a safety-awareness training program to keep people and property safe. 

Integrity Assessment Helps Companies Identify Problem Employees

Companies who select employees by assessing and looking for only the characteristics that indicate success are missing valuable and rich information.

Dr Achim Preuss, founder and MD of the cut-e Group explains, “It makes sense to look for success indicators as these are the drivers of productivity and beneficial to the organization – but it is only one side of the coin: it is just as important to look for those behaviors which may not be advantageous or constructive. We find that employers often ignore the flip side that is the darker aspect of those positive characteristics – and don’t look at the positive aspects of what are thought to be more negative qualities. It’s a common problem as it requires us to understand that our behavior is not just based on us as a person, but is influenced by our situation.”

To help with this, cut-e (an Aon company) has created the assessment tool, squares, to measure exactly these hard-to-assess characteristics – in situations - and can be used alongside more traditional online assessments of ability and personality.

Corporate Scandals: How HR Can Help Avoid Them

In this article, Dr Achim Preuss looks at the role that HR can take as ethical custodians to help prevent corporate scandals caused by undesirable behavior. What this means and how it can work is presented as well as some concrete tips for HR to apply. 

Dr Achim Preuss on squares and Integrity

We interviewed the cut-e founder, Dr Achim Preuss, about squares - the integrity test by cut-e (an Aon company). Find answers here about the concept of integrity, how it can be measured, in what kind of situations this makes sense and why and how squares works so well.

What Value Can Integrity Testing Bring to Recruitment?

Integrity testing can be used at the recruitment stage - alongside more traditional online assessments of ability and personality - to identify and understand whether your candidates have strong moral principles; whether they’ll uphold ethical standards and the degree to which they’re vulnerable to counterproductive behavior.

squares is an online situational behavior questionnaire that reveals a candidate’s ethical awareness and their impulse control by measuring six ‘scales’. Valid for all job positions, it scores candidates on how empathetic, honest, reflective, disciplined, conscientious and cautious they are.

Benchmark: How Integrity Testing Is Used in the Norwegian Police Academy

Espen Skorstad, Chief Commercial Officer Europe explains: “The Norwegian Police Academy has traditionally used cut-e’s ability tests and personality questionnaire to identify, assess and recruit new police officers. Around 1,600 applicants take these tests each year. Since 2014, the Police Academy has also used squares, to assess the trustworthiness of applicants. The results are used by the Police Academy’s recruiters during the interview process. We’re currently correlating and evaluating the data so that we can create a ‘cut-off trustworthiness score’. This will add another measurement aspect to an assessment process that is already very robust."

Webinar 'Hip to be square'

Introduction to squares, the cut-e integrity test. In this webinar we cover the research underpinning the development of squares, and show discuss how situation matters, and what uses for an integrity test are. 

Benchmark: How Integrity Testing Is Used by Coop Norge

Espen Skorstad, Chief Commercial Officer of cut-e Europe: “We’re also working with the Norwegian cooperative grocery chain Coop Norge. They use our ability tests and personality questionnaire when recruiting. We’re now introducing squares as part of the recruitment process for warehouse workers. Heavy and light machinery is used in the Coop warehouses to meet the logistical challenges of the fast moving and perishable grocery business. We generate a ‘safety report’ from squares, which shows how safe, compliant and cautious a candidate is. Their safety score is a useful indicator which helps Coop Norge to make good selection decisions.”

Ask the Expert Question: Is Integrity Testing Suitable for All Roles?

Over the years, assessment providers have tried to create psychometric tests that will help to identify trustworthiness. Some of these tests are not only ethically dubious, they ignore two important facts: behavior is dependent on circumstances and people can change their ability to resist temptation.
Our squares test is an online situational behavior questionnaire that accurately assesses a candidate’s integrity, reliability, credibility and the degree to which they’re vulnerable to counterproductive behavior. squares reveals a candidate’s ethical awareness and his or her impulse control by measuring six ‘scales’. It scores candidates on how empathetic, honest, reflective, disciplined, conscientious and cautious they are. This test is valid for all job positions but these six scales may need to be weighted differently for different types of role. For example, for a creative role, you may want someone who is prepared to innovate and challenge the conventional way of thinking. This person would not score highly on the ‘cautious’ scale.
squaresis typically used at the recruitment stage - alongside more traditional online assessments of ability and personality - to identify and understand whether candidates have integrity and strong moral principles; whether they’ll uphold ethical standards and the degree to which they’re vulnerable to counterproductive behavior.
Research shows that we’re all susceptible to counterproductive behavior if we’re placed in pressurized or ambiguous situations. However, each of us reacts differently to the triggers we face. A person’s ability to resist the temptation to behave improperly can improve if they know their own ‘critical situations’ or the circumstances when they’re most vulnerable. Raising awareness of these situations can help people to reflect on their behavior and control their impulses.
So how effective is squares? Studies show it has the same success rate at predicting whether someone is prone to counterproductive behavior as expert interviewers could achieve in a 60-minute, structured ‘trustworthiness’ interview. In other words, squares can simulate the rigour of an in-depth structured interview by trained professionals, giving the same results but in a much quicker, more efficient and more cost effective way.
Used correctly, this test can increase the likelihood that you’ll recruit individuals who will act in the best interests of your organization.

What Makes the Integrity Test squares Special?

Predicting counterproductive work behavior is a new way to add additional value to assessments. Absence from work, fraud, or dangerous conduct causes a lot of damage. squares is a new online integrity test which not only considers the person but also their situation. The items describe behavior rather than traits, which allows the prediction of counterproductive behavior without stigmatizing those scoring low on the questionnaire.

squares characteristics

The integrity test squares has already been exposed to comprehensive validation studies, including a large-scale online study with 335 participants, and the results of the online instrument were compared with qualitative interviews. Both confirmed good psychometric properties of the questionnaire - in fact so good that we have recently submitted an article on the subject to the Conference of the Economic Psychology Section of the American Psychological Society for next year.

For those who want to know the really technical psychometrics of the research which underpins squares...

Recommended Reading

Berry, C. M., Sackett, R. R. & Wiemann, S. (2007). A Review of Recent Developments in Integrity Test Research. Personnel Psychology, 60, 271–301.

Friedrich, C. (2003). Vertrauen als Unternehmensressource. In A. Martin (Hrsg.), Personal als Ressource (S. 119–139). München/Mering: Rainer Hampp Verlag.

Furnham, A., Hyde, G. & Trickey, G. (2013). Do your Dark Side Traits Fit? Dysfunctional Personalities in Different Work Sectors. Applied Psychology.Advance online publication. doi: 10.1111/apps.12002.

Gottfredson, M. R. & Hirschi, T. (1990). A General Theory of Crime. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Hankes, J. (2011). Die inkrementelle Validität eines Integrity-Tests in Bezug auf Ausbildungserfolg – Kann ein Integrity-Test ein Interview ersetzen? [online]

Jordan, J. (2009). A social cognition framework for examining moral awareness in managers and academics. Journal of Business Ethics,84 (2), 237 – 258.

Kohlberg, L. (1974). Zur kognitiven Entwicklung des Kindes. Baden-Baden: Suhrkamp Verlag.

Marcus, B., Funke, U., & Schuler, H. (1997). Integrity Tests als spezielle Gruppe eignungsdiagnostischer Verfahren: Literaturüberblick und metaanalytische Befunde zur Konstruktvalidität. Zeitschrift für Arbeits- und Organisationspsychologie, 41, 2–11.

Marcus, B. (2000). Kontraproduktives Verhalten im Betrieb. Eine individuumsbezogene Perspektive. Göttingen: Verlag für Angewandte Psychologie.

Marcus, B. & Schuler, H. (2004). Antecedents of counterproductive behavior at work: A general perspective. Journal of Applied Psychology, 89, 647-660.

Marcus, B., Höft, S., & Riediger, M. (2006). Integrity Tests and the Five-Factor Model of Personality: A Review and Empirical Test of two Alternative Positions. International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 14 (2), 113–128.

Milgram, S. (1963). Behavioral Study of Obedience. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 67 (4), 371–378.

Mischel, W., Ebbesen, E. B., & Zeiss, A. R. (1972). Cognitive and attentional mechanisms in delay of gratification. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 21 (2), 204–218. 

Ones, D., Viswesvaran, C. & Schmidt, F. L. (1993). Meta-analysis of Integrity Tests Validities. Journal of Applied Psychology, 78, 679–693.

Ones, D. & Viswesvaran, C. (2001). Integrity Tests and Other Criterion-Focused Occupational Personality Scales (COPS) Used in Personnel Selection. International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 9 (1/2), 31–39.

Ones, D., Viswesvaran, C. & Schmidt, F. L. (2003). Personality and Absenteeism: a Meta-Analysis of Integrity Tests. European Journal of Personality, 17, 19–38.

Park, T. & Shaw, J. (2013). Turnover rates and organizational performance: A meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology, 98 (2), 268-309.

Rest, J. R. (1979). Development in judging moral issues. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Rezlescu, C., Duchaine, B., Olivola, C.Y. & Chater, N. (2012). Unfakeable Facial Configurations Affect Strategic Choices in Trust Games with or without Information about Past Behavior. PLoS ONE, 7 (3), e34293.

Schmidt, A. (2003). Sensation Seeking und delinquentes Verhalten. In M. Roth & P. Hammelstein (Hrsg.), Sensation Seeking – Konzeption Diagnostik und Anwendung (S.214-234). Göttingen: Hogrefe.

Todorov, A., Said, C.P., Engell, A.D. & Oosterhof, N.N. (2008). Understanding evaluation of faces on social dimensions. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 12, 455–60.

U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment (1990). The Use of Integrity Tests for Pre-Employment Screening. Washington, DC. pp. 1–78.

Wanek, J., Sackett, P. & Ones, D. (2003). Towards an Understanding of Integrity Test Similarities and Differences. Personnel Psychology, 56, 873–894.

Zimbardo, P (2007). The Lucifer Effect. New York: The Random House. 



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