Cognitive Testing in the Workplace

(Author note: This article refers to basic cognitive testing of workers by companies and employers. Personality tests, aptitude tests, IQ tests, integrity and other similar tests are outside the scope of this article.)

The growing prevalence of computerized cognitive testing allows a wide range of employers and organizations to test large numbers of workers in a standard and efficient manner. For example, the US military now routinely administers hundreds of thousands of neurocognitive assessments to service members each year.

In the private sector, cognitive assessment testing for employees has two important business drivers: workplace safety and employee productivity. Several million workers are subject to drug and alcohol testing by their employers, and cognitive testing is a less invasive method to screen for impairments that could affect workplace performance and safety. CogState has a packaged cognitive testing tool for employers that measures key cognitive skills and translates the results to an equivalent blood alcohol (BAC) level, which is an interesting use for a cognitive assessment.

Cognitive testing for employee productivity is usually offered under the “employee wellness” umbrella, at least in the US. OptumHealth Behavioral Solutions, a division of United Healthcare, offers a set of online cognitive assessment and cognitive training tools as part of its Employee Assistance Program (EAP) solution that it markets to large employers.

OptumHealth currently uses the WebNeuro cognitive testing tool from Brain Resource. WebNeuro takes about 45 minutes and has three sections: a depression screening questionnaire, basic cognitive testing (attention, processing speed, memory, executive function, etc), and a “social cognition” section. WebNeuro’s social cognition test is based on emotion recognition – the ability to correctly identify emotions based on a person’s facial expression. The WebNeuro clinical tool is wrapped in an employee friendly package called MyBrainSolutions, which also includes a series of cognitive training games.

Another area of cognitive testing for employee productivity is adult ADHD. Pearson Assessments, which provides ADHD screening assessment products, recently purchased Cogmed, an ADHD software training vendor. This gives Pearson the ability to offer both ADHD assessment and remediation services to employers.