Network Rail - Introduction of Cognisco Assessment Process
RMT Circular No. IR233/06: October 25 2006
On 1st September Network Rail introduced a new computer based assessment process known as 'Cognisco'.
Members have raised a number of concerns relating to the introduction of this process and in addition the following resolution was carried at last month's National Conference of Signalling Grades:-
"Our branch must disagree with "Cognisco" as this has not been looked into properly, and we can see many pitfalls with it. With this type of assessment and the results going to H.Q and also the Local operations Managers, the results of the assessment will not give specific information on which questions were answered correctly or incorrectly. Also the Data Protection Act may come into this. Since last year's emergency resolution on this there does not seem to have been any feedback. A colleague has spoken to Data Protection Act Commissioner who advised him that he was baffled at Network Rail's approach on the assessment and said that their proposals will breach legislation if full accurate data on assessments is not recorded and available upon request within 40 days. We therefore instruct the General Secretary to look into this in much more detail with Network Rail before agreeing for this new method of assessment to come into force."
The matter was discussed at a recent meeting with Network Rail when the union's representatives raised the following issues:
* There remains a widespread concern that the system will be used for disciplinary purposes.
* Signallers who are not at ease with using computers will be at a disadvantage.
* The system is supposedly designed not to either pass or fail the candidate. However, each section requires the candidate to reach a "benchmark" score and if the benchmark is not reached the candidate will have to re-sit the section involved.
* The questions are very ambiguously written and difficult to understand with in many cases a perception of there being "trick" questions and irrelevant information. Answers must be a strict "Yes" or "No" yet the questions are often worded so that they can be answered in more than one way.
* The examiner is not allowed to explain to the candidate any question that may prove hard to understand.
* Members at York have reported that briefers are adamant that the questions are timed whilst the person in charge of the project is adamant that they are not.
* After the test the candidate is given their score but there are no answers provided or indication to which questions the candidate has answered wrongly. Members ask how an individual can improve on something if no one can tell him what he/she is supposedly getting wrong.
* Some of the questions do not appertain to signalling grade duties and therefore signallers cannot be expected to know the answers, e.g setting up emergency speed restriction boards.
* Concern that the personal information held by Cognisco breaches the Data Protection Act, e.g each individual has to log in using their pay number, yet members have found on taking the test that they have already been signed in by Cognisco.
* The company may be in breach of legislation if full accurate data on assessments is not recorded and available within 40 days.
In response management said that the feedback they had received was that in general employees felt it was a step in the right direction. Most questions relating to the new process were about procedural concerns. The company accepted that some individuals are uneasy about the computer based approach and said that it is the duty of Local Operations Managers to assist staff in these circumstances. Management were adamant that there were no "trick" questions and said that examiners could provide clarification to a signaller if he/she was unsure as to the meaning of a question. Managers would be re-briefed on this.
In response to the union's view that many of the questions are irrelevant to signallers, the company said that the process will reviewed after 12 months and the questions fine tuned if feedback demands it. In addition, benchmark scores will be moved if experience indicates there is a need.
The union's representatives said that there is too much emphasis being put on testing and not enough on training. Network Rail responded that 'Cognisco' is designed for development, and is not a tool to pass or fail someone. We gave examples of cases where we understood members had been suspended following the assessment. Management said that these would be investigated. The company also said that they would investigate whether they are under an obligation to have available full accurate data on assessments within 40 days.
It was agreed that a further meeting would take place in the very near future and I shall keep you advised of developments.
For background information on Cognisco - see also:
DTI exceptional R & D award recognises strategic importance of Cogniscos work
Online Recruiting: 09/12/2004
Cranfield based Cognisco, the company who’s innovative measurement tools recently revealed that the majority of skilled workers possess level of understanding well below what their employers expect, have been awarded an Exceptional Grant for Research and Development from the Department of Trade and Industry.
The DTI grant is for the development of the Cognisco Index™, an enhancement of their existing assessment product to allow organisations to measure their employees’ knowledge and understanding against employees of other organisations in the same sector.
Small Business and Enterprise Minister, Nigel Griffiths said:
"I am delighted that the DTI, through the Grant for Research and Development, has been able to support Cognisco’s innovative work in the field of employee assessment solutions. To obtain an Exceptional Project award, the company has had to show its development project is both of strategic importance to an industry or technology and is likely to generate much wider economic benefits."
The Cognisco Index™ will utilise the Cognisco Milestone 400™ assessment platform and will provide comparative data for each of the key industry sectors. Using National and International generic standards the Cognisco Index™ will complement existing competency frameworks by adding a further dimension to effective performance. Major organisations already use the Cognisco Milestone 400™ product as an integral component of their workforce development and compliance.
Chairman of Cognisco Limited, Firdaus Ruttonshaw said:
“Cognisco will provide industry specific comparative performance data against a number of benchmarks for best practice as a route to overall competitiveness. As a key player in the assessment solutions market, we are enabling the UK productivity and skills agenda.”
Mary Clarke, Managing Director of Cognisco Limited said:
“The Cognisco Index™ highlights the need for an organisation to address skill shortages and gaps whilst bundling training into wider human resource practices so as not to inhibit movement towards higher performance. Cognisco Global Assessment Solutions aspire to meet the strategic needs of businesses and the exceptional R&D award recognises our progress.”
Cognisco Limited was established in 1998 to address the needs of the e-training marketplace and has emerged as the ‘knowledge based assessment solutions’ provider using its Milestone400™ product.
Cognisco designs, develops and markets Assessment Solutions, which provide organisations with objective measurement of employee understanding. The web based Employee/Division/Company Assessments can be:
Integrated with specialist Learning Management Systems supplied by major integrators.
Supplemented by ‘in-house’ specialist question authoring.
Sold directly and through major distributors to small, medium and large sized companies in the home market and overseas.
Cognisco will receive a financial boost from the government for their innovative approach, as well as on going support and advice.
The awards are given for four major types of projects:
Micro Projects - simple low cost development projects lasting no longer than 12 months. Up to £20,000 is available to businesses with fewer than 10 employees
Research Projects - planned research or critical investigation lasting between 6 and 18 months. Up to £75,000 is available to businesses with fewer than 50 employees
Development Projects - shaping of industrial research into a pre-production prototype of a technologically innovative product or industrial process. Up to £200,000 is available for businesses with fewer than 250 employees
Exceptional Projects - technology developments that have higher costs. These projects are likely to generate much wider economic benefits and must be recognised as of ’strategic ’ importance for a technology or industrial sector. Up to £500,000 is available to businesses with fewer than 250 employees.