25 May 2011

The Multi-Tasks Test as a Predictor of Management Performance

Managers are arguably the most important members of an organisation. Managers act as the liaison point between the workers and the strategy makers. They lead and direct staff, implement strategies and policies devised by organisational heads and provide both upward and downward feedback and advice. They are relied upon by all levels of the organisation.

So it is very important for your business that you employ the right managers.

Interviews and traditional ability measures will provide guidance in your decision-making, but there is another tool that has been found to uniquely predict performance in managerial roles.

It is called the Multi-Tasks Test.

RightPeople’s Multi-Tasks test paradigm has a long history in psychological research but has recently re-emerged as technological advances have made it possible to develop superior forms of Multi-tasks and efficiently administer this test in the average workplace.

Read on for more information about the theoretical basis for this test, the empirical research supporting it and how RightPeople can help you make one of the most important decisions you will make: who you put in charge of your business.

What skills are required in a manager?

Firstly it needs to be determined which skills need to be measured.  Managerial ability is not a simple concept but involves a number of key attributes. These include gathering, disseminating and transmitting complex information throughout the organisation, assisting with decision-making and negotiation.

The importance of attention

Neuropsychological and cognitive psychology research has identified the importance of attention in dealing with complex information. This is particularly true of managers as they have to handle information from a number of sources simultaneously.

Attention is a multidimensional construct. Based on Poser and Petersen (1990)’s work and a review of the literature, Robertson and colleagues (1996) outlined a theory of attention comprising three components.  These are: selective or focused attention, being able to resist distractions and discriminate important information; sustained attention, or the ability to keep one’s mind on the job over a period of time; and attentional switching – ability to switch focus of attention smoothly. Being able to focus, switch rapidly between the range of tasks under one’s responsibility and to handle competing stimuli without being distracted or losing judgement are key requirements for managerial success.

Particularly relevant to this discussion is the work on divided attention. The ability to divide one’s attention in order to perform two or more tasks simultaneously has traditionally been viewed as a sign of superior ability, has obvious survival advantages and is required in the modern, complex workplace. Divided attention tasks have long been used in studies involving complex roles including pilot training (e.g. North & Gopher, 1976).


A modern type of cognitive ability test called Multi-tasks has been found to predict management performance more effectively than traditional measures of problem-solving. This test involves solving two tasks simultaneously. Importantly, the Multi-task test shares similar characteristics to many ‘pop-psychology’ gamified tests but with extensive research and strong theoretical underpinnings.

The underlying ability tapped by the competing tasks measure is to measure the ability to deal with several complex problems simultaneously; a key skill for managers.

Contact us to learn more about the Multi-Tasks Test.


Ben-Shakhar, G., & Sheffer, L. (2001). The relationship between the ability to divide attention and standard measures of general cognitive abilities. Intelligence, 29, 293-306.

Fogarty, G., & Stankov, L. (1982). Competing tasks as an index of intelligence. Personality and Individual Differences, 3, 407-422.

McGrew, K.S. (2009). CHC theory and the human cognitive abilities project: Standing on the shoulders of the giants of psychometric intelligence research. Intelligence, 37, 1-10.

North, R., & Gopher, D. (1976). Measures of attention as predictors of flight performance. Human Factors, 18(1), 1-14.

Posner, M.I., & Petersen, S.E. (1990). The attention system of the human brain. Annual Review of Neuroscience, 13, 25-42.

Robertson, I.H., Ward, A., Ridgeway, V., & Nimmo-Smith, I. (1996). The structure of normal human attention. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 2, 523-534.

Stankov, L., Fogarty, G., & Watt, C. (1989). Competing tasks: Predictors of managerial potential. Personality and Individual Differences, 10(3), 295-302.

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