"ATF has a strong commitment to enhance and develop leadership skills throughout our organization. We are pleased to be able to incorporate EPAS as a specific way to help assess whether our journeyman-level special agents are ready to take on leadership roles within the agency. I am very proud of our human resources staff, subject matter experts, and contractor support for their hard work in developing this premier promotion assessment tool. Enhancing the leadership capabilities of our employees is one of the means through which ATF can strengthen its ability to fight violent crime and protect the public." – B. Todd Jones, Director, ATF
Electronic Promotion Assessment System (EPAS)
In 2012, fiscal constraints and personnel requirements prevented the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) from its customary reliance on its own top-notch promotion assessment center system that it had used for a decade to evaluate the skills of journeyman-level special agents applying for supervisory special agent positions. In response, ATF contracted with the Human Resources Research Organization (HumRRO) to develop a computer-based system called the Electronic Promotion Assessment System (EPAS). In partnership with ClicFlic Intelligent Media, Inc., HumRRO created interactive, rich media simulations that measure the critical competencies a supervisory special agent would need to successfully perform the job. Moving away from a total in-person assessment process (and its associated costs, such as travel expenses) allowed ATF to take advantage of technological advances to deliver valid and engaging ways to assess skills, while cutting costs and allowing for easy and frequent access to the promotion assessment process.
EPAS includes a virtual role play (VRP), an automated in-basket, and a situational judgment test. The assessments use animation and interactive features to evoke targeted competencies through realistic, multifaceted scenarios that an incumbent might encounter on the job. The most novel aspect is the VRP, where the assessment unfolds in the manner of a flow chart based on a participant’s responses – similar to how a live role-play would proceed. This “intelligent branching” increases respondents’ engagement while simultaneously allowing the focal competencies to be assessed.
This ATF initiative was a significant step in demonstrating to the testing industry the power of well developed, interactive online simulations. By taking advantage of cutting-edge technology and adhering to professional and legal test development standards and guidelines, ATF created a cost-effective approach that allows it to efficiently collect multiple indicators of an employee’s competencies while providing a sense of realism for the test-taker.