We’ve all seen the use of polygraphs in American movies, especially when someone says a polygraph is not admissible in court or when they catch a bad guy after using a ‘lie detector’. There are many polygraph service providers in South Africa and this mechanism has been used in various situations over the years, but is it a good option when doing employee screening.
Hi-Tech Security Solutions asked Jenny Reid, CEO of iFacts for her take on the polygraph and its utility in screening today, as well as voice stress analysis.
Reid says that current trends indicate that people and organisations are actually moving away from the traditional polygraph test (the one made famous by movies), to the new Voice Stress Analysis (VSA). Opinions differ in terms of which method is better, but the industry is certainly moving in the direction of the VSA.
The VSA measures the flexibility of a subject’s vocal chords, Reid explains. “Typically, when a person is put under stress, they will enter into ‘fight, flight, or freeze’ mode. This in turn causes their throat muscles to tighten, which has an effect on their vocal chords. Subjects are asked a range of questions by a qualified analyst, and the VSA measures the physical changes taking place in the subject’s body. However, unlike a polygraph, this is not done through any physical attachments.”
The VSA is a much friendlier test in terms of how it interacts with the subject. Figures suggest that typically around 80% of people that are tested are actually ‘innocent’, and so it certainly makes sense to give these subjects a much friendlier test.
Chris Nel, the managing director of Welcor Truth Verification Centre, suggests that people should do their own research into both the polygraph and the VSA. In short the benefits of the voice stress analysis include:
• More hygienic;
• More subject friendly; and
• Less intimidating to subjects.
However, in many cases it is a personal decision as to which method is better. Some of the key differences between these two methods, which mostly point towards the benefits of VSA, include:
• The VSA doesn’t make use of any physical attachments;
• Subjects are free to move around as they wish;
• VSA is a much newer technology than the polygraph;
• The only possible countermeasure is for the subject to be silent;
• All results are claimed to be conclusive;
• Alcohol, drugs, age and health will not impact on results;
• An unlimited number of questions can be asked in the test; and
• Result charts are able to show and quantify stress patterns.
Dismissing an employee based on a VSA
Remember that an employee cannot be dismissed purely as a result of a polygraph or VSA test, Reid cautions. The results of these tests can and must only be used as supporting evidence when a case is presented at the CCMA. If you are attempting to dismiss an employee based on that person failing a voice stress test, you must make sure that the following is in place:
• Correct paperwork, including a release form signed by the subject;
• Once the test has been conducted, charts have been analysed (in front of subject), and the subject has shown deception to some or other degree, you should tell the subject they have failed, and then complete the report and forward this to the client; and
• The client needs to hold a disciplinary hearing.
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