Is there a Human Resources Director or Head of Recruitment out there who wouldn’t admit to regretting a hiring or a promotion decision?

Assessment and Development Centres: an alternative to the hidden costs in the classic approach to recruitment and internal mobility

Quite apart from the deception with the situation, the many related costs can be measured in time, energy, search fees, direct and indirect salary costs and training, as well as travel costs and expenses and perhaps even a leaving package. Put end-to-end these can amount to more than a year’s salary for the company – an expensive ‘mistake’.


1. In the case of an external recruitment

Assessment et development centreOne of the most common approaches is to organise a series of interviews with a number of different people, (research assistant and consultant at the head-hunter, HR Manager, departmental manager(s), HR Director, a member of the Executive Committee etc. …), together with – in some cases – online tests, personality questionnaires and perhaps taking up of references. Despite the professionalism of the different individuals involved, it is not easy to bypass the impact that the subjectivity and the intuition of the interviewers can have in the process and of course there is the question of how to evaluate the purely declarative statements of the candidate.


In the case of an internal process to identify candidates for a new opportunity (often a promotion) or as part of a talent management/succession planning process

The evaluation methods used are frequently based on the past performance and the perceived motivation of the candidate, together with a series of internal interviews. But this is not usually enough to form a view on the adaptability of the individual, nor their potential to move to a new role where the responsibilities and challenges are likely to be important.


For an external recruitment an Assessment Centre can be designed to evaluate multiple criteria: verbal, numerical and inductive reasoning tests, personality and motivation questionnaires, structured, competency based interviews and case studies based on real life business situations so that the capacity of a participant to analyse complex information, to organise themselves, to take decisions, to develop strategies making use of internal and external resources and to present their recommendations and action plans can all be observed and evaluated. Role plays with either an actor or a consultant make it possible to observe the capacity of the participant to conduct a meeting with a team member, to handle conflict, to coach or to negotiate.

An evaluation based on indicators (both positive and negative) make it possible to objectively position all candidates on the same scale of results.

In the case of internal mobility or as part of a talent management/succession planning process, a Development Centre, in addition to the techniques used in Assessment Centres, can also be used to bring the participants together to solve a problem in the context of a group exercise (6-8 participants per group). During a group development centre the participants will be observed and evaluated by 3 or 4 different consultants who will share their observations at the end of the centre. The collective exercises highlight the capacity of an individual to express themselves in a group, to demonstrate their leadership capacity, their creativity and their ability to convince and work with the other group members to achieve and adhere to a collective result.

A Development Centre can give not only a neutral and objective indication of the performance of the participant and of the potential for development but can also be a source of recommendations for development (on the job, training, coaching, mentoring, co-development…) to accompany the participant as they take up a new role or in preparation for future challenges.


In addition to their experience in evaluating candidates and participants, Redwood Talent Partners’ consultants bring a broad and deep knowledge of operating in a variety of business sectors (industry and services, B2B, B2C…) at a senior level. Their international background and business experience enables them to demonstrate a particular awareness of issues of cultural diversity.

In this way they can select and calibrate the most appropriate exercises and role plays, adapting them to the specific needs of the client. This also adds authenticity to the role plays and credibility to the restitution sessions, identifying links between the competencies observed and the challenges of a specific position, proposing realistic development actions, providing support and bringing insight to the decision-making process and finally, to deliver projects and missions in four languages (English, French, German and Spanish).



How should you evaluate the cost of an assessment or Develoment Centre? There are a number of variables which will provide the answer to these questions. The length of the Centre (from half a day to two days), the number of participants and the choice of venue will determine the resources which need to be identified and organised, including the number of consultants and support staff (internal and/or external), and the associated costs. Then, depending on the number and the type of compentecies to be evaluated, decisions need to be taken concerning the choice of tests, questionniares, exercises, role plays and case studies. Then there is the question of feedback, to the particpant and to the client – what format should the written reports take and how will they be debriefed with the participant and the client company?

These costs have to be evaluated in the context of the benefits to the company of a successful hire, internal move or talent retention. The actual cost per head will rarely exceed a few weeks’ total salary cost of the person recruited, promoted or identified as a talent to be retained.

To sum up, Assessment and Development Centres use a number of objective, rigorous methods which can considerably reduce the risks inherent with more classic selection methods. They can help not only to achieve a greater success rate in ensuring that the right people are in the right place in the company but also reinforce the objectivity of the approach to talent management, one of the key challenges facing HR Directors and General Management.

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