Assessment or Development Centre
These are both events where a participant, or a number of participants, take part in a process that has been designed in a structured way to objectively evaluate several different competencies.
Devised originally for military purposes during World War 2, the first large-scale use in a business context was at AT&T in the late 1950s.
Heffeter provides a definition that sums up the ethos behind assessment and development centres :
It is a comprehensive, systematic procedure in which the efforts of (one or) several candidates :
- are observed and evaluated
- at the same time
- by several experts
- with the help of multiple assessment techniques
- according to specific criteria
- for various purposes
Typical techniques used include individual presentations, role-play exercises covering topics such as corporate strategy, management of situations and coaching, in-trays, structured interviews and a number of different psychometric tests and questionnaires.
Amongst the key factors to running a successful centre are :
- The design stage – identifying which competencies are to be assessed and to what level and which exercises will provide evidence for each competency.
- A positive experience for the participants during the assessment centre and the use of trained observers to ensure that relevant information is gathered.
- A rigorous consolidation process where observations and interpretations are cross-referenced to build up a comprehensive picture of the participant’s performance
- A structured report and/or feedback process are also an integral part of the process, providing information, explanations and recommendations to both the employer (existing or potential) and the participant.
How can they be used in a talent management context ?
This approach can be adapted to provide valuable additional insight at many stages of the talent management process.
Assessment Centres are most commonly used in recruitment, be it internal or external, when the final outcome of the process involves a yes/no decision. There are clear advantages to seeing the candidate perform before a hiring decision is made and there is a body of literature that shows that the prognostic validity of a yes/no decision based on an assessment centre is much higher than by using a series of interviews. In the case of a positive recommendation to the employer, a number of suggestions may be made to ensure a successful on-boarding process.
They can, as the name suggests, be an important part of behavioural skills and competency development plans for individual employees. This may be in the context of assessing readiness for internal mobility, within an existing function or, as is becoming more common, for a transversal move.
Another frequent use of development centres is as part of the process for identifying or confirming potential. The ability to identify strengths and areas for development to help in the career planning process for those who have the potential to lead the business now and in the future is a key issue for talent management professionals and for all business leaders.
Areas covered such as motivation, values, personality and cognitive ability, can have a higher correlation to the profile of a high potential employee than past performance.
In a similar way, the use of these techniques can also provide valuable input to the topic of succession planning.
The Redwood Talent Partners approach
The Redwood Talent Partners team have considerable experience in designing and delivering assessment and development centres in a wide range of contexts, across many different sectors of the economy and with participants from six continents and over 40 countries.
No two assessment or development centres are alike and our knowledge of and certification in the use of a variety of different techniques and tools means that we commit to engage with you to put together the combination that meets your specific needs. Identifying these needs is part of the design process and this is directly linked to the vision that the company has of the purpose of the assessment or development centre.
Redwood Talent Partners can work with you to ensure that the phases of developing, implementing and validating the centre are structured to ensure success.