Why Choose Assessment Centres?

Published June 6, 2016

Talent management experts have used the assessment / development centre method for decades in many aspects of the employee life cycle. Now we’re seeing clients using the technique to assess more levels within their workforce for a wider variety of purposes than ever.

Why? Because research evidence tells us it’s the right method to use. Thanks to an abundance of academic articles, we have the data to show there is a high correlation (0.6) between observations at an assessment centre and real, on-the-job performance. This is called predictive validity. Traditional methods, such as structured interviews, ability tests and personality questionnaires boast a lower (yet still valid) correlation of 0.4. To give you some context, 0.4 is the strength of relationship between smoking and the onset of lung cancer, and apparently the same level of effectiveness as Viagra. Therefore, it’s safe to say that assessment centres are hard to beat when it comes to choosing your talent acquisition or development methods.

However, contradictory findings are rife in most fields of psychological research. Talent management is no exception. Some studies have found lower correlation coefficients for assessment centres, and questioned their validity as a selection or development tool. However, these studies fail to accommodate best practice in the way you are meant to design an assessment centre, and how assessors should conduct themselves (oh the irony of a piece of science lacking scientific rigour).

So let’s take a minute to explore three things that make an effective assessment centre process:

1. Research the role you are assessing / developing.

An assessment centre can be defined as an integrated system of simulation exercises designed to generate behaviour similar to that required in a target job. So firstly, do you know what behaviour is required in the target job? Secondly, do you know what situations are the most realistic to simulate for this role? Having a general understanding is not a data-driven understanding. We use job analysis questionnaires and interviews with subject matter experts to gather evidence and have confidence that we are measuring the right behaviours across the right exercises.

2. Use multiple assessors across multiple exercises.

There is an often overlooked yet major fail in relying on interviews to assess people; you are relying on one person’s judgement only. We all have unconscious bias (it’s true, just look here), so having a diverse group of assessors rate a person’s performance across different exercises not only reduces the risk of bias degrading evaluations, it also makes the overall ratings more reliable.

3. Train those assessors.

Having multiple assessors, however, is no match on its own to the dark side of unconscious bias. Assessors need to be trained in effective behavioural assessment to be sure they are not relying on ‘gut feel,’ which so often leads to a bad selection decision or developmental suggestion.

What next?

The benefits of assessment centres are so vast, and technology is rapidly changing the way they are delivered and managed to make them far more easy and cost-effective to implement than ever before. The wealth of data that can be collected from such an initiative is begging to be analysed and utilised too (find out more about our take on talent analytics here).

a&dc’s guide to assessment and development centres is a great place to start if you want more details on how to implement all of the above, or if you simply want to learn what the future holds for this robust methodology.

Want to know more? Join us for a free webinar on June 29th >>


Author: Jordon Jones

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