Some key insights from the fourth annual UK Assessment Centre Conference

UK-ACG - Assessment Centre Group
Published June 15, 2017

I recently attended the fourth annual UK Assessment Centre Conference (UK-ACG) in Windsor, where the theme of the conference was “Assessment Centre Advances in Evidence-Based Practice.” It brought about some great debate and discussions, and I would like to share some of the key points that came through for me.

The conference kicked off with a keynote from Rob Briner (Professor of Organisational Psychology at Queen Mary, University of London), who posed the question of whether evidence-based practice is really being used in the design and implementation of assessment centres. He succinctly outlined our core purpose as HR / Occupational Psychology professionals: “to do stuff that works to address business / organisational problems.” He pointed out that whilst nobody in the world of HR generally disputes this, there are many instances where this is not applied: the design and use of assessment centres being one example. Rob outlined that when we’re thinking about evidence-based practice we need to first identify the problem before drawing on information from multiple sources in order to establish the best solution. While this may seem obvious, the truth is that there are many blockers to evidence-based practice, such as strong beliefs about what works best and the adoption of certain fads rather than the application of more proven techniques.

Another obstacle to evidence-based practice (which was also highlighted during Sandra Schlebusch’s keynote presentation), was the requirements of the organisation or stakeholders versus our ethical considerations as practitioners. Again, the importance of evidence-based practice is key, with an emphasis being placed on defining the requirements for the assessment centre and ensuring that validation stages are in place as standard. What was really interesting was the breakdown Sandra gave regarding all stakeholders and their perceived expectations. Working through the expectations in this methodical manner really highlighted all the considerations needed, whilst also helping us to think about where we will or will not be willing to bend on the best practice guidelines that drive our work as practitioners.

Another point that Sandra made was regarding the use of technology in assessment centres and how this can be really beneficial if used correctly. Of course, some technological advances in assessment may well be considered to fall into the “fad” category which Rob Briner described as sometimes being a blocker to evidence-based practice. However, the presentations at the UK-ACG outlined interesting and innovative ways technology is being successfully used to enhance the assessment centre experience. There were a number of presentations from a&dc which highlighted how technology is shaping our assessment practices, including case studies using our VirtualACTM , e-Valuate and Business Sim products. a&dc’s R&D Director, Philippa Riley, also took part in a very interesting panel discussion regarding the use of Gamification in assessment.

It was two presentations on the topic of technology which really struck me. The first was the third keynote, delivered by Nicky Garcea from CAPP, which focused partly on the use of virtual reality in assessment. This is something which may seem far removed from the day-to-day reality of assessment for many of us, however Nicky presented some great examples of how it is being implemented and the benefits such as stripping away ‘preparedness’; and the provision of genuine ‘unique’ assessment. The data reported by Nicky also seemed to suggest that assessors are finding virtual reality assessments provide them with more accurate data than traditional methods.

Like any new innovations, there is often a steep learning curve and Nicky pointed out some of the things they have learnt along the way, and that this is still a developing technology. This was a sentiment echoed by Martin Lanik from Pinsight during his presentation on disruptive, evidence-based technologies. He provided an example of an online virtual assessment where a candidate’s physiological responses are tracked over a series of exercises. This technology is still at the research phase and like the example of virtual reality assessment, there is still some work to be done before a better picture emerges of how this can be effectively applied to help shape assessment decisions. My colleague Kathryn Lewis also presented on the topic of virtual assessment, and provided a great case study of how an immersive and interactive virtual assessment has been delivered on a&dc’s VirtualAC platform. It was clear through the course of the conference that developments in the area of virtual assessment are going to be a key focus for the future of assessment centres.

The few presentations I have touched on here are just a subset of the great talks which took place over the course of the conference. I certainly came away from it with plenty of topics to reflect on. The key takeaway for me was the importance of applying evidence-based practice, and ensuring that this is also a key driver when thinking about how technology will shape assessment in the future.

Author: Mary Mescal

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