Acas Case Study: Assessment Centre Projects
Industry sector: Government
Number of employees: Approx 750
Whilst Acas (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) is the official guardian of UK employment best practice, offering impartial advice on a wide variety of employment related issues; the organisation is also a significant employer in its own right. It is therefore important that Acas maintain a high standard in the recruitment, selection and promotion of its staff.
“As advocates of best practice in employment, we must be seen to be ‘practicing what we preach’ says Mike Spencer, Acas Human Resources Director.
In 1999, Acas engaged a&dc to help improve the objectivity of recruitment and selection programmes. Since then, a&dc have worked in partnership with Acas, assisting the HR team to effectively align, implement and measure its people strategy.
With a limited initial budget, Acas required fast-track training in Assessment and Development techniques in order to run in-house Assessment Centres to a high standard.
a&dc addressed this initial challenge in 3 key ways.
- developed competency frameworks for many different job grades.
- created Assessment Centre processes to measure these competencies, incorporating customised exercises and materials, developed specifically for Acas.
- delivered Assessor Training to Acas staff in order to ensure their professional and objective use of those exercises.
Since these beginnings, the relationship between Acas and a&dc has evolved. a&dc has become a true partner in people strategy for the Acas HR team.
“We developed a very strong working relationship with Acas built on a solid foundation of trust” says Kevin McGrath, a&dc’s Acas account manager, “Through continually strengthening our understanding of their needs we have been able to support Acas in all aspects of their recruitment process from sifting candidates, through to developing and running the Assessment Centres.”
To ensure consistency, a&dc has provided specialist support staff for each Acas Assessment Centre, including; an occupational psychologist acting as centre manager; trained assessors where required; centre administrators; and professional role players to participate in Interview Simulation exercises.
Working in partnership has meant that responses to challenges as they arise over the years have been creative, while remaining true to brief and appropriate to the culture of the organisation and the people within it.
a&dc have since worked with Acas during many large scale programmes of assessment; from contact centre staff to senior level operational roles. Due to the scale of the organisation, and the changing nature of its structure, it is not unusual for an assessment process to include over 160 candidates.
Ensuring a successful outcome, on budget and on time, can be challenging but is critical. Bespoke Exercises were designed which would measure key competencies such as Strategic Perspective, Decision Making, Problem Analysis, Persuasive Oral Communication and Leadership. Tailored Exercises ensure optimum relevance to the target role.
The recent job vacancies were filled successfully and Acas will ultimately benefit from lower recruitment costs through a reduced need for any short-term re-hiring for these roles.
The Human Resources Director at Acas, Mike Spencer, explains why he felt the relationship has worked so well: “I was impressed by the flexibility a&dc demonstrated from the outset. Our Account Manager took the time to listen to our requirements and delivered an appropriate solution, on time and on budget. I felt as though the consultants were a part of our business, which gave me peace of mind and confidence throughout.
The fact that we can now demonstrate fair and objective employment selection gives us greater credibility and adds weight to our argument for fairness and objectivity in the workplace.”
As well as the clear business benefits, there were positive outcomes for individuals at Acas who experienced training in assessment techniques. Managers who were trained, and who went on to participate as assessors, found the experience valuable from a personal development point of view.