04 Mar Assessment Center & their Importance
Assessment Centers – The Journey so far..
Assessment Centers were first used by the Germans in the First World War to select their Defense Officers. The reason behind putting together this battery of tests was to ensure that resentful, disloyal or apathetic people do not make it to high pressure, public and national interest roles. However, the first industrial application of the Assessment Centers was the Management Progress Study (MPS) initiated in the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T) in 1956. The aim of the study was to predict if a person would be able to successfully make it to the middle management of the company. The study was so successful that eventually AT&T started using the assessment center methodology for personnel decisions such as potential appraisal, promotions, etc.
Assessment Centres came to Asia at a much later time. The first Assessment Centre in Asia was for selecting project leaders for the Entrepreneurship Development Programme in Gujarat (Rao, 1975) (Rao, Juneja; W.P. No.2007-06-06).
Assessment Centers – Features & Benefits
So, what is it that makes Assessment Centers such a popular tool in decision making for various purposes in the organization?
An Assessment Center (AC) is a technique which is used for measuring certain dimensions of a person’s personality. Simply put, the psychological dimensions of personality are assessed in an AC. It consists of a mix of separate techniques for measuring dimensions such as traits, qualities or competencies of people. Any Assessment Center uses the skill & observations of multiple trained assessors to provide a comprehensive insight into the competencies being assessed.
Keeping both Assessment & Development Centers in mind, the following HR processes can be impacted & improved:
- Managerial Development
- Identification of learning needs
- Performance Management
- HiPo/ HiPer Programs
- Succession Planning
In selection methodologies, there have been studies to prove that Assessment Centers are more effective than any other method (quoted in Ganesh, 2004, p 155). Studies like these have surely impacted the general mood of the Indian industry with respect to Assessment Centers. As per a recent survey conducted by TJinsite, more than 80% of the surveyed employers predicted an increased use of Assessment Centers in the near future.
The application of Assessment Centers in India, in reality, is not limited to selection & recruitment purposes alone. As found by a TJinsite study, nearly 30% companies seek Assessment Centre services while moving an employee from executive role to managerial role while another 20% said that they avail AC services when seeking a position on senior management level.
Effectiveness & Reliability
In a large scale meta-analysis conducted containing 107 validity coefficients for 50 AC studies, it was demonstrated that Assessment Centers show strong predictive validity (Gaugler, Rosenthal, Thornton, and Bentson, 1987) (Rao, Juneja; W.P. No.2007-06-06). The validity of Assessment Centers has been observed to be consistent irrespective of their intent. It has also been observed as a better method of selection for promoting candidates when compared to other past-looking performance methods such as 360 degree feedbacks or rating scales based on past performances (Rao, Juneja; W.P. No.2007-06-06). These studies further support a more widespread use of ACs.
Overall it can be said that, in most studies conducted to study the validity & reliability of Assessment Centers, they have been proven to be an unbiased and objective method of overall personality assessment. There are also studies to support the fact that conducting Assessment & Development Centers in an organization leads to better diversity & inclusion for various minorities.
Importance in Current Scenario
The recent outbreak of Covid-19 wreaked havoc on the world economy as a whole & left many industries struggling to survive. While companies grappled with overnight transitions & digital transformations, some employees were left directionless and demotivated. The biggest fraction of employees resorted to online learnings & certifications for individual upskilling & reskilling. Many companies also arranged for online team trainings & knowledge sharing sessions to ensure team cohesion during several months of WFH. This forced transition brought to the fore the fact that employees, when faced with an insecurity or lack of monetary recognition, turn to learnings for motivation.
All industries can take a cue from this scenario. A comprehensive way to conduct an in-depth Training Need Analysis is to start with creating a well-defined Competency Framework. The competencies should be defined keeping in mind the unique skill sets required to perform activities as per the unique job role. Once defined, the framework can bring continuity to the Training department & make planning & creating of training calendars easier. With the possibility of conducting online Assessment Centers, companies can use this opportunity to cement a fair and transparent training process.
A Look Forward
While the number of organizations using Assessment Centers is on the rise, it is a system that is constantly evolving. The newest trend being online Assessment Centers. Even though online Assessment Centers help in reducing costs short-term, they may have a lower validity and miss out on some toolkits that necessarily involve the observation of experienced assessors.
Another trend seen on the rise is using individual toolkits for specific functions instead of a holistic assessment. For example – using BEI (Behavioral Event Interview) for talent acquisition or using an SJT (Situation Judgement Test) for promotion tests is a common phenomenon in conglomerates. However, it must be kept in mind that all these toolkits individually are not sufficient in providing the complete picture about personality traits.
In the world of bite-size learning, it is important that organizations use dependable assessments to identify training gaps so that individuals can focus on competencies that need the most improvement
All in all, ACs can be said to be an overall goodie bag for the organization helping increase process transparency, employee morale and managerial fairness. In the world of social media and industry disruptors, with the professionals and employees spending more time on upskilling than ever before, it is advisable that organizations continue to grow with them.
Having continued assessments that seem fair to employees and help develop them is an easy way to make employees feel valued and build trust in the leadership.