Assessment and Development Centre Design

Assessment and development centre design is one of our core skills. Research demonstrates that there is no substitute for objectively observing and systematically measuring how people actually perform “on the ground”. A well designed centre is the most effective tool available for assessing individuals in both a selection and development context. One defining characteristic of an assessment or development centre – namely that it is behaviour which is being observed and measured.

We provide a complete range of  assessment and development centre design and delivery services, from competency matrix design through assessor training, exercise design and the provision of psychometric testing.  We can design and manage the whole process from scratch using either our own established procedures and assessment tools, or design entirely new and highly organisationally relevant exercises.

There is no such thing a ‘standard’ assessment – some can last as little as half a day, while others can go on for three days or more. However, all demand considerable commitment from the host organisation.

Centres can vary between the traditional assessment centre used purely for selection to the more modern development centre which involves self-assessment and whose primary purpose is development.

Both types typically involve participants completing a range of exercises which simulate the activities carried out in the target job. The rationale being that if one wishes to predict future job performance, then the best way of doing this is to get the individual to carry out a set of tasks which accurately sample those required in the job and are as similar to them as possible. Various combinations of exercises and other assessment methods, like psychometric testing and interviews, are used to assess particular competencies in individuals.

The competencies used will depend upon the target job but one will often find competencies such as relating to people; resistance to stress; planning and organising; motivation; adaptability and flexibility; problem solving; leadership; communication; decision making and initiative. There are numerous possible competencies and the ones which are relevant to a particular job are determined through job analysis.

This represents a significant departure from many traditional selection approaches which rely on the observer or selector attempting to infer personal characteristics from behaviour based upon subjective judgement and usually precious little evidence. This approach is rendered unfair and inaccurate by the subjective whims and biases of the selector and in many cases produces a selection decision based on a freewheeling social interaction and a posts-hoc decision as to whether the individual’s face ‘fitted’ with the organisation.

While you will hear centres being called ‘assessment’ or ‘development’ centres, remember that assessment goes on in both, and so to some extent they are both ‘assessment’ centres. Assessment centres for recruitment/selection which involve existing staff usually have a very heavy emphasis on development.

We can, however, identify a number of typical differences between assessment and development centres:

Assessment Centres usually –

  • have a pass/fail criteria
  • are geared towards recruitment and filing a job vacancy
  • address an immediate organisational need
  • have fewer assessors and more participants
  • involve line managers as assessors
  • have less emphasis placed on self-assessment
  • focus on what the candidate can do now
  • are geared to meet the needs of the organisation
  • assign the role of judge to assessors
  • place emphasis on selection with little or no developmental feedback and follow up
  • give feedback at a later date
  • involve the organisation having control over the information obtained
  • have very little pre-centre briefing
  • tend to be used with external candidates

Development Centres usually –

  • do not have a pass/fail criteria
  • are geared towards developing the individual
  • address a longer term organisational need
  • have a 1:1 ratio of assessor to participant
  • do not have line managers as assessors
  • have a greater emphasis placed on self-assessment
  • focus on potential
  • are geared to meet needs of the individual as well as the organisation
  • assign the role of facilitator to assessors
  • place emphasis on developmental feedback and follow up with little or no selection function
  • tend give feedback immediately
  • involve the individual having control over the information obtained
  • have a substantial pre-centre briefing
  • tend to be used with internal staff

If you are running your own Assessment Centre, and have all the other elements in place, then we can provide the psychometric testing element either face to face or on-line for you.

If you would like to discuss your assessment and development centre design needs with one of our psychologists please contact us.