How to choose who to bet on?

Benefits and principles of using Assessment center.





In modern times the term „human capital” turns increasingly from a metaphor into reality. The analogy with capital is not overstretched, taking into consideration the fact that a company’s employees very often are the driving force behind its success, and in many dimensions they are even more important than all other assets. Just like every investment portfolio, the “portfolio” of human capital in every organization has its “asset” structure. Assets with higher and lower value, higher and lower risk, different return on investment, different growth potential, etc.

On many occasions the company management needs to decide which people to bet on and the decision is neither easier, nor with less consequences, as opposed to the decision in what to invest. What kind of training to be organized? Who to promote? Which people to prepare for future managers? Which one of the many candidates to choose for a key position?

The reliable, objective and timely assessment of the people is highly necessary…

In such cases the Assessment center procedure could be applied.

What is Assessment center?

Assessment center, or Development center, is a procedure for assessing the behavior. It is conducted by specially trained and qualified assessors, using preliminary set criteria (professionally significant qualities), and through the participation of the people in a series of various activities (simulative and actual exercises and tasks).

How does it happen?

During the Assessment center, or the Development center (the procedure is similar, but the difference is in the goals, towards which the results are used), in the course of one or two days the participants are being put through a series of group and individual tasks, selected in advance, in order to reflect the qualities and skills that are being assessed. The participants discuss the solutions to close-to-reality simulative or real tasks, do case solving individually or in groups, prepare presentations or directly demonstrate a specific skill. They are being monitored constantly by qualified assessors, who observe, register and classify their behavior, using a preliminary list of professionally significant qualities. In addition to the monitoring, quite often various tests or questionnaires are used. After the monitoring end, the observers prepare an individual report of the behavior of each participant, with the applied procedure requiring a consensus of the opinions, so that objectiveness is guaranteed. For this purpose the whole process is frequently videotaped in order, when necessary, the observers to be able to watch again the performance of a certain task and to avoid mistakes in the assessment.

What can the Assessment center or Development center be used for?

The method is most often used for assessment of managers, sales force and key employees, identifying talent or defining individual fields for development and education. Here are some examples of its use:

Selection of key employees

Once the standard selection procedure is completed and a group of top candidates is identified, they take part in an Assessment center. Based on the Assessment center a ranking of the candidates is made, according to the degree in which the competences and the potentials shown correspond to the ideal profile for the position. Thus more complete information on the qualities of the candidate is generated and most importantly – the effect of the skillful impression management, which candidates often create, is overcome. According to Michael Armstrong’s Handbook of Human Resource Management, Assessment center provides the most accurate assessment compared to all other selection methods. Many surveys display data indicative of high prognostic validity of the method.

Internal selection in cases of promotion

In situations when a choice who among team members should be promoted or be included in a talent development program, the Assessment center, alongside the already described selection benefits, provides another very valuable and quite pragmatic benefit: the selection is objective and independent. A survey, conducted in USA in 1984, measures the financial benefit of using the Assessment center when used for selection of candidates for promotion. By combining data of the validity with the value in dollars of the results, achieved by the promoted managers, the researchers found out that the additional profit of the company from each person promoted through the Assessment center was up to $2700 a year.

Assessment of training and development needs

Extremely effective practice for people development includes the use of information on their strengths and areas for improvement as a basis for preparing a training program for further development. In this case the term Development center is used. One of the main differences between Development and Assessment center is the type and time of giving feedback to the participants. This approach allows a very precise analysis of the training needs. Another significant benefit is the high degree of motivation for personal improvement and participation in the training, which is created by the individually presented feedback on the results.

It goes without saying that the described advantages and benefits depend on the correct use of the method. Here are some of the minimum standards:

-        Clearly defined assessment criteria

-        Trained and competent assessors

-        Assessment based on direct monitoring of participants’ behavior

-        Various tasks, reflecting the assessed criteria

-        Individual feedback for each participant

-        Providing accurate information to the participants on the objectives and the results


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