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Assessment Centers as a Recruitment Strategy

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SYNOPSIS

TOPIC :

“Assessment Centers - It's Pertinence, Functionality and Application”

OBJECTIVE :

Primary Objective - The theme permeating this research is to know about the Assessment Centers inside out, its relevance in today's businesses, functions and objectives.

Secondary Objective - To apprehend the application of Assessment Centers in various firms.

ABSTRACT :

An Assessment Center is a process designed to assess whether candidates have the skills required for the job and the future potential that the organizations are looking for. It mainly comprises a range of activities or simulations designed to test these factors. Some of the activities that are included in Assessment Center are Psychometric Tests, In-basket Exercises, Group Exercises, Role Plays, Behavioural Interviews, Case Studies et al.

The primary objective of an Assessment Center is to match the right person with the available positions in an organization.

The assessment center method, in its modern form, came into existence as a result of the AT&T Management Progress Study In this study, which began in the late 1950s, individuals entering management positions in Bell Telephone operating companies were assessed and, from then on, their careers were followed.

The chief reason the assessment center method is valid in so many different countries is that it is an easily adaptable evaluation system.

Assessment Centre Method has a bearing on the following aspects of personnel management:

  • staffing: decision making on selection, promotion, turnover and dismissal;
  • staff development: determining educational and training requirements
  • improving performance in management/staff relationships;
  • bringing compensation policy in line with general policy objectives.

RESEARCH METHODOLOGY :

The Research will consist of Secondary Data (Reference Books, Websites, Business Journals and Articles) and Primary Data (Questionnaire, Interviews from Industry Experts)

GUIDE :

Prof. Arvind Rajashekar, visiting faculty, IIPM.

RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

A Research is something that always has a question or a problem on the other side of it. The purpose behind ay research is to question through the application of Sciences or otherwise. It is a systematic and an in-depth study with the use of Primary and Secondary Instruments to gain more or complete knowledge of the subject under study.

Research consists of Secondary and Primary Instruments

1. PRIMARY RESEARCH

  • The Primary research consists of conducting a Questionnaire Survey with HR Professionals, business persons and Consultants.
  • For this purpose, I have kept a Sample Size of 20 Respondents.
  • The aim behind this survey is to get knowledge about Assessment Centers and its application and use by the Industry expert themselves and also Consultants who have applied Assessment Centers as a tool of Evaluation.

2. SECONDARY RESEARCH

v The Secondary research consists of :

a. Books on Assessment Centers

b. Articles on the Internet

c. Articles published in Business Journals

d. HR Websites

e. Research Papers by Industry experts

Chapter 1 - INTRODUCTION TO ASSESSMENT CENTERS

1.1 Assessment Centers - A Gist

An Assessment Center (AC) is a process designed to assess whether candidates have the skills required for the job and the future potential that the organizations are looking for. It mainly comprises a range of activities or simulations designed to test these factors. Some of the activities that are included in Assessment Center are Psychometric Tests, In-basket Exercises, Group Exercises, Role Plays, Behavioural Interviews, Case Studies et al. Traditionally an assessment centre consisted of a suite of exercises designed to assess a set of personal characteristics, it was seen as a rather formal process where the individuals being assessed had the results fed back to them in the context of a simple yes/no selection decision. However, recently definite shift is seen in thinking away from this traditional view of an assessment centre to one which stresses the developmental aspect of assessment. A consequence of this is that today it is very rare to come across an assessment centre which does not have at least some developmental aspect to it, increasingly assessment centres are stressing a collaborative approach which involves the individual actively participating in the process rather than being a passive recipient of it. In some cases we can even find assessment centres that are so developmental in their approach that most of the assessment work done is carried out by the participants themselves and the major function of the centre is to provide the participants with feedback that is as much developmental as judgmental in nature.

The primary objective of an Assessment Center is to match the right person with the available positions in an organization.

Assessment Centre Method has a bearing on the following aspects of personnel management:

  • staffing: decision making on selection, promotion, turnover and dismissal;
  • staff development: determining educational and training requirements
  • improving performance in management/staff relationships;
  • bringing compensation policy in line with general policy objectives.
  • To align the strategic intent in line with the market requirements.

1.2 Definitions of an Assessment Center given by Consultants, Academicians & Practitioners

* Assessment Centres are often described as the variety of testing techniques that allow the candidates to demonstrate, under standardized conditions, the skills and abilities most essential for success in a given job. - Dennis A. Joiner, ‘Assessment centre in public sector: A practical approach', Public Personnel Management Journal.

* An assessment center is a comprehensive standardized procedure in which multiple assessment techniques such as situational exercises and job simulation (business games, discussions, reports & presentations) are used to evaluate individual employee for variety of manpower decisions.

* An Assessment Centre consists of a standardized evaluation of behavior based on multiple inputs. Several trained observers and techniques are used. Judgements about behavior are made, in major part, from specifically developed assessment simulations. These judgements are pooled in a meeting among the assessors or by statistical integration process. In an integration discussion, comprehensive accounts of behavior, and often ratting of it, are pooled. The discussion results in evaluation of performance of the assessees on the dimensions/competencies or other variables that the assessment centre is designed to measure. Statistical combination methods should be validated in accordance with professionally accepted standards. - ‘Guidelines and ethical considerations for assessment centre operations.' - 28th International Congress on Assessment Centre Methods

* The main feature of assessment centres is that they are a multiple assessment process. There are five main ways in which that is so. A group of participants takes part in a variety of exercises observed by a team of trained assessors who evaluate each participant against a number of predetermined, job related behaviors. Decisions are then made by pooling shared data. - Iain Ballantyne and Nigel Povah

* An assessment centre is a process in which individuals participate in a series of exercises, most of which approximate what they would be called upon to do in the future job. Assessors usually selected from higher management levels in the firm, are trained to observe the participants and evaluate their performance as fairly and impartially as possible. -‘Can assessment centres be used to improve the salesperson selection process', E. James Randall, Ernest E. Cooke, Richard J. Jefferies, Journal of personal selling and sales management

* An assessment centre is a multi-faceted and multi-dimensional approach designed to provide reliable and valid information about a range of competencies of an individual considered to be necessary for successful performance at a target level in a specific job. - ‘360 degree feedback, competency mapping and assessment centres', Radha R. Sharma

* Tata Management Training Centre's definition of AC: AC is an integrated standardized process in which a series of exercises are used to assess people on pre-defined parameters. These pre-definedparameters define job success in a given organizationalcontext. Most of the exercises are simulation of job activities/work challenges that the candidate is expected to perform in the next level role/job.

1.3 History of Assessment Centers

Assessment Centre process was first used sometime between the two world wars. The Treaty of Versailles, which ended the First World War, prevented Germany from rearming and thus the traditional approach to the selection of officers, which was of observing their performance in war or in exercises was denied to them. German psychologists then devised this method which involved a combination of tests, simulations and exercises to identify the potential of officer candidates. The British Army used this methodology in the early days of Second World War when they established the War Office Selection Boards (WOSBs), again for the selection of officer candidates. However, it was brought into the private sector only in 1956 after AT&T (American Telephone & Telegraph Company) used it for selection of high potentials for managerial positions. This was the first industrial application of the assessment centre methodology. Both individual characteristics of young managers as well as organizational settings in which they worked were studied and evaluation at the assessment centre was used to predict whether the participant would make it to the middle management in the next ten years or less. The sample included both recent college graduates and non-management personnel who had risen to the managerial positions relatively early in their career. The dimensions assessed included managerial functions like organizing, planning, decision making, general ability such as intellectual ability, personal impression, sensitivity, and values and attitudes, both work related and social.

The success of the earlier work of AT&T was followed by Standard Oil which was the second to a start assessment centres. This was followed by IBM, Sears Roebuck, General Electric, and Caterpillar tractors. By 1981 more than 2500 organizations applied this methodology to select potential managers

1.4 Assessment Centers in Asia

The first assessment centre in Asia was for selecting project leaders for the entrepreneurship development programme in Gujarat. Subsequently, efforts were made to introduce it in Larsen and Toubro . L&T did a lot of work on job profiling but never got to the stage of developing an assessment centre for potential appraisal. Crompton Greaves attempted to use an assessment centre approach for selecting their general managers from within. It is only in the 1990s that interest in assessment centres was renewed. This was a natural response to the need to ensure competent people manning strategic positions.

A large number of Asian companies have established assessment centres and many others are exploring. The companies that are trying out include : RPG Group, Escorts, TISCO, Aditya Birla Group, Eicher, Cadburys, Castrol (India), Glaxo, Grindwell Norton, ONGC, Mahindra and Mahindra, SAIL, Siemens, Wipro, Wockhardt, and Johnson & Johnson.

Different organizations initiated assessment centres for recruitment, selection, placement, promotion, career development, performance appraisal, and succession planning and development purposes such as identification of training needs, identification high potential managers, create a pool of managerial talent and multifunctional managers that would be available across the business group, employee recognition and fast growth. Philips, Dr. Reddy's Laboratories, and Global Trust Bank are organizations that have been using assessment centres. Some of these organizations are, in the process of developing Indian managerial talent and measure it periodically.

Generally the competencies that are to be measured are determined by each organization by using methods such as job analysis, managerial aptitude profile surveys, identifying competencies in star performers, etc. A variety of assessment techniques are used in Asian organizations like in-baskets, business simulations, questionnaires, group discussions, role plays, interviews, case study, individual presentations, etc. While the need is felt by all organizations to test reliability and validity of the tools used, many of them are not testing them. Both internal and external assessors are used for evaluation. Assessor training is done either through in-house training programmes or with the aid of external institutions like Academy of HRD (Hyderabad), SHL (UK), etc. Some Asian organizations have also sought assistance from organizations abroad that are using assessment centres such as GE, and Motorola.

1.5 Training and Developmental Needs Analysis

The assessment centre methodology can be used to measure the abilities of individuals against certain critical criteria and identify their training and developmental needs. Such assessment centres are more diagnostic than evaluative and can be termed as development centres.

In the case of use of assessment centre methodology for early identification, promotion, and selection, a final 'yes-no' decision is critical. But in diagnostic assessment centres or development centres, final overall decision is insignificant. Each dimension must be measured with a high degree of reliability and validity because decisions are being made on each dimension. Therefore, the dimensions to be studied should be made as specific as possible.

Quick, easy training methods don't change people's skill levels. Skill acquisition requires intensive, time-consuming classroom training and must be coupled with opportunities for on-the-job practice and feedback so new behaviors are “set” in the individual's repertoire. Because skill development takes a lot of time and effort, everyone cannot be trained in every skill. The assessment center method provides an effective means to determine training or developmental needs. Individuals then can be placed in the most appropriate program.

The assessment center method is an excellent diagnostic tool because it separates an individual's abilities into specific areas (dimensions) and then seeks specific examples of good and poor behavior within each dimension. This helps the assessee and his/her boss determine more precisely what training and developmental activities are required. Almost all organizations using assessment centers for selection or promotion also use the information obtained to diagnose training needs. However, a major shift in focus is the large number of firms now using assessment centers solely to diagnose training needs.

1.6 Relationship between an Assessment Center and Development Center

The type of centre 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. One might ask the question 'Why group assessment and development centres together if they have different purposes?' The answer to that question is threefold. Firstly, they both involve assessment and it is only the end use of the information obtained which is different i.e. one for selection and one for development; secondly, it is impossible to draw a line between assessment and development centres because all centres, be they for assessment or development naturally lie somewhere on a continuum somewhere between the two extremes; thirdly most assessment centres involve at least some development and most development centres involve at least some assessment. This means that it is very rare to find a centre devoted to pure assessment or pure development.. Also, it purely depends upon the Organization's requirements, its policies and procedures whether it wants to conduct an AC or a DC.

It is easier to think about assessment centres as being equally to do with selection and development because a degree of assessment goes on in both. Development centres grew out a liberalisation of thinking about assessment centres and it is a historical quirk that while assessment centres were once used purely for selection and have evolved to have a more developmental flavour the language used to describe them has not. Another problem with using the assessment - development dichotomy is that at the very least it causes us to infer that little or no assessment goes in development centres. While you will hear centres being called assessment or development centres remember that assessment goes on in both and so to some extent at least they are both assessment centres. The end result of this is that it is not possible to talk about assessment or development centres in any but the most general terms. It is more useful to talk about the constituent parts and general processes involved in each. In these terms we can identify a number of differences between assessment and development centres that one might typically find:

Assessment centres usually -

* have a pass/fail criteria

* are geared towards 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 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

* give feedback immediately

* involve the individual having control over the information obtained

* have a substantial pre-centre briefing

* tend to be used with internal candidates

Chapter 2 - ASSESSMENT CENTERS - INSIDE OUT

2.1 Stages in a typical Assessment Center

A typical Assessment Center consists of the following stages. They are :

Pre AC Stage

During AC Stage

Post AC Stage

a. PRE AC STAGE

* Defining the objective of AC .

* Get approval for AC from the concerned officials.

* Conduct job analysis.

* Define the competencies required for the target position.

* Identify the potential position holder and send them invitations.

* Identify the observers.

* Train the observers.

* Design the AC exercises

* Decide the rating methodology.

* Make infrastructural arrangements.

* Schedule the AC.

* Informing the concerned people of the schedule.

b. DURING AC STAGE

* Explain participants the purpose of the AC, the procedure it would follow and its outcome.

* Give instructions to the participants, before every exercise.

* Distribute the competency-exercise matrix sheets among observers.

* Conduct all exercises.

* Conduct a discussion of all observers on every participant's ratings, at the end of the session.

* Make a report of the strengths and improvement areas of every participant.

* Give feedback to participants.

* Get feedback from participants and observers about the conduction of AC.

c. POST AC STAGE

* Compile reports of all participants and submit the list of selected participants to the concerned authorities.

* Make improvements in the design according to the recommendations.

* Evaluate the validity of results after a definite period.

2.2 Sequence of Steps of an Assessment Center

Sequence of Steps of an Assessment Center

( Source - ‘Assessment Center for Identifying potential project managers' , a Paper for the 6th European Conference on Software Quality 1999 in Vienna )

2.3 Factors for Evaluating Assessment Center Design

Five Factors for evaluating the Center Design - The COLAT Model

(Source - Research Paper ‘Assessment of Assessment Centers' by Dr. P. Sethu Madhavan)

Center Design

The following factors related to the centre design can be used to evaluate and compare the Assessment Centers s in the backdrop of best practices and benchmarks.

* Use of qualified resource persons, assessors and support staff

* Content validity of the centre and the competency profiles

* Use of triangulation and corroboration of assessment results

Organizational Preparedness

Organizational preparedness refers to following macro level factors, that need to be addressed adequately and established in order to make an assessment or development centre to work effectively.

* Policies and procedures

* Structure

* Clarity of organisational objectives

* Buy in, commitment and change management

* Communication

Linkages, integration and alignment

It has been observed that organizations vary considerably in ensuring the linkages, integration and alignment of ACs with the other organisational level factors and the individual level factors.

ACs, therefore can be evaluated based on the following best practice anchors falling under these dimensions.

* Alignment with core values, vision, mission and strategy

* Alignment and linkages with other key HR systems and processes

* Alignment with external professional bodies

ADCs should be “purposively” aligned with and derived from the strategy, vision, mission, values and culture of the organisation or the unit. The centre should be designed in such way as to ensure that it helps to meet the strategic objectives of the organisation

Quality of Assessment tools and methods

In many countries, professional associations and legal requirements dictate that ACs follow some standard practices in the selection, use and administration of assessment methods, especially the psychometric tests. India perhaps has been lagging behind in imposing national level professional standards and certifications to ensure competent and ethical use of psychometric tests. In the absence of any national level qualifications regarding the use of psychometric tests in India, many institutions have been doing a great service to fill this gap by offering, professional training and consultancy services. However, observations and experiences reveal that ACs still vary considerably on their eagerness to ensure quality of tools and methods.

* Quality of administration

* Reliability

* Validity

* Utility

* Reactivity

* Relevance

* Test fairness(Statistical)

* Technology and use of computers

Treatment of Participants and Data

Treatment of participants and data in assessment centers is very important from ethical point of

view. Some variables and indicators related to this dimension are listed below.

* Psychological fairness as perceived by the participants and stakeholders

* Right to information, informed consent and informed decisions

* Confidentiality and data protection

* Feedback policy

* Post assessment follow-up and support

2.4 Types of Assessment Exercises

Some of the widely used Assessment Center Exercises are as follows :

Assement Center Exercise

An in-tray or in-basket exercise asks to assume a particular role as an employee of a fictitious company and work through the correspondence in your in-tray. This exercise is designed to measure candidate's ability to organize and prioritize work.

In a presentation exercise, candidate is given a topic or possibly a choice of topics and asked to make a presentation of around ten minutes with five minutes at the end for questions. This is designed to measure his presentation skills including the ability to organise and structure the information and to communicate his points clearly and concisely.

Group discussion exercises involve working with other candidates as part of a team to resolve a presented issue. These exercises are designed to measure interpersonal skills such as group leadership, teamwork, negotiation, and group problem solving skills.

Panel interviews are regarded as a more objective means of assessing the candidate's suitability as he will be interviewed by between three and five people and therefore the decision is not reliant on just one person's opinion. In addition, they are usually more structured than a one-to-one interview as the panel need to assess all of the candidates against the same criteria.

2.5 How Assessment Center Exercises are Conducted ?

The assessment centre method is utilized in a variety of settings including industry and business, government, armed forces, educational institutions, and safety forces to select individuals for supervisory, technical, sales, or management positions. One recent trend is in the development of mass testing. This is done by video-taping candidates as they perform various exercises and by using objectively scored exercises. This permits the assessment of a much larger number of candidates per day as the scoring is done later and requires far less observation and administration.

Assesment Centre Procedure

Assessment centres are usually used after the initial stages of the selection process, because of the large amount of time and expense in conducting them, and usually follow the initial job interview. Other measurements such as psychological tests may complement the selection process.:

They are commonly held either on employers' premises or in a hotel and are considered by many organizations to be the fairest and most accurate method of selecting staff. This is because a number of different selectors get to see you over a longer period of time and have the chance to see what you can do, rather than what you say you can do, in a variety of situations.
Assessment Centres may be conducted by HR personnel within the employer company or by outside consultants. They are highly structured in their design, application, and assessment procedure and are specifically adapted to assess factors such as your level of skills, aptitude and compatibility with the organization's culture. Each test measures a range of indicators within these factors.

During each test, a group of observers will rate the candidate on a range of set indicators, using a prescribed performance scale. Results are then cross compared against the same indicators, which are measured in other tests. Following test completion, observers meet to discuss the test results and reach a group consensus about the ratings.

At the beginning of the assessment, participant should receive an initial briefing about the timetable of tests, location of rooms etc. Prior to each test, he will be given instructions describing the exercise, his role, timeframes, equipment etc. He will not be told in detail about the individual indicators which will be measured. In addition, he is unlikely to receive feedback on the results, unless he have been successfully selected.

Assessment centers typically involve the participants completing a range of exercises which simulate the activities carried out in the target job. Various combinations of these exercises and sometimes other assessment methods like psychometric testing and interviews are used to assess particular competencies in individuals. The theory behind this is 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. The particular 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.

The fact that a set of exercises is used demonstrates one crucial characteristic of an assessment centre - namely that it is behaviour that is being observed and measured. 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 after which a decision is made whether the individual is 'face fit' with the organisation.

2.6 Essential Elements of an Assessment Center

Assessment Centers must have the following criteria to be called so :

1. Job Analysis - To understand job challenges and the competencies required for successful execution of the job.

2. Predefined competencies - Modeling the competencies, which will be tested during the process.

3. Behavioral classification - Behaviors displayed by participants must be classified into meaningful and relevant categories such as dimensions, attributes, characteristics, aptitudes, qualities, skills, abilities, competencies, and knowledge.

4. Assessment techniques - These include a number of exercises to test the assessees of their potentials. Each competency is tested through atleast 2 exercises for gathering adequate evidence for the presence of particular competence.

5. Simulations - The exercises should simulate the job responsibilities as closely as possible to eliminate potential errors in selection.

6. Observations - Accurate and unbiased observation is the most critical aspect of an AC.

7. Observers - Multiple observers are used to eliminate subjectivity and biases from the process. They are given thorough training in the process prior to participating in the AC.

8. Recording Behavior - A systematic procedure of recording must be used by the assessors for future reference. The recording could be in the form of hand written note, behavioral checklist, audio-video recording etc.

9. Reports - Each observer must make a detailed report of his observation before going for the discussion of integration of scores.

10. Data Integration - The pooling of information from different assessors is done through statistical techniques.

2.7 Assessment Centers - Usage

Various Organizations use the data provided by ACs for a variety of purposes. Some of theme :

1. Selection - ACs help organizations in getting the right people in.

2. Career development - The identification of the competencies possessed by the individual helps organization decide his career plans.

3. Potential appraisal - ACs help organizations identify if the person can handle the challenges offered in the next higher position.

4. Identification of high potential managers - This creates a pool of managerial talents and multifunctional managers that would be available across the business group etc.

5. Succession planning - Identifying the right individual for critical positions such as CEO, CFO etc is very important for the success of the organization. ACs reduces the risk of such wrong identification.

6. Allocations of challenging assignments - ACs provide the organization with the strengths and weaknesses of every participant. This helps the organization in deciding the candidates who would have the necessary abilities to undertake the proposed challenging assignments.

7. Management development - ACs provide ample opportunity to its participants to reflect on one's capabilities and to improve by observing others perform in the AC.

8. Identification of training needs - Assessment centres provide candidates and organization with concrete data on the improvement areas, which can be utilized, for training

9. Identification of a global pool of talented managers - Adjusting oneself in the global scenario is a critical requirement of some positions in the organization. ACs help organizations to identify such managers.

2.8 Competencies obtained from various Exercises in an Assessment Center

The exercises or techniques mentioned below are the most used ones in an AC. Every exercise unveils presence/absence of certain competency in the participant. The competencies that are normally evaluated through these different exercises are mentioned in the table given below :

TOOL

EXPLANATION

COMPETENCY

Case Study Interview

Requires candidates to read a large set of information and then answer questions relating to the subject matter

Analytical skills, assimilation of information, prioritization of

information, time-management, working under pressure

Competency-based

interview

Includes personal history questions and problem-solving tasks and scenarios

Analytical skills, business acumen,

communication, interpersonal

skills, personal attributes, teamwork

Role-play exercise

Involves acting-out a business-related

Situation

Approach to business situations and ability to reason out

Group exercise

Includes problem solving within a

committee or team

Personal assertiveness, teamwork, Interpersonal effectiveness, drive for result

In-tray test

Includes prioritizing documents, drafting replies to letters, and delegating important tasks

Time-management, analytical

skills, business acumen

Problem-solving task

Includes building a structure with limited materials

Analytical skills, creativity, lateral thinking, resourcefulness

Presentation

Involves a 10 to 15 minute presentation on a pre-determined topic.

Assimilation of information,

presentation delivery, working under pressure

Psychometric/Persona

lity/ Aptitude Tests

Includes a personality questionnaire

and/or numerical, verbal, and

diagrammatic reasoning tests.

Agreeableness, behavioral interaction, conscientiousness,

extroversion /introversion,personal assertiveness, teamwork

(Source - )

Chapter 3 - INSEPARABLES OF AN ASSESSMENT CENTER

There are certain areas in an Assessment Center which cannot be ignored if an organization wants to seriously consider Assessment Center as an evaluation tool. Without these, Assessment Centers would be incomplete. They are :

1. Psychometric Tests

2. Validity and Reliability Check

3. Assessor Training

3.1 Psychometric Tests as an inevitable part of an Assessment Center

Psychometric Tests are a vital and sometimes an inevitable part of Assessment Centers. They help an assessor to evaluate the psyche of the candidates in various situations and circumstances. There are various tests for this purpose. Some of them are MBTI, FIRO-B, 16 PF, Thomas Profiling et al.

1. MYERS-BRIGGS TYPE INDICATOR (MBTI) TEST

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment is a psychometric questionnaire designed to measure psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions. These preferences were extrapolated from the typological theories originated by Carl Gustav Jung, as published in his 1921 book Psychological Types. The original developers of the personality inventory were Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers. The MBTI focuses on normal populations and emphasizes the value of naturally occurring differences

The four basic factors considered in this test are

* Introversion or Extroversion

* Feeling or sensing

* Intuition

* Judgement or Perception

The MBTI instrument is called "the best-known and most trusted personality assessment tool available today by its publisher, CPP (formerly Consulting Psychologists Press). For most adults (75-90%), though not for children, the MBTI is reported to give the same result for 3-4 preferences when the test is administered to the same person more than once (although the period between measurements is not stated) Some studies have found strong support for construct validity, internal consistency, and test-retest reliability

2. FIRO-B (Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation)

Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation (FIRO) is a theory of interpersonal relations, introduced by William Schutz in 1958. This theory mainly explains the interpersonal underworld of a small group. The Theory is based on the belief that when people get together in a group, there are three main interpersonal needs they are looking to obtain - affection/openness, control and inclusion. Schutz developed a measuring instrument that contains six scales of nine-item questions that he called FIRO-B. This technique was created to measure or control how group members feel when it comes to inclusion, control, and affection/openness or to be able to get feedback from people in a group.

These categories measure how much interaction a person wants in the areas of socializing, leadership and responsibilities, and more intimate personal relations. FIRO-B was created, based on this theory, a measurement instrument with scales that assess the behavioral aspects of the three dimensions. Scores are graded from 0-9 in scales of expressed and wanted behavior, which define how much a person expresses to others, and how much he wants from others

Ideal referred to satisfaction of the need. From this, he identified the following types:

Inclusion types.

1. the undersocial (low EI, low WI)

2. the oversocial (high EI, high WI)

3. the social (moderate EI, moderate WI)

Control types

1. the abdicrat (low EC, high WC)

2. the autocrat (high EC, low WC)

3. the democrat (moderate EC, moderate WC)

Affection types

1. the underpersonal (low EA, low WA)

2. the overpersonal (high EA, high WA)

3. the personal (moderate EA moderate WA)

3. 16 PERSONALITY FACTORS (16 PF)

The 16 Personality Factors, measured by the 16PF Questionnaire, were multivariately-derived by psychologist Raymond Cattell. Following are the 16 Personality factors given in the test :

1. Warmth

2. Intelligence

3. Emotional Stability

4. Domonance

5. Impulsiveness

6. Conformity

7. Boldness

8. Sensitivity

9. Imagination

10. Radicalism

11. Self sufficiency

12. Self discipline

13. Shrewdness

14. Suspiciousness

15. Insecurity

16. Tension

The basic motive behind performing the 16 PF test is to examine the basic underlying personality structure and predominant tendencies and pathology in a person.

4. THOMAS PROFILING

Thomas Personal Profile Analysis (PPA) has its original impetus from the writings of Marston who postulated a theory of human behaviour as a function of two bipolar dimensions, one external and the other internal.

These two dimensions provided a matrix from which the individual's typical pattern of interaction could be described through four characteristics: Dominance, Inducement, Submission and Compliance (DISC). Marston's theory assumed that most people are capable of showing all four of these patterns at different times. However, individuals develop, through learning and reinforcement, a style of life which places particular emphasis on certain aspects of behaviour and less on others. Further research by others in the 1950s confirmed this proposal that behaviour can be measured along the two axis/four dimensions

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Dr. Thomas Hendrickson of TM Hendrickson and Associates, developed Marston's insights further to produce the Thomas Personal Profile Analysis for the work place. PPA has since gone through rigorous tests to determine its consistency and validity. Studies done in the UK have compared PPA with 16PF and OPQ assessments and found that the four Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Compliance domains are clearly recognisable when defined by the factor names of other inventories.

The PPA is a forced choice IPSATIVE instrument. This means it describes the individual in a self referential way and is regarded as providing information of importance and value to employers making personnel decisions. The Thomas PPA attempts to determine whether individuals see themselves as characteristically seeking out and/or reacting to work place situations that they perceive as supportive or challenging and to reveal if the response pattern is active or passive.

Thomas PPA is a self administered forced choice adjective checklist consisting of 24 tetrads of descriptive words from each of which applicants are asked to select which they believe describes them most and which least.

3.2 Validity and Reliability Check

Validity determines whether the research truly measures that which it was intended to measure or how truthful the research results are. In other words, does the research instrument allow you to hit "the bull's eye" of your research object? Researchers generally determine validity by asking a series of questions, and will often look for the answers in the research of others.

The extent to which results are consistent over time and an accurate representation of the total population under study is referred to as reliability and if the results of a study can be reproduced under a similar methodology, then the research instrument is considered to be reliable.

With the above , I have tried to explain that the results coming out by undertaking Assessment Center methodology, should be both valid and reliable. The absence of even one of them affects the accuracy of the results.

Thornton and Byham reviewed 29 studies of the validity of assessment center methodology. The authors found more support for the assessment center method than for other selection methodologies, while lamenting the fact that most of the studies were done by a few large organizations (AT&T, GE, IBM, SOHIO, and Sears).

In 1985 Thornton and his associates at Colorado State University processed 220 validity coefficients from 50 studies using a statistical approach called meta-analysis. They estimated the method's validity at .37 (Gaugler, Rosenthal, Thornton, & Bentson, 1985). Working independently of Thornton, Wayne Cascio of the University of Colorado arrived at the same (.37) in studying the validity of first-level assessment centers in an operating company of the Bell System. A meta-analysis of 50 assessment centre studies, containing 107 validity coefficients, demonstrated that assessment centres showed strong predictive validity. In their study, validity coefficients showed the strength of the relationship between assessment centre scores and other methods for assessing performance. These relationships were consistent across assessment centres for a variety of different purposes (e.g. promotion, selection, etc.). Although results from individual studies varied, this comprehensive study definitively supports the value of assessment centres.

Studying validity is studying the problem of whether or not a test measures what it purports to measure. Assessment centres have high predictive, face and content validity because of the following reasons -

a) Designing of ACs is based on job analysis

b) Observers are extensively trained

c) Candidates are graded by using ratings of competencies

The construct and criterion validity of assessment centres depends on effective job analysis. If job analysis is properly done then these two validities are also found to be high. Some methods used for validity assessment of assessment centres are given below:

1. The mean and standard deviation is computed for each cell in the rating matrix. Comparing the means for the same competency dimension measured in different exercises shows whether there is consistency in the rating of the competency. The standard deviations show if assessors are differentiating between participants or giving everyone the same average rating.(i.e if the standard deviation is low) If the standard deviation is very low or very high, it suggests that the exercise is at the wrong level of difficulty for the particular dimension.

2. The mean and standard deviation is computed for the ratings for each exercise averaged across dimensions, and for each dimension, averaged across exercises. The means for the exercises show whether some exercises are performed at higher standards than others - perhaps because they are easier. The standard deviation shows the amount of differentiation between participants. Likewise, the dimension means will show whether some dimensions gain higher ratings than others, the S.D shows the amount of differentiation between participants for each competency dimension.

3. Validation is also achieved through feedback from participants and observers about the conduction of the programme, the structuring of exercises, their relevance etc.

There is a substantial body of evidence attesting to the basic validity of assessment centres and, on the face of it therefore, one would have to conclude that the assessment centre is one of the more robust methods of assessment. In addition, group exercises save time and create group dynamics which allow aspects of the individual to be studied that cannot easily be measured by other means.

3.3 Principles of Assessment

* The ‘dity-vity-4lity' Principles of Assessment are Validity, Reactivity, Reliability, Utility, Credibility and Confidentiality.

* These principles act as guidelines for assessing individuals.

* An Assessment is ought to be successful if these principles are followed.

* Given below is a diagram explaining them :

The dity-vity-4 lity Principles of Assessment

(Source - Research Paper ‘Assessment of Assessment Centers' by Dr. P. Sethu Madhavan)

3.4 Assessor Training

Assessment Centres are very resource intensive, both in terms of time and money. Poorly trained assessors, resource people and role players can all have a huge adverse impact on the results of an Assessment Centre. To ensure consistency in the performance of assessors, resource people and role players, they must all be well briefed and properly trained.

It has been observed that the most prominent contents of assessor training in both regions are providing knowledge about the exercises used, how to behave professionally with participants, how to observe, record, and classify participants' behavior, sensitizing for errors of judgment, and the method of behavioral observation. It is also obvious that many features of assessor training are less frequently trained., e.g., knowledge of the relation between dimensions and job performance, how to observe each job requirement independently, how to focus on the various job requirements for which the exercise has been designed, and how to distinguish between the various job requirements. The assessor should have the ability to co-relate various dimensions of mapping the competencies in an individual. Following are some crucial factors to be considered while assessor training program :

1. Training Content — Whatever the approach to assessor training, the objective is to obtain reliable and accurate assessor judgments. A variety of training approaches may be used (e.g., lectures, discussion, observation of practice candidates, video demonstrations, observation of other assessors) as long as it can be shown that reliable, accurate assessor judgments are obtained. At a general level, all assessor training programs should include training on the content of the exercises as well as which dimensions are targeted in which exercises should be decided upon well in advance.

There should be avoidance of common observational and rating errors (including how to distinguish behaviors from inferences).

2. Training Length — The length of assessor training may vary due to a variety of considerations that can be categorized into three major areas:

3. Performance Guidelines and Certification — Each assessment center should have clearly stated performance guidelines for assessors contingent on the purpose of the assessment center and the various assessor roles.

4. Duration of Training and Experience — The time between assessor training and initial service as an assessor should be short, (e.g., not to exceed six months). If a longer period has elapsed, prospective assessors should attend a refresher course or receive special coaching from a trained assessment center administrator.

Assessors who do not have recent experience as an assessor (i.e., fewer than two assessment centers over two consecutive years) should attend a refresher course before they serve again or receive special coaching from a trained assessment center administrator.

Chapter 4 - CASE STUDY AND EXAMPLES

4.1 Case Study - ‘WJM Associates'

ABOUT THE COMPANY

WJM Associates is a recognized leader in providing high-impact, practical solutions to companies seeking to achieve lasting and measurable improvement in the performance of their people at three distinct levels:

Executives-enhancing personal effectiveness
Teams-aligning teams to perform
Organizations - empowering entire companies

Assessment Centers provide High-Potential Candidates with Hands-on Experience

When assessing candidates for promotion, it's often difficult to envision how people will function in a new job, especially one that takes them from the rank and file and thrusts them into a supervisory role for the first time. Candidates, too, may not know what they're in for when they ask to be considered for a management position after years of success in more tactical positions. The answer, both for employer and employee, is increasingly being found in assessment centers.

Developed by the federal government during the World War II as a way to identify candidates for undercover assignments, and subsequently adapted for corporate use in the 1950's as a way to select and develop talent within organizations, assessment centers are enjoying a resurgence today as businesses look for new and effective ways to evaluate high- potential candidates.

Generally speaking, assessment centers put participants through a series of group and individual exercises, interviews and tests designed to simulate the "day in the life" conditions of a management position, to determine if they have the skills and abilities necessary to perform jobs higher up the corporate ladder. Assessment centers can vary based upon the specific leadership and management development needs of the company. Typically, about eight to 10 participants will attend at one time, and all receive a thorough introduction at the beginning of the day. The center lasts a full day and often a second day is spent by the assessors to gather, organize and then provide feedback to the participants. Some examples of the simulations include the following:

• An "in basket" exercise that consists of e-mails and voicemail messages that participants must prioritize and answer.

• Written exercises, which evaluate communication skills.

• Role playing, which typically last between 15-20 minutes. During the session, professional assessors carefully track participants' behaviors.

• Analytical exercises that test participants' critical thinking and problem-solving abilities.

AC proved to be a wonder tool

"Assessment centers are a wonderful tool, not only for selection, but also for development," says Valerie White, a member of WJM Associates' executive coaching faculty. "They give both the sponsoring organization and the participants a real taste of what a new job is like. They are incredibly eye-opening experiences."

Participants receive feedback regarding their performance and typically will work with an assessor to create a development plan, once their strengths and areas for development are identified. Participants typically also receive an individual assessment report, which summarizes their feedback, strengths and areas for development. Additional information hat may be found in the report includes feedback from an assessment instrument and/or from a 360-degree survey.

4.2 Examples of Companies that have successfully implemented Assessment Centers

Cited here are a few examples of renowned companies that have successfully implemented Assessment Centers.

1. Britvic operates a two-tiered graduate assessment centre recruitment process for its young manager graduate and mature graduate training programmes. The first assessment centre typically involves up to 24 candidates across a general talent pool and tests six key competency areas within the following tests and exercises:

a) Numerical reasoning tests

b) One-to-one competency-based interviews

c) Practical problem-solving task

d) Two group or discussion exercises

e) Verbal reasoning tests

f) Working on exercises with employees currently on the graduate programme

The second assessment centre focuses on specific job types and typically involves

2. KPMG operates a one-day assessment centre as part of its graduate recruitment process. Candidate assessments include an in-tray exercise where candidates prioritize a large number of documents, a group exercise, a presentation, and a partner interview.

3. Rolls-Royce's graduate assessment centres use interviews, psychometric tests, a case study, and offer an opportunity to speak to current graduate trainees at the company. The company also tests applicants' technical knowledge either at the assessment centre or in a final interview.

4. Unilever operates a two-tiered graduate assessment centre recruitment process where candidates take part in the following tests and exercises:

a) Case study interview

b) Competency based interview

c) Group discussion/exercise

d) Work simulation/in-tray exercise

5. BP invites graduate candidates to a 24-hour assessment programme held over two days. The programme consists of the following tests and exercises:

a) Group exercises

b) Informal discussions

c) Interviews

6. U.S. aerospace and defense company Boeing operates a Pre-Management Assessment Process (PMAP) ,as a structured process for managerial candidate selection at twelve assessment centres across the U.S. Boeing uses four methods to measure candidates against the following competencies:

a) Multi-tasking exercise-Interpretational skills, oral communication, planning and time management, positive work orientation, problem solving, teamwork

b) Role-playing exercise-Interpretational skills, oral communication, positive work orientation, problem solving, teamwork

c) Structured interview-Basic abilities, planning and time management, problem solving

d) Written exercise-Basic abilities, planning and time management

7. A major U.S. consumer products company profiled in past Corporate Leadership Council research uses an assessment centre within its sales function to assess current managers' suitability for promotion as well as for gauging long-term leadership potential amongst managers. Assessment centre exercises measure the following mid-career-specific competencies:

a) Managerial teamwork-Role play exercise/task force preparation exercise

b) Conflict management- Role play exercise

c) Degree of innovation-Task force preparation exercise

8. SmithKline Beecham Consumer Healthcare used assessment centres to determine the person-position match. They used structured interviews, case study, scenario discussion and portfolio presentation as a part of the process.

9. Philips Semiconductors: Leadership Potential Assessment Philips Semiconductors relies on explicit leadership competencies to provide a common language for discussing the potential of individual employees by following the steps below:

a) Rank Individuals by Competencies: Individuals are scored, weighted, and ranked on the following six core competencies:

b) Identify Strengths and Weaknesses: A core management team uses these competencies to identify strengths and weaknesses of key individuals and to map out

a specific development plan.

c) Enroll in Assessment Centers: Once identified, top potential leaders may participate in a two to three-day program at the assessment center. Participants engage in exercise formats to provide a total picture of their skill sets. Participants are assesses on the following parameters:

• Ability to develop self and others

• Solutions-oriented thinker

• Determination to achieve excellent results

• Exemplifies strong market focus

• Inspires commitment

• Portrays a demand for top performance

Chapter 5 - ISSUES PREVAILING IN UNDERTAKING THE ASSESSMENT CENTER METHODOLOGY

It has been observed that ACs are more successful than most other traditional ways of finding the right person for the proposed job. ACs have some disadvantages though on the long run they prove to be very useful to organizations helping it save the cost of wrong decisions. Some anticipated issues prevailing in undertaking the AC activity assessment centre could be as under:

* ACs are very costly and time consuming, so the need of it is to be analysed

* ACs requires highly skilled observers/assessors as they may bring in their own perceptions and biases while evaluating, so biasness should not persist

* Those who receive poor assessment might become demotivated and might lose confidence in their abilities.

* Complexity of Implementation ,ie, whether an AC will be adequately implemented or not is skeptical.

* Clear behavioural description of competencies may not be given.

* Availability of assessors and moreover, good assessors may be difficult

* Assessor training needs to be provided to be sure about the outcome of results.

* Inter-rater reliability should be checked upon

* Appropriateness of selection tools has to be prevalent and a blend of techniques should be done in a way that best outcome is achieved.

* Validity of exercises should be checked upon.

* Organizational commitment in terms of time and resources should prevail.

* Involvement of line managers should be there.

* Feedback to participants should be given so they can have a good idea of where they stand

* Data security should be maintained and good softwares must be used for this purpose

Chapter 6 - DATA ANALYSIS AND INTERPRETATIONS

For the purpose of Data Analysis, I prepared a Questionnaire with a sample size of 20 Respondents that consist of people from Business background, Professionals, Consultants and the people with HR Background who have used Assessment Centers. All the Questions are close ended. The data analysis is done in the form of Pie-Charts and Bar Diagrams. I have also interpreted the data through Interpretations.

1. Which of the following statements comes closest to your understanding of the term Assessment Center (AC) ?

a. A blend of techniques used to evaluate employee performance

b. A tool used to assess the employee's potential for effective performance on FUTURE roles

c. A useful but time consuming and cost oriented procedure

d. A term similar to 360 degree Feedback program

e. AC as a series of various Multiples - Multiple competencies, multiple exercises and multiple observations

INTERPRETATION :

Majority of the Respondents perceive that the term ‘Assessment Center ' according to them is a series of Multiples, because undertaking an Assessment Center always involves Multiples - be it in the form of Multiple assessments, assessors, observations or exercises. Many respondents also perceive the term ‘Assessment Center ' synonymous to a blend of techniques used to evaluate employee performance. This is due to the reason that AC itself means a variety, a blend of techniques so as to judge the assessee inside out. Some of them feel that AC is a tool used to evaluate performance not only for present but also for Future roles. Moreover, AC focuses on future performance rather than past performance. Very few percentage of respondents find AC similar to 360 degree feedback programs wherein emphasis is given to past performance rather than future performance. ACs are also time consuming and costly but these both parameters only do not define ACs. They are much beyond these and have proven to be highly effective given that the companies undertaking them can manage them properly.

2. Have you as a Consultant/Company used AC as a tool of employee evaluation ?

a. Yes

b. No

INTERPRETATION :

65% of the respondents have used Assessment Center as a tool of Evaluation. The remaining respondents have not used it practically but they do have the knowledge of how they are conducted and what are its contents and application.

3. What are your perceived benefits of undertaking an AC ?

a. A reliable predictor of identifying future potentials to build organizational competencies

b. An effective tool for Succession planning

c. A new way of not only past performance evaluation but also the future possibilities

d. A complete tool to judge the employees inside out

e. A facilitating technique that can be Customised for different jobs, competencies and requirements

INTERPRETATION :

There are various benefits of undertaking an AC, but majority of respondents feel that the most prominent one is that an AC is a reliable predictor of identifying future potentials to build organizational competencencies. This holds true because with an AC, employers can very well identify the future talent and competencies in an employee. Other than this, some respondents also perceive that AC is a facilitating technique that can be customized for various jobs and competencies. One can customize and blend the exercises and simulations used in the AC according to the requirement of the organization. In short, AC in itself is a complete tool to judge employees from all perspectives.

4. What are your perceived ‘problem zones' of an AC ?

a. Time consuming and Costly

b. Requirement of high skilled assessors

c. Demotivation and discontentment among candidates/employees

d. Difficult to calculate the Valid


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