Assessment and Development Centres
What is an Assessment or Development Centre?
The term Assessment and Development Centre does not refer to an actual place, instead it describes an approach or process. A good Centre will include exercises that allow candidates to demonstrate their job related competencies. We tend to find that people work in three different contexts: on their own, one-to-one and in groups. These situations should be reflected in the exercises used in an Assessment and Development Centre.
What are the Differences between Assessment and Development Centres?
The type of centre can vary between the traditional assessment centre used purely for selection to the more modern development centre which may involve self assessment and whose primary purpose is development.
If you want to predict future job performance then the best way of doing this is to get the participants to carry our a set of tasks which accurately sample those required in the job or are as similar to them as possible. Assessment centres therefore use a range or exercises which simulate the activities expected in a target job. The participants also complete other assessment methods including psychometic testing and interviews to asses their competence against the required level. 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.
Development Centre is a process for objectivity assessing development needs in relation to specific capabilities. The Development Centre can also assist participants to draw up a detailed development plan, tailored to addressing development needs. Participants are provided with self-development materials for each of the capabilities or competencies, to enable them to take responsibility for their ongoing learning and development.
Participants are given comprehensive one-on-one feedback and a summary report of their performance over the Centre's activities. In order for the feedback from the Development Centre to be effective, the participants will be required to allocate time with their managers before the Development Centre to discuss the process and afterwards to formulate a development plan. Participants are also responsible for ensuring that they assign sufficient time to undertake the development activities. Development activities may of course be integrated with regular work duties and do not necessarily require the participant to be away from their workplace. The Development Centre process provides a sound foundation for career planning and development, and for building on current performance.
Both types of centre involve assessment and it is only the end use of teh 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.
From experience we have found a number of differences between assessment and development centres:
Assessment centres usually -
- are focused towards filling a job vacancy and have a pass/fail criteria
- focus on the candidates current level of ability
- have fewer assessors and more candidates
- involve line managers as assessors
- have less emphasis placed on self-assessment
- have little or no development feedback and follow up
- give feedback at a later date if at all
- have little or no pre-centre briefing
- tend to be used with external candidates
Development centres usually -
- have a formalised pre-centre briefing process
- are geared towards developing the individual and there is no pass or fail
- focus on potential and ahve a greater emphasis placed on self-assessment
- are geared to meet the needs of the individual as well as the organisation
- have a mixture of line managers and external assessors
- have a higher ratio of assessors to participants
- place emphasis on development feedback and follow up
- have a feedback session planned in advance
- tend to be used with internal candidates