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Online Workshop: Running an Assessment or Development Centre


This is the transcript of the TrainingZONE online workshop on the topic of running an Assessment or Development Centre held on Tuesday 8 August.

Shirley Dalziel Hi Jeremy - Thanks for joining the workshop. What are you aiming to get from it specifically?

Shirley Dalziel Hi Ian - thanks for joining - what are you wanting to get out of the workshop

Stephanie Phillips Hi Shirley, thanks for agreeing to host the workshop today. Hi Ian, Jeremy - think we should wait a couple of minutes to see if any others turn up!

Ian Cawthra Hello Shirley. No experience of Assessment or Development Centres. Interested to know advantages and disadvantages.

Jeremy Townend Fine by me I am in the same boat as Ian.

Shirley Dalziel Hi David, thanks for joining.

David Morgan This is a first for me - Hello everybody

Stephanie Phillips Shirley - it would be useful if you could note down the main things you plan to cover in the workshop, then see if anyone wants to cover anything in particular.

Stephanie Phillips Thanks!

Ian Cawthra Looks like we are all in the same boat! What can you tell us Shirley?

Shirley Dalziel Am planning to cover when you would use an Assessment or Development Centre, look at the differences between them; look at the good and bad experiences and generally how to implement them taking into consideration best practice. For example, must they include psychometrics, the importance of knowing how to plan them etc

Shirley Dalziel Hi Jon - thanks for joining

Stephanie Phillips Okay, great ! What shall we start with?

Shirley Dalziel Hi Barry

Ian Cawthra How about the difference between the two?

Stephanie Phillips (Barry - you can see what's already happened by clicking on the transcript link below)

Barry Bond Thank you , I'll try to catch up

Shirley Dalziel Assessment centres are used purely to assess an individual for selection or promotion; development centres are for developing people, but using a similar process. they can get feedback throughout the day on how they are doing. It is very important an organisation knows why they want to use them

Ian Cawthra Thanks Shirley. So what are the real benefits to the company using them?

Shirley Dalziel Have any of you taken part in an assessment or development centre before?

Ian Cawthra No

Barry Bond I am interested in some of the tools and techniques for the two types of workshop, also your views on the use of Psychometrics.

Stephanie Phillips I've seen both sides of an Assessment Centre, which is quite interesting!

Jeremy Townend Think so but we called it a learning centre.

David Morgan Yes I've designed and run - been on the receiving end of many "beauty parades"

Shirley Dalziel Generally they are used as they have a much higher validity than other methods of selection (Assessement Centre) than other methods of selection around 70% chance of getting the right person, as opposed to interviews where you have around a 30% chance of getting the right person.

Barry Bond No, but have been on the brink of running development centres several times.

Stephanie Phillips This is because the assessment techniques tend to be more job-specific, isn't it?

Shirley Dalziel I think the main problem with most of the assess centres we see now is because they haven't been properly designed and competencies which are being assessed are not properly considered - hence how they tend to become, who the assessors think 'look like the right person'

David Morgan It depends upon whether there is a standard assessment or whether the elements are focussed on a particular job.

Ian Cawthra Is it not a question that the more tools you have the better the decision making process should be?

Barry Bond So the identification of a robust set of competencies is key to either operation?

Shirley Dalziel Yes I would say so - the more planning and relation to a specific job the better - hence the better the tools

Shirley Dalziel You really need to know what you are assessing before you design any exercises at all

David Morgan Do you think participants should know the competencies or standards in advance?

Jon Seaton Is that an argument for commonly accepted competencies?

Ian Cawthra What sort of competencies are we talking here? inputs, outputs or both?

Shirley Dalziel It is usually much fairer to do this - but I know some people think not - they are worried about the participants faking it! But if you have really robust exercises designed to assess the appropriate competencies this shouldn't really be such a problem - most people revert to type eventually - hence why one exercise for a pile of competencies is not a good idea

Barry Bond Re Design , is there an advised route i.e. define competencies , set outputs required and so on ................

Shirley Dalziel Competencies - really behaviour that we are looking at - i.e. how do we want the person to behave and how do they actually behave (so could be both) but remembering it is easier to train tasks and select on attitude, behaviour etc

Tim Pickles Hi, sorry to be late.

David Morgan Agree entirely - have seen some Assessment Centres select the wrong people because the company worked to one standard, whereas common practice was a different standard - the members were told they were failures, yet each was capable of meeting the requirements had they known.

Shirley Dalziel Yes - generally decide why you want to use them in the first place and then decide whether you should be using e.g. an assessment centre at all - then define the competencies - which really should be closely related to the role and the organisational competencies (the latter are often ignored).

Shirley Dalziel Hi Tim

Shirley Dalziel David - I agree and often find that there really isn't such a thing as failure if designed right - it is really about best fit to the job. Every strength has a development need and every development need can be a strength e.g. do you want someone who is strategic or detailed - both are strengths and hard to be really good at both so what does the job require?

Ian Cawthra Food for thought! Is there not a danger that by relying on a standard set of competencies we end up with clones?

Barry Bond Agree with the cloning comment. At a time when diversity is imperative do we want people to "conform" to an organisational mould??

David Morgan In Financial services we rely on clones to meet the regulators requirements!

Shirley Dalziel Yes - so need to be very clear what you are looking for - are you looking for similar people or someone to be different - usually you want someone is similar in a number of ways, but with a few key differences. If too similar clone and if too different they leave - so has to be carefully done

Ian Cawthra David, how do you reconcile this with the need to be innovative, or is that a core competence anyway?

Shirley Dalziel You would ideally want everyone to conform in the areas where the organisation wants to make an impact, e.g. customer service, but can differ in other areas

David Morgan Ian, the industry has largely had style and innovation knocked back regulators are now reviewing and lessening regime.

Shirley Dalziel If you want an innovative person in the role - then innovation is okay. I have found some places where innovation is too much and they want people in particular roles to help consolidate and implement.

Ian Cawthra David, I find this rather sad in terms of what the government says it is wanting to achieve through various initiatives!

Shirley Dalziel Sorry I lost contact there.

Shirley Dalziel I may have missed the last question after the innovation bit.

David Morgan Ian it is sad but true. I've started using Accelerated Learning and it raises a few eyebrows

Shirley Dalziel It is also possible to assess people against for example, emotional intelligence and can also assess their ability to buy into and be willing to learn or to use accelerated learning techniques

Ian Cawthra Shirley - I think your last comment is important. Being very clear about the role an individual is to perform, and the skills and competencies they need.

Tim Pickles Most assessment centres I've heard about have been either contracted or in-house but using 'tailored' tools for the role. We're seeing a growing number of more automated or online assessment devices. Anyone got any experience? Does this just become generic fodder stuff, or can it still be effective?

Shirley Dalziel To take it back to Development Centres - again do exactly the same but help to show them where they are at and then where they can get to.

Ian Cawthra I am not a fan of "Emotional Intelligence" I am afraid!

Shirley Dalziel Tim - again it depends on what you are looking for - if the competencies fit what you are looking for then take them an tailor them but don't rely on them for every role you are recruiting for.

Shirley Dalziel Ian - I like the principle of Emotional Intelligence -i.e. recruiting a person who is emotionally reasonably mature - if appropriate for role.

Tim Pickles Shirley - can you point to any case studies of 'best practice' in Assessment Centres? What would you say were the key characteristics of such best practice?

Shirley Dalziel Are any of you thinking of using them?

Ian Cawthra I am not convinced by the measures used, or even whether the dimensions are right. There is a lot more to this than authors lead us to believe.

Tim Pickles I agree with some of the scepticism around EI - the quality of the tools in use seems quite variable - but it's only from this mishmash that some form of refinement is likely to arise in time.

Ian Cawthra Shirley, before we go can you let us have your views on including psychometrics?

Shirley Dalziel Best practice - be very clear what you are looking for; use appropriate competencies; design and select assessment tools around those; thoroughly train in-house assessors and keep participants informed and briefed on what they will do. Also ensure that you validate it afterwards i.e. what worked and what didn't work - you may only need to select on one activity and about three competencies.

Shirley Dalziel Ian - re psychometrics only use them if they add something. they are not at all compulsory but are often sold as if they are.

Shirley Dalziel E.g. if you want to look as someones personal resilience it may give you a clue to dig deeper about in interview and feedback.

David Morgan Shirley - could we think about feedback - some companies are reluctant to give feedback to external candidates - should we set a rule that everybody attending a centre gets feedback

Ian Cawthra Tim - I think it unlikely that refinement will result. There is too much vested interest in the present measures. Cynic that I am!

Shirley Dalziel Everybody must get feedback. If they don't, then you are setting yourself up for a case at a tribunal.

Shirley Dalziel Also, if there is no feedback, a person can feel a failure and not understand what they have done wrong - it's very bad practice.

David Morgan Is that why they don't tell candidates?

Shirley Dalziel Feedback can always be given in a positive way - it is about suitability to the role.

Tim Pickles I agree with the comments about feedback - it seems central to the practice of good management that we make these procedures as transparent as possible - otherwise we are creating employees as subjects or victims!

Shirley Dalziel Tim - I agree - some people like to play and feel powerful and the participants are the victims

Tim Pickles yes, exactly

Ian Cawthra Is it a question that as managers we are not given an opportunity to develop feedback skills? Many managers are promoted on their ability in a previous role that may not include managerial responsibility?

Tim Pickles and that's where the abuse (real or perceived) in the use of assessment tools, psychometrics, etc. is coming from

Shirley Dalziel I think what annoys me most is when an objective method is used - but the organisation chooses who they want anyway, and then use the supposed objectivity to justify their selection. worst when used for promotion purposes. But if all done ethically then it's ok.

David Morgan I "failed" an Assessment Centre and ended up working with a firm as an external trainer because they couldn't recruit the right candidates

Tim Pickles I think Ian's point is very valid - the mentality of "you learn to be a manager by doing it" is still too prevalent - people just copy either the company model, or duplicate their previous experience. The proportion of managers practicing genuine 'open manaagement' is still relatively small.

Shirley Dalziel If you perceived it as failure it was badly managed - I think it is sad when people are made to believe they have failed.

Shirley Dalziel It also worries me about the really good people they lose and turn off because they have used poor techniques

Ian Cawthra Shirley - This raises a key question, how do you tell the "good" from the "bad"?

David Morgan We should work to assess actual capability and then use the results as source for TDNA

Shirley Dalziel Tim - I agree - when selecting managers there are some ways you can assess that the person really believes what he/she says about open management

Shirley Dalziel David - there really isn't necessarily good and bad - it is about job fit. If you design centres around what you are looking for versus what you don't want they you can select more easily.

Joe Espana I'm sorry that I have joined this workshop so late.

Shirley Dalziel Hi Joe - thanks for joining - we are discussing a lot of the ethical and bad practice issues.

Ian Cawthra Shirley - Sorry, I was thinking more in terms of good and not so good assessment centres? What criteria should you be looking for?

Shirley Dalziel How about your views on Development Centres?

Shirley Dalziel Ian - do you mean criteria for running them or criteria in selecting people to run them or in general?

Joe Espana One of the things that I have discussed at great length with clients is getting them to be absolutely clear about the purpose of the Assessment Centre or Development Centre.

Joe Espana I'm not sure what others have experienced, but there seems to be a lot of confusion out them because the technology "seems" to be so similar

Shirley Dalziel Joe - that is really important - I have come across so called Development Centres i.e. their purpose is to develop you and to be open about this, and they are using it for promotion, or worse, deselection out of the company.

Ian Cawthra If my organisation wanted to go down this route, what are the criteria I should look for in selecting an external Assessment Centre?

Joe Espana Ian, be really clear about your reasons for having a Development or Assessment centre. You will also have to have a very well stated set or criteria that are behaviourally grounded.

Joe Espana In other words,can assessors see and hear what they are looking for?

Shirley Dalziel Joe - the technology is relates to how much feedback we give and the true openness to develop as they go through the centres. With Development Cntres feedback should be continuous,help and info should be given and it should be very open with options to try again using different methods.

Joe Espana Shirley, very important points to make

Joe Espana I also think the training and the quality of internal assessors is key

Shirley Dalziel I think we are nearing the end of the time - Tim,do we continue?

Tim Pickles We normally aim to run our workshops over around 45 minutes, but people are welcome to stay on...

Joe Espana Before we go, could Shirley please take my email address and contact me

Shirley Dalziel Joe - yep assuming you are definitely using internal people - research does show that it helps if they are included - but still good if external people do the order, validity etc

Tim Pickles In any case, I'd like to thank Shirley for leading us on this subject.

Shirley Dalziel Joe - will do.

David Morgan Cheers Shirley have to go now bye all thanks

Jeremy Townend Thanks Shirley

Shirley Dalziel Thank you all very much for taking part in this workshop obviously a lot of issues to discuss

Joe Espana As for the rest of those present, I'm sorry we didn't get to discuss this subject. I left it too late to join.

Tim Pickles You can click on anyone's name to the right to bring up their email address below. Shirley, would you like to add your email into the text window so that it appears in the transcript?

Ian Cawthra Thanks Shirley, an interesting discussion and I have learned a few things, Thanks to others as well.

Shirley Dalziel

Tim Pickles Thanks everyone. We'll post the transcript to the Workshop page this afternoon. Just close the window to exit!

Joe Espana Thanks Tim, yet another great piece of work and shared learning. PC good luck with the new manual!

Jon Seaton Thanks all, a useful workshop, bye!


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