When discussing the implementation of assessment centres, clients often ask us how to create efficiencies and bring cost/time savings to the process. This is largely because the assessment centre methodology is defined by its multiple, costly components. They typically include between six to eight competencies for a target role, each predefined by job analysis and measured at least twice across three or more workplace simulations. Ideally, these activities are observed by multiple trained assessors, who rotate around multiple participants on a one-to-one basis.
Employing these best practice recommendations implies a heavy resource requirement. Therefore, assessment centres tend to be the final stage of a selection process. Even if you use it for entirely developmental purposes, the challenge of coordinating such an intense, immersive event persists.
So, what can you do to perfectly execute an efficient yet effective assessment centre? Here are some of the ways we advise our clients to achieve a great balance between rigour and practicality.
1. Automate the administration
An assessment centre is a methodology, not a place. Most organisations of course opt for face-to-face contact at this stage, but much of the administration can still be done remotely, virtually and/or automatically. For example, you could sit participants in front of a laptop and log them into a virtual inbox, programmed to administer activities through fly-in emails at standardised times. This completely automates the instructions for the rest of the experience. You then need only to prompt assessors and roleplayers (if applicable) to be in the right places at the right times (as specified in those emails).
2. Reduce the movement time
Having participants stay in the same place for any one-to-one activities reduces movement time, often unaccounted for in assessment centre timetables. It is one of the biggest causes of schedule slippage, so the virtual approach naturally enhances efficiency. To go one step further, you could host activities like roleplays on conferencing platforms. You just need to provide each participant and her/his assigned roleplayer and/or assessor with the same log-in/dial-in details. Bear in mind, from a candidate experience perspective, it’s good to strike a balance between face-to-face and virtual interactions.
3. Alleviate the assessors’ workload
Another easily overlooked element of assessment centres is the workload. Best practice standards would require assessors to produce a written summary of feedback following each activity, but their ability to complete this quickly and to quality standards can often be inhibited by busy schedules. Plan out the schedule tactically with time between activities to score a candidate’s performance, e.g. while the candidate is preparing for the next activity. Besides, activities too close to one-another are risky, as your assessor may not be available for the next exercise if her/his first was subject to delays.
4. Automate the scoring
Assessment centre scoring is often seen as open to bias because of the human element of interpreting observations from the simulations. It is also the most time-consuming (and potentially expensive) duty of an assessor. However, both issues can be addressed with an online scoring system. For example, PSI’s VirtualAC calculates scores per competency based on how an assessor has rated each specific behavioural criterion: demonstrated, not demonstrated or strongly demonstrated. You can also generate feedback comments automatically based on these ratings, speeding up the process drastically.
These are just a few tips to get you thinking about how to streamline your assessment centres. There are many more ways to make them as efficient and effective as possible. Get in touch with one of our consultants for some complimentary advice – call our Talent Measurement team on +44 (0) 1483 752 900.
Jordon Jones is a Senior Consultant at PSI Talent Measurement.
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