Overview of the Assessment Centre Approach

Popularity of the Assessment Centre Approach

Since its introduction to North America in the 1950s by AT the assessment centre (AC) method has become increasingly popular in both the public and private sectors. The assessment centre approach has become a key assessment tool for a wide range of companies, including AT IBM, Nortel, Sun Life, and PepsiCo, to name but a few. Estimates indicate that as many as 2000 organizations now use assessment centres for human resource purposes. Texas Instruments has implemented eight customized assessment centres resulting in over 500 assessments in the United States, Europe, Japan and the Pacific Rim each year.

The widespread use of assessment centres is supported by considerable empirical research indicating that the assessment centre method provides accurate assessment and predictions of managerial competencies.

A survey of over two hundred organizations revealed that assessment centres are being used for a variety of human resource activities including recruitment, selection, promotion, training and development, and early identification of management potential. Use of an assessment centre maximizes an organization's human resource potential in a variety of ways, and the benefits of the assessment centre approach are linked to the specific purpose for which it was designed.

I believe that one of the main reasons for this dramatic growth is that organizations had become dissatisfied with the highly subjective methods previously used to identify management talent … managers seeking an alternative became impressed with the rigour of the AC method

Victor Dulewicz
Personnel Management, 1989

Benefits of Assessment Centres

There are many benefits to using assessment centre methods and their effects are far-reaching. The benefits are often associated with core organizational staffing values.

The AC method provides information not otherwise readily available from standard sources such as interviews, file reviews, and performance appraisals. The AC results, when combined with other conventional sources of information, enable organizations to select the most qualified candidates.

The AC method provides objective, standardized information to organizations about employees' managerial abilities. Teams of trained executive assessors observe candidates in multiple simulations. Behavioural observations are then systematically integrated to arrive at ratings for relevant managerial competencies.

The AC method has been widely reported both by empirical research and users to be fair as well as perceived to be fair. Organizations using this method not only benefit by the unique types of information yielded, but also the positive effects that good staffing practices and values contribute to employee morale.

ACs are renowned for the contribution they make to effective staffing-related decisions. Whether for recruiting, training, or staffing, the objective in human resource selection is to select the most qualified employees. Informed staffing decisions save money.

Too often, opportunities to learn about one's competencies are limited to on-the-job subjective information. However, at the assessment centre, candidates are provided with professional, objective feedback about their managerial competencies; they can then apply this information to direct their careers.

Assessors are often on loan to an assessment centre by other sectors of the organization. They are trained in objective assessment methods in order to perform this work. Once the assessors return to their home organization, this training and experience can be applied to their own particular staffing evaluations as positions become available.

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