Bespoke assessment and development centres

We specialise in designing and delivering bespoke assessment and development centres

assessment and development centres

Hire the best talent with our bespoke assessment and development centres

Recruitment selection can often be quite subjective and open to all sorts of bias. Adding structure and multiple assessment methods into the process improves the validity of the selection process and assessment/development centres have been shown to be the most reliable method of predicting how candidates will perform in a role.

The difference between assessment and development centres

The first question we often get asked is what's the difference between an assessment centre and a development centre?

The answer is, not a lot. The process is exactly the same, it is the objective that differs slightly:

Assessment Centres

Designed to assess candidates' capability to perform a specific role.

They can be used with internal candidates, external candidates, or a mix of both.

The outcome is to select a successful candidate who will be appointed into the role.

Development Centres

Designed to assess candidates' potential to be promoted into a bigger role in the future.

They are exclusively used with internal candidates and the outcome is to identify individual development needs to prepare people for future role.

The aim is to develop a pool of talent for the future so development centres form an integral part of an organisation's talent management and succession strategy. They are also a great retention tool - where people feel the organisation is actively developing them, they are more likely to stick around.

How do assessment and development centres work?

It seems to make sense that if you want to see how someone performs in a role then the best way to assess that is to physically observe them. The driving test is a classic example - the theory exam will tell you how much learners know about the rules of the road. But it won't tell you how well they can drive!

It is tricker when it comes to roles at work as they involve a combination of what people know and what they can physically do, but also how they do it - behaviour.

Assessment and development centres are perfect for assessing this combination of how people are likely to perform in a role, especially the behavioural aspects.

The process is quite structured:

  • Candidates are provided with tasks or exercise simulations and they are observed carrying them out.
  • Candidates are observed by skilled assessors or observers. The role of the observer is to record as much of what the candidate does during the exercise as possible.
  • Candidates are usually required to perform in multiple exercises (the more the better, but three is typical). This enables candidates to be observed in different scenarios where they are required to utilise different skills.
  • Candidates are observed by different assessors across the various exercises as this reduces the potential for bias.
  • At the end of the process, the observers evaluate each candidate's performance in each role. Candidates are assessed against a pre-defined structure, which is usually based around a competency framework. Assessors define a score for each candidate's performance on each exercise.
  • The assessors then meet to combine the candidate scores and review each candidate's performance.
  • The results are then fed back to the organisation to make a final selection decision and/or the individual candidate to provide them with structured feedback.

Types of assessment/development centre exercises

There are several types of exercise that are commonly used in assessment and development centres. The choice of exercise depends on a number of factors such as the nature of the role and competencies that are being assessed, the number of candidates, the time that has been allocated to the process.

Inbox exercises are designed to simulate a candidate's first morning on the job. They are presented with a load of emails and the task is to action each one appropriately. Inbox exercises are great for testing prioritisation, judgement and delegation skills.

Group discussions are designed to assess candidates' abilities to interact in a group setting. They can be collaborative or competitive and are most useful for assessing skills such as problem solving, collaboration, interpersonal skills, teamworking, leadership and influencing.

Role plays are designed to assess how well candidates can interact with others and manage a discussion. They can be with one stakeholder or multiple (we use professional actors to make it as realistic as possible) and the challenge is usually to discuss a problem and arrive at consensus. Typical scenarios can be performance discussions with employees, a problem solving discussion with a colleague, or a meeting with a dissatisfied customer. They are most useful for assessing interpersonal skills, influencing, collaboration, problem solving and delegation skills.

Analysis exercises are designed to assess how well candidates are able to digest information and make recommendations. They are most useful for assessing strategic thinking.

Presentations are often used in conjunction with analysis exercises. Candidates are required to present the results of some kind of analysis they have carried out and they are then challenged and questioned on their thinking as there is usually not a right answer. They are most useful for assessing influencing, communicating and analytical thinking, as well as pure presentation skills of course.

Fact finding exercises involve presenting candidates with a very brief scenario. They then meet with an assessor and the objective of the exercise is for candidates to ask questions in order to uncover pertinent information that will allow then to make a decision on what to do. They are most useful for assessing problem solving and judgement.

Our approach to assessment and development centres

Assessment/Development Centre Design

Whilst you can get off-the-shelf assessment centre exercises, the process is much more realistic (and therefore reliable) where the exercises are designed to reflect the context your organisation operates in, and where they assess the specific competencies that are important for the role.

This takes a lot of thought and effort, but the end product is worth it.

The first step is to identify the competencies that need to be assessed. We usually do this through a series of critical incidents interviews where we meet with key stakeholders and understand the types of scenarios the successful candidate will be faced with in the role.

This information enables us to then design exercises that will best assess the competencies. Our exercise simulations are all set within a fictional organisation that is relevant to your organisation. We don't always use the industry same sector as this can introduce some bias where candidates who have lots of sector-specific experience may have an advantage over those candidates who do not.

Assessment/Development Centre Management

As with everything we do, ours is a fully-managed bespoke service. Not only will do we do the design work, we also:

  • provide expert assessors. We have a group of experience associate assessors who we can draw on. Most of them are qualified psychologists, we have worked together many times and they are all highly experienced.
  • provide professional role-players where this is merited by the choice of exercises.
  • produce all the materials for the event.
  • run the day including all of the timetabling etc.
  • provide you with feedback at the end of the process.
  • provide candidates with feedback where required.

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