Organisations are increasingly faced with continuous change and challenges, so they need to have the right people on board – people who have the right attitude, who are willing to get involved, build their skills, improve their performance and keep contributing to business results.
Companies who nurture a culture of continuous improvement have a significant competitive advantage through better staff engagement and improved business performance.
To be a professional success in today’s workplace, you need to do more than just deliver the performance demanded by your job. You also need to be aligned with your company’s image and values, and possess the specific skills and knowledge for your role.
So sooner or later, you will almost certainly participate in an assessment centre, if you haven’t already experienced this. They are one of the most useful tools to help an organisation identify talent, both at recruitment stage and later on when exploring a person’s career path.
What should I expect if I participate in an assessment centre?
The first thing to say is that attending an assessment centre should not feel like being on trial or like some kind of unpleasant psychological test. Of course, we all feel some degree of unease when we know we are being observed by people outside our usual work circles. But it’s better to think positively about taking part in a series of assessment exercises underpinned by a solid methodology, because it is an opportunity to demonstrate your value and approach.
So let’s explore the Commitment assessment centre methodology, which is probably very similar to what you might experience in your company. We find that our centres help both organisations and individuals to:
● Be objective about their strengths and development needs
● Become more familiar with new staff, how to best deploy them and how to support them beyond their comfort zone
● Encourage staff to take responsibility for their own improvement
We think it is important to explain clearly from the start how the assessment centre will be organised and what the purpose of the different exercises is. We also organise individual feedback for every participant at the end of the process, to share the personal profile we have built up and to explore ways to improve from a personal and professional perspective.
What kind of activities are included in an assessment centre?
These are some of the typical exercises that you’ll encounter at an assessment centre:
● Presentation: Simulate giving a briefing to a relevant audience.
● Group discussion: Team interaction exercise based around the information provided.
● One-to-one role play: Communication/negotiation exercise with one-to-one interaction.
● In-tray/e-tray: Simulation of in-tray/inbox, requiring action and prioritisation.
● Written analysis: Written analysis of a relevant work-based problem.
● Interview: Structured interview, gathering information against key criteria.
● Psychometric assessment: Standardised assessment of cognitive ability, personality, motivations or interests (normally we purchase these from test publishers, but we can also develop them in-house).
How do I best approach an assessment centre? What do you look for?
Try to think like an explorer, someone who welcomes every opportunity to discover something new. Give it your all, perhaps being a little bolder than usual, and enjoy the experience.
We run our centres with professional supervision from two Commitment consultants, trained to assess your potential. They report back to the client on each participant.
Early on, we clarify which specific set of competencies the centre will test – in doing so we help to ensure that the organisation uses the competencies to develop employees to their full potential. Competencies help an organisation because they provide:
● A consistent measure of performance, for more objective assessments.
● A structured way of describing behaviour and a common language for the organisation.
● An effective tool to help managers give constructive feedback.
● A self-assessment tool to help individuals identify their own development needs.
● A mechanism to support an individual’s development plan for their current role and to help them reach their future potential.
The list below shows the typical competencies required for a modern management role and ones that we commonly test at assessment centres. Not all jobs require all these competencies, but we find that they are common to many jobs.
● Continual Improvement
● Customer Focus
● Decision Making
● Interpersonal Communications
● Planning & Organising
● Professional Development
● Resource Management
● Self Development
● Stakeholder Management
● Strategic Thinking
The assessment centre process is designed to measure what you can actually do, as opposed to what you think or say you can do. This is an important distinction between an assessment centre and a traditional interview. For example, if ‘interpersonal communication’ is required for the job, you should expect one or more of the assessment centre exercises to measure this competency. Each competency will have a set of behaviours associated with it, and it is these behaviours that the assessors look for when scoring you on that competency.
How does my organisation benefit from an assessment centre?
To find treasure, it really helps to have a map or picture to guide you. In the same way, a company wanting to develop outstanding leaders needs a reliable picture of their people’s strengths, weaknesses and motivation. This picture allows decisions about staff development to be made with greater clarity, because candidates who are in line for crucial positions can be given an effective training plan.
In summary, an assessment centre highlights the value of people and prepares an organisation to cultivate their potential. Your chances of success at and after assessment increase with you adopting the right mindset, building awareness of your skills, and being open to the feedback you will receive – then you will be on the route to improvement and potentially a step change in your career.