What is an Assessment Center?
The Assessment Center Method, Applications, and Technologies
SECTION 1: How an Assessment Center Works
- Section 1: How an Assessment Center Works
- Section 2: Validity and Fairness
- Section 3: Adoption of the Assessment Center Method Outside the United States
- Section 4: Selection and Placement of Empowered Personnel
- Section 5: New Simulations, Tests, and Methods
The assessment center method involves multiple evaluation techniques, including various types of job-related simulations, and sometimes interviews and psychological tests. Common job simulations used in assessment centers are:
- in-basket exercises
- group discussions
- simulations of interviews with "subordinates" or "clients"
- fact-finding exercises
- analysis/decision-making problems
- oral presentation exercises
- written communication exercises
Simulations are designed to bring out behavior relevant to the most important aspects of the position or level for which the assessees are being considered. Known as "dimensions" (or competencies), these aspects of the job are identified prior to the assessment center by analyzing the target position. A job analysis procedure identifies the behaviors, motivations, and types of knowledge that are critical for success in the target position. During assessment, the job simulations bring out assesseesí behavior or knowledge in the target dimensions.
A traditional assessment center involves six participants and lasts from one to three days. As participants work through the simulations, they are observed by assessors (usually three line managers) who are trained to observe and evaluate behavior and knowledge level. Assessors observe different participants in each simulation and take notes on special observation forms. After participants have completed their simulations, assessors spend one or more days sharing their observations and agreeing on evaluations. If used, test and interview data are integrated into the decision-making process. The assessorsí final assessment, contained in a written report, details participantsí strengths and development needs, and may evaluate their overall potential for success in the target position if that is the purpose of the center.
Perhaps the most important feature of the assessment center method is that it relates not to current job performance, but to future performance. By observing how a participant handles the problems and challenges of the target job or job level (as simulated in the exercises), assessors get a valid picture of how that person would perform in the target position. This is especially useful when assessing individuals who hold jobs that donít offer them an opportunity to exhibit behavior related to the target position or level. This is often the case with individuals who aspire to management positions but presently hold positions that donít give them an opportunity to exhibit management-related behavior on the job.
In addition to improved accuracy in diagnosis and selection, the organization that operates an assessment center enjoys a number of indirect benefits. Candidates accept the fairness and accuracy of promotion decisions more readily and have a better understanding of job requirements. Training managers to be assessors increases their skills in many other managerial tasks, such as handling performance appraisals and conducting coaching and feedback discussions.