An assessment center is basically a series of assessments carried out using several techniques like simulation, psychometric test and exercises to take critical decisions like selective or rejecting a candidate for recruitment, for promotions and appraisals etc.
There are some basic considerations for running an assessment centers which is again the corporate adaptation of an army process. Assessment centers need to have clearly defined competencies with behavioral indicators and scales for evaluation and the techniques used for assessment should assess these very competencies and behaviors. No other competency or behavior apart from the one identified earlier, however profound, is evaluated. There are several techniques used and multiple assessors are involved to assess candidates in different simulation and exercises.
Simulations exercises are an integral part of both assessment and development centers. They basically are situations, exercises and conditions which imitate the real life working scenario of the assessee. They find a special place in assessments because they allow opportunities to observe and assess the assesseeâ€™s behavior pertaining to each job related competency. Examples of simulations include group exercises, in-basket exercises, structured interviews, presentations, and fact-finding exercises.
Development Centers and assessment centers are often confused as being the same as they use the same techniques to evaluate employees. But there are certain clear differences between them. A development center like an assessment center uses assessment techniques like simulation, psychometrics etc, but the purpose of it is totally different. A development center as the name suggests is conducted only for the developmental purposes of the employees. It is conducted to assess potential, to identify strengths and development needs and the end result is a well documented individual development plan for each participant.
The Development Center can be as long as 3 days where each day the participants undergo simulation exercises. It also, has a pre defined competencies and behaviors as reference point which are assessed during assessments but unlike assessment centers feedback is an important component of development centers. During assessment centers it is only the decision that is shared with the candidates but in the development center, the candidate is provided feedback after every exercise and towards the closing of the development center an elaborate feedback session may be conducted which lays the foundation for the development of an individual development plan for the participant. As the spirit of a development center is to create an open and transparent atmosphere for learning, mistakes are not treated negatively but are looked upon as learning opportunities by both assessors and assessee. The role of the assessors in the development center also becomes larger as they now have to also play the part of learning partner with the assessee. They are more open to hear the assessee and help them realize and explore their areas of strengths and development.
A development center when used in the organization has a greater acceptability amongst the employees as it is seen as a non-threatening and objective assessment of development areas. Involvement and buy in of line managers can be beautifully integrated in the development center process by sharing information with them regarding the performance of their subordinates or team members and seeking their feedback about the participants on their on the job performance. This creates a partnership which is crucial for the individual development plan created after development center to be acted out and the goals outlined, achieved.