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Assessment Centres & Development Workshop Design

A Discussion Paper


What is an Assessment Centre or Development Workshop

An Assessment Centre or Development Workshop is a process in which aspects of a job are simulated so that participants' behaviour can be observed, recorded, classified and evaluated, either by assessors or by themselves.

Why is it important to classify and evaluate
people's behaviour ?

It is important because there is a direct and powerful correlation between the behaviour which an individual demonstrates and the contribution they can make to your customers, your team and your organisation. Your survival and prosperity depends on it.

It follows that in selection you need to match people as closely as possible to roles which require the behaviours they already tend to demonstrate, as well as understanding the behaviours in which they will require further development.

Likewise in development you need to assess people's current profile of behaviours in order to target training and development activities on to areas which will be important for success in current and future roles.

In both cases above you also need the individuals themselves to be committed to their own self development. The evidence which Assessment Centres and Development Workshops provide is one of the most powerful methods of raising people's awareness of their own development needs and of securing their enthusiastic commitment to new roles and development plans.

What's the difference between an Assessment Centre and a Development Workshop ?

In the sense that both are based on the principles described above, there is no difference. However there is sometimes concern about people's sensitivity to the process before they have understood how it will benefit them. In this case it is often felt that the label "Development" Workshop is less threatening than the idea of an "Assessment" Centre.

More importantly, the different labels are also used to distinguish between an Assessment Centre which is being used purely for selection (usually with external applicants) where information about the principles above is not explained to participants and is understood only by the assessors who run the event, and a Development Workshop whose purpose is broader than selection, encompassing the identification of high potential people, self awareness raising and an element of training (usually for internal people) where all of the principles of behavioural assessment will be shared openly and discussed with participants.

In deciding between the two approaches start by asking yourself what you are trying to achieve. Which of the following objectives best describe your purpose? (You may need to select several objectives.)

  1. To make high quality selection decisions by matching people to roles which require the behaviours they already demonstrate.

  2. To make high quality decisions about who should move to which role during an internal restructure or re-organisation by placing people into positions where they can play to behaviours which are their strengths.

  3. To accelerate people's development by raising their self awareness of how far they currently demonstrate behaviours which are, and will be, important for success, and providing targeted development activities (both during the event and in the months following).

  4. To change the culture of the organisation by exposing people to, and emphasising the importance of, new types of behaviour.

Bearing your answers to the question above in mind, how far do you need those who will participate in the process to understand the principles of behavioural assessment and development ?

If objectives 2, 3 or 4 are on your list you will need to consider building into the process time for participants to learn about and practise these principles, as well as participating in your simulations. In the terms described on the previous page, this means moving away from an Assessment Centre approach towards that of a Development Workshop.

Types of Simulations

The different types of simulations include

  • Coaching Simulations
  • Fact finding and decision making similations
  • Problem analysis exercises
  • In-tray exercises
  • Selling or customer contact simulations
  • Presentations
  • Group tasks


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