Most of our decisions are influenced by the past performances of the assessed and future is left to the judgmental abilities of the assessor
The history of AC goes back to the times of the world wars wherein the Germans adopted this process / approach to select their military personnel who illustrated best of their knowledge, skills, attitudes and abilities required to wage a successful war. Americans added the Psychological tests to AC to determine the people with mystic intelligence who could undertake hazardous intelligence-gathering (spying roles).
Given the understanding the roots of ACs, its approach is also a time tested one. Even today we find the process prevalent in Selections of Defense Personnel, Police, Science Research Centres, IT Organizations etc. Knowingly or unknowingly the AC approach is also adopted by many a field; of course if not over board, no sector is left out this. Be it the process of admissions into the IIMs, selection of the chefs/cooks in hotels, Corporate Security personnel, Corporate – Campus drives, or the Car Driving Schools (Saboo Simulation driving school) etc.
Leaving all this, the simple example that we can do with is the ‘Pre-final Examinations & the Mock Viva-voce’ that the schools / colleges conduct before letting their students take the board / university examination.
In all practicalities, AC is not a method; rather it is a place and a process. Broadly, Assessment Centres enables to –
• Create the ‘as-is’ feeling / experience of the situation / work / assignment,
• Identify the desired levels of matching skills / behaviors required to perform the job / assignment and
• Gauze the abilities to perform to the desired level specific to a particular role
AC’s focus on KSAs (Knowledge, Skills, Attitudes). However, the assessor can credit for the KSAs only when skills / behaviors are exhibited as required for the job applied for. Hence ‘If you know it, you have to show it’. How the candidate did is important than what he did & how quickly he did. It is all about – Qualities, Dimensions, Series of Techniques & administration of the process to the letter.
Traditional (or) Contemporary - What gets measured does Matter!
India as a country and by its culture since the times of mythology is more into the practice of dissemination of knowledge from person – to – person, Guru to Sishya, to the family and to the society at large. Hardly ever a knowledge base was documented till some one thought it is necessary to do so. Be it our Upanishads to that of Charakasamhita.
As such, ours is a land of people honed on the competence of living the times ahead basing on the experiences and glories of the past….so practiced as is even in terms of judging the abilities of the person / people and their suitability for any particular role. Hence, most of our decisions, either personal or professional are influenced by the past performances & experiences of the assessed and future is left to the judgmental abilities of the assessor.
Whereas ACs assess the individual / personality from a futuristic perspective, more of competency based assessment by simulating situations (may also opt for Group Exercises, Individual Exercises, Specific Exercises like Case Studies, In-tray exercises, Discussions, Role Plays, Psychometric Tests etc. as deemed fit) that would elicit the desired competencies required to perform the job and looks at how well the individual could exhibit those traits required to perform if selected. But do remember that even this would require data from the past.
However, what gets measured does matter, be it the traditional (or) competency based assessment approach. Both of them assess typical qualities, skills, attitudes and the list includes the following, but not limited to: Analytical Ability, Calmness, Commercial Awareness, Decision Making, Drive, Flexibility, Interpersonal Skills, Leadership, Logical Thinking, Motivation, Negotiating & Persuasion skills, Planning, Presentation skills, Response to pressure, Self-confidence, Strategic Thinking, Team Work, Communication skills etc.
What Matters the Most?
ACs have its green pastures as it increases the scope for making better decisions, better planning & administration, increased management & staff involvement (as ACs include social elements like tea, coffee, lunch etc….means larger no. of staff can get to meet candidates). Besides, it also allows the candidates to know more about the company, understand the organization’s expectations & values, more interactions / access to staff create an atmosphere of ‘feel at home’. In spite of all this goodies, the question still remains, what matters the most? Undoubtedly: Time & Value for Money, leaving a larger scope for introspection on:
• What kind of business we are into?
• Are we into a business whose processes are pre-defined & do not deter from the outcome?
• Does our business requires the flexibility to accommodate the space to unlearn?
• Does our business deal just with products (or) people of the business (or) business (or) all of them?
• Do we need only the best talent (or) talent that is flexible?
• Do we have the talent in abundance?
• If not, do we have to build or buy?
Men, Money & Moments - The show has to go on….
The findings of the ACs can be useful for Individualized / Therapeutic guidance, Personal Counseling, Management Development & Organizational Development. And ‘Who Does It?’ makes a huge difference / impacts the future.
Learning could happen from experience, by sharing, by demonstration & through introspection and it is to us to decide what suits us better to Follow the process to the letter (or) Spirit of the letter.
AC is more of a science that would require assessors whose judgmental abilities are unbiased and beyond subjective influences and we are not really sure if we are geared up for the ride with sufficient resources including men, money and moments, still the fact remains the same, The show has to go on.
It’s like a situation where in the elder son of the family takes-over as the head of the family amidst lots of expectations of the family members, not an assessment center and no simulations and it’s no audition, but the take goes: Lights On... Roll...Camera...Action.
Dr. Shankar Anappindi, HR Practitioner, has over 12 years of experience in IT, Financial Services & Infrastructure industry. Currently he is associated with Ramky Group as Head–HR for their Real Estate vertical - Ramky Estates & Farms Limited.