Assessment Centres: Meaning, Types and Advantages

After reading this article you will learn about:- 1. Meaning of Assessment Centres 2. Types of Assessment Centre Exercises 3. Advantages and Disadvantages.

Meaning of Assessment Centres:

An assessment centre, as we have already noted, is a comprehensive facility used mostly for employee selection purposes. But it is also used for training. People for selection or training are brought to a centre for concentrated ‘real-life’ tests and interviews for a few days at a stretch that measure and simulate actual job conditions and problems.

Assessment centres are made use of by experienced managers or trained personnel specialists to evaluate each candidate’s response to these realistic conditions.

Such centres are usually used in large organisations like selecting middle and top-level managers, because the performance dimensions for higher level managers are not always clear-cut. Thus such centres seek to measure such management skills as leadership, communication, decision making, initiative and motivation, creativity, delegation and inter-individual (or inter-per­sonal) relations.

Types of Assessment Centre Exercises:

(a) In-basket Exercises:

An assessment centre measures ability to perform job-related tasks through simulation techniques. One, the ‘in basket’, places the candidate in the role of manager of an imaginary organisation who has 4 hours to decide how to respond to various types of letters, memos and information.

During this time the candidate must make decision, communicate with subordinates in writing, delegate authority, arrange meeting, assign priorities and so on. On various occasions following the in-basket simulation, candidates are asked to justify their actions.

(b) Leaderless Group Discussions:

Another technique is a leaderless simulated organisation meeting. In this meeting, candidates participate in group discussions about a job problem, such as promotion, discipline, group management skills. People are rated on such charac­teristics as verbal ability, persuasiveness and inter-personal skills.

(c) Management Games:

These measure technical skills involving manufacturing, finance, or personnel. More often than not they involve computer simulations.

(d) Individual Presentations:

People are asked to make a presentation on a prescribed topic or idea and their communication skills, persuasiveness and poise are measured therefrom.

(e) Others Techniques:

Other assessment center techniques are: making oral presentation to groups, role playing, intelligence and psychological tests, interviews and written commu­nications, all designed around specific job dimensions.

Following the above-mentioned exercises assessment centre personnel summarise the evaluations and draw conclusions about the candidate’s performance. Managers with progressive outlook often hand over a summary report to the candidate who may also be briefed on his (her) performance.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Assessment Centre Exercises:

(a) Advantages:

Assessment centres offer four advantages to the organisation:

(i) Prima facie, actual job problems and conditions are measured, as in modelling training.

(ii) Assessment centre results are very useful promoting employees.

(iii) Assessment centre techniques are specifically useful for spotting new management talent, i.e., talent in individuals who have not previously held manage­ment positions.

(iv) Assessment centre exercises are also used to spot (identify) managerial weak­nesses and deficiencies and training and development can be recommended to overcome these.

(b) Disadvantages:

Three major disadvantages of assessment centres are the following:

(i) Firstly, they are costly in terms of time, money and training expenses for assessors and development of suitable materials. The obvious implication is that the assessment centre will probably be used only for management positions where the costs can be justified by the effects of better selection and training or for large organisations where many people are hired for similar jobs.

(ii) Secondly, assessment centre techniques may also overemphasize inter-personal skills at the expense of technical skills.

(iii) Finally, as in any testing situation, some candidates become nervous or otherwise act differently in assessment centres than they normally would on the job — their real motives do not get reflected. Studies show that assessment centres are excellent predictors of job performance. Since they are very costly they are usually used only by large, successful companies.

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