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Assessment centre for the perfect match

02/02/2022 2022/02

Employees are increasingly willing to change jobs, and the war of talents has long been a reality for companies. Assessment centres help to improve employee retention.

How can companies counteract the increasing fluctuation in order to find the really suitable candidates and retain them in the long term? In this case, a good fit means that the personality and professional competence of the new team member and the corporate culture as well as the field of activity fit together particularly well and lead to a long-term and - on both sides - satisfactory relationship. By means of aptitude diagnostic procedures, such as assessment centres, the desired image can be compared with the characteristics and abilities of candidates in a targeted and valid manner. In this way, the people who fit best are found and thus remain satisfied and successful on board for the longest time.

What exactly are assessment centres?

Assessment centres (AC) are a structured procedure for personnel selection or personnel development. In personnel selection, ACs are used for aptitude testing of specialists and executives and very often also as a decision-making aid in the allocation of training and dual study places. Their use in potential analysis is particularly suitable for determining suitability for management careers within the framework of personnel development.

On the assessment days, situational procedures, individual and group exercises, discussions, presentations, case studies, interviews, post-basket exercises, etc., are used to test skills and characteristics that are particularly important from the company's point of view for the position to be filled. 

Typically, a group assessment involves four to eight people participating in individual or group exercises and structured interviews. Group assessments are the predominant form of AC's, occasionally so-called individual assessments are conducted in the selection of management personnel, in which a single person to be assessed is tested for suitability for a specific career path. More and more frequently, eAssessments are conducted because the use of IT-supported test procedures has made it possible to develop new types of tasks and increase the direct comparability of participants. However, since the personal impression is limited, the eAssessment only serves as one component in a personnel selection procedure. The great advantage of ACs is that candidates can be experienced personally and within a group for a longer period of time than in a job interview. This also makes it possible to set a variety of tasks. The tasks can be individually adapted to the company values and the requirements for the job, which makes it possible to observe the personal fit and the cultural fit particularly well.

In order to further increase the quality of aptitude testing, a combination of assessment centres and objective personality tests is often chosen. This enables a valid cross-check of the observations from the AC with objectively tested results. This procedure also serves to reduce assessment and perception errors, because even trained observers can sometimes be wrong with their assessment. Nevertheless, professionally conducted ACs reduce many possible sources of error, such as subjective impressions of individual interviewers or the focus on a few selection criteria, compared to simple job interviews.
The necessary basis: a well thought-out requirements profile
In order to be able to develop an AC in a targeted manner, the requirements that are to be tested must be defined in a job profile. In order to be able to make clear assessments of the observations, it must be clearly defined what is to be observed in the first place. The significance of the observations therefore depends fundamentally on how precisely the criteria of the job profile are asked for in the exercises. 

The requirement profile should contain a definition of the most important interdisciplinary competences and their desired characteristics and be oriented towards the company values and the long-term company strategy. The more precisely and purposefully the profile is worked out, the easier it is to select the appropriate exercises.

Sufficient time should be planned for the preparation of the assessment centre in order to adequately prepare and set up the procedure. In this way, candidates and companies will find each other who have the same working methods and values and can thus work together to shape the future. 

Procedure of the selection process

As described above, the first step is the description of an exact job profile. The following steps follow.

  • Composition of the assessor team

In every assessment centre there should be the roles of observer and host. The role of the host is to guide the participants through the AC by moderation, organisation and close personal communication. Through this role, transparency, appreciation and a personal connection can be established in the process, which promotes the authentic behaviour of the participants in the test situation. The observers have the task of assessing the defined interdisciplinary competences of the participants as objectively as possible. The use of several persons trained in their role reduces the risk of assessment errors.

  • Conceptualisation of the analysis elements

The requirements from the job profile are now contrasted with different procedures and exercises with which they can be realistically tested. It makes sense to simulate realistic situations in order to get to know the participants in the best possible way. 
The types of tasks used should offer a reflection of actual everyday working life and must be suitable for identifying the relevant observation features. For example, a role play can be used to observe strategic thinking skills, organisational skills, leadership behaviour as well as personal appearance. In combination with a group discussion, the observation spectrum expands to include communication skills, conflict skills, resourcefulness and teamwork skills. The combination of several methods also offers participants the opportunity to demonstrate their skills in different ways, thus providing an opportunity if a person is not comfortable with a task.

  • Professional preparation

In order to guarantee a smooth process for all participants, good preparation for the day is particularly important. Considering the AC as the first personal contact in the Candidate Journey, it becomes clear how important it is for companies to plan the day professionally and to provide a pleasant atmosphere for the participants. Missing snacks or occupied rooms should be avoided accordingly. Equally important is the timely provision of all materials and the preparation of the evaluation forms for the observers.

  • Conducting the Assessment Centre

On the day of the assessment, the company representatives should act as a cohesive team and share a common understanding of how to represent the company. This is prepared by good training of the observers and joint prior arrangements. The team should behave transparently and appreciatively at all times in order to create an open working atmosphere, because this promotes authentic behaviour among the participants and makes it possible for both sides to get to know each other.

  • Assessment after the Assessment Centre

The criteria and rules according to which participants are assessed should be clearly defined before the AC begins so that all observers share the same understanding of their task. After the AC, the entire team will compile and discuss their personal observations and evaluations of the individual requirements in order to arrive at a common overall judgement. Within this discussion it is important to reflect on which observations are relevant/irrelevant and where there might be perceptual errors in order to arrive at a clear and comprehensible decision.

  • Feedback to participants

In order to continue to offer participants a good Candidate Journey, it is important to communicate the results as promptly as possible. Ideally, time should be taken to discuss the results personally with all participants, to formulate recommendations and to hand over evaluations of test procedures. It is also advisable to give participants the space for feedback at this point.

Evaluation

Every procedure carried out should of course be evaluated in order to continuously improve the procedure and increase the quality of results with every AC carried out. What went well? Did the schedule fit? Were there any ambiguities? Could the desired skills and characteristics be observed with the chosen exercises? However, one of the most important questions can only be answered a few months later: What is the level of satisfaction with the selection decision? Is there a difference between the observations and the expression in everyday work?


Quality standard in the Assessment Centre: DIN 33430

In order to ensure the quality of assessment centres and to provide a generally applicable standard, there is a standard for aptitude diagnostic procedures in Germany. DIN 33430 "Requirements for Procedures and their Use in Job-Related Aptitude Assessments" describes the following requirements Qualification of the persons involved, the quality of the instruments used and the interaction and design of process steps and procedures.

The regulations provide a good framework for the planning and implementation of personnel selection procedures and are very practicable and application-oriented. As they are not certifications or seals of approval, it is possible for a broad range of users to professionalise their assessment procedures.

Why should assessment centres be introduced?

To select apprentices or dual students, for example, to validate technical understanding, communication skills or organisational abilities.

To increase the probability of a perfect match and thus long-term employee retention and satisfaction.
When managers are to be selected based on their function-related skills and not merely on their availability.

As a recruiting agency, we have extensive experience with aptitude diagnostic procedures such as assessment centres. If you would like support in the implementation of assessment centres, we are happy to offer our experience and support. In addition, as a certified training provider, our training catalogue also includes assessment centre training.

Sources: Wikipedia.de

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