At the beginning of the 1980s assessment centres were used in a few large organisations in South Africa such as Old Mutual and Transnet as a credible way to measure leadership and management competence.
It was considered particularly useful for providing behavioural measures relating to effective performance. In some organisations assessment centres were used together with psychological tests such as the 16PF to complement behavioural measures (the how) with personality measures (the why).
- The implementation of assessment centres in South Africa during the late 1970s and 1980s was characterised by some distinct features:
- Probably the most significant feature was that assessment centres were introduced at top management level by experienced facilitators. In Old Mutual and Transnet, for example, assessment centres were introduced by Bill Byham, CEO of Development Dimensions Incorporated, probably the largest company in the field of leadership/management assessment and development. Assessment centre legends such as Piet Britz and Adrie de Bod from Transnet introduced assessment centres at SFW (now part of Distell), the Post Office, and other organisations.
- From the beginning the main aims of assessment centre application were both assessment and development and follow-up development of candidates was taken seriously. Large organisations, therefore, had competent management development officers and well equipped development facilities. Old Mutual, for example, had one development officer for every 75 senior managers.
- The introduction of assessment centres was complemented by a thorough one-week experiential observer training session in which all assessment centre candidates participated. This allowed for availability of observers, in spite of difficult schedules.
- The reason why the overwhelming number of organisations that introduced assessment centres did so effectively is probably due to the features discussed above. The top-down approach created understanding and buy-in which is essential for effective management training and development, while competent administrators and a core of well-trained observers are necessary to deliver the goods.
Hermann Spangenberg, who initiated the creation of the Study Group, recalls how colleagues at SFW, practitioners from other organisations, and he himself shared ideas on how to most effectively run assessment centres and, particularly, how to improve the leadership and managerial effectiveness of their managers. This desire by colleagues from a number of major South African organisations for optimum outputs from their assessment centres prompted the creation of a more formal forum.
Founding of the ACSG
At the beginning of the 1980s the Institute of Personnel Management (IPM) was one of the strongest professional bodies in South Africa with the dynamic Wihelm Crouse (now MD of Knowledge Resources) as Executive Director. With active branches throughout SA and a highly respected magazine it was the logical vehicle for the Study Group. Wihelm Crouse was, in fact, the chair person at the inaugural meeting held in Johannesburg in September/October 1981. Held just before the annual IPM Convention, the meeting was well attended by HR practitioners. Hermann Spangenberg was selected as the first chair person of the Study Group.
Although part of the IPM, the Study Group was operating fairly independently from the IPM, but for drawing on the infrastructure of the IPM when required. Combined with support from Piet Rossouw, HR Director of SFW, particularly with regard to facilities for presenting the annual Conferences, the Study Group was built on a firm infrastructure, and never during its first 31 years did it experience financial difficulties. Its growing independence from the IPM lead to a break from the IPM . Over the years the study group presented an annual conference each year where practitioners exchanged research, insights, and information related to the science, practice, and teaching of assessment centres. One of the most important considerations for the study group was always to attract some of the best local and international speakers to the study group conference.
Over the years various chairpersons lead the study group into an independent entity in South Africa:
|1985||Albert van der Merwe||Sasol|
|2002-2003||Willie Marais||Old Mutual|
|2004- 2005||Charmaine Swanevelder||SHL|
|2008-2009||Anne Buckett||Precision HR|
|2010-2011||Sandra Schlebusch||The Consultants|
|2012-2013||Lydia Cillié-Schmidt||The Talent Hub|