Adapting to Disruption: Assessment Centres in the future


Adapting to Disruption: Assessment Centres in the future

Written by: Sandra Schlebusch (LEMASA) on 3 July 2018

The conference theme for the 2018 annual ACSG conference was Adapting to Disruption: Assessment Centres in the future. This theme was decided upon after examining the themes emerging from all the abstracts received. It was clear that Assessment Centres are being disrupted. This blog is the first in a series of three blogs about the theme of the conference. Two of the blogs are based on the presentations during the conference’s IGNITE session.

The disruption to how we conduct Assessment Centres comes firstly from the world of work itself. The environment within which an organisation must function is uncertain with serious competition coming from new entrants to the market conducting business in a novel way, that up until market entry was unknown to the organisation – think about what Simplify is doing to the insurance industry. Globalisation means that an organisation’s products and services can be delivered world-wide, but also that an organisation is potentially competing with all other organisations in the same global market segment. The political environment is as unpredictable as ever with market surveys being unable to forecast the actual results of elections and referendums – think about BREXIT and the last US elections. The South African business world has been shocked by the uncovering of various questionable business practices within organisations, institutions and even professions that were supposed to be irreproachable. Employees will probably no longer be on an organisation’s full-time payroll, but will sell their services per project to organisations with which they feel they can associate with its purpose. Organisations are becoming leaner with a possible greater emphasis on multi-functional teams addressing specific challenges before morphing into new teams addressing different challenges. All of this creates potential threats, but also windows of wonderful opportunity. The new world of work requires critical thinking and problem solving skills, transformative thinking skills, as well as people leadership skills that unite people around a common purpose and align resources to deliver on the team / organisation’s purpose. Agile thinking and leadership is required. Ethical practices and transparency about everything is needed.
Alvin Tofler, author of Future Shock, in 1974 stated: ”The illiterate of the 21 century will not be those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”
The implication of the disruption stemming from the world of work is that Assessment Centre designers need to re-conceptualise the centres’ focal constructs – the competencies, type of simulations and simulation content. The centre participants might not be full-time employees and the focus might be on teams working together per project instead of individual participants.

The second disruption to Assessment Centres comes from technology. Increased computational power enables the use of different statistical calculations that reveal different perspectives about issues such as validity, as example using the Bayesian method. Through the use of technology participants’ micro-behaviours such as eye-movement, perspiration levels, movement between items when dealing with issues, can be captured and analysed. With the use of algorithms and Big Data, assessment results can be assimilated and feedback reports generated within hours of completing an Assessment Centre. Through the use of a virtual assessment centre (VAC)(a VAC is an Assessment Centre where the centre scheduling, simulation administration and scoring are done via an electronic platform) participants and assessors can be dispersed around the globe, be within different time zones and still participate in the same centre. With technological advancements that enable voice and visuals to be captured in real-time, live role-plays can form part of a VAC. Virtual reality (VR) where a participant is represented by a self-created avatar, has already been used in Assessment Centres. Successful experiments using artificial intelligence (AI) within an Assessment Centre have taken place.
The question can rightly be asked: What does this mean for Assessment Centres? The possible advantages of all these technological advances are many fold: the accuracy of assessments can potentially increase through the combination of many data points; the speed at which assessment results are available increases; the richness of feedback can increase; and Assessment Centres have become scale-able – Assessment Centres anywhere, anytime, for any number of participants.
The impact on Assessment Centres is also many fold: Would we still need humans in the process of Assessment Centre design, administration, scoring, data integration, report writing and giving feedback? If we would still need humans, what would their required skill levels be? As example, would an Assessment Centre designer need to have software computing skills (coding), or just require skills to articulate the need to a software developer? What are the new skills required of a VAC assessor and role-player? How would a participant experience the use of technology in an Assessment Centre, or, how would a future participant experience an Assessment Centre that does not use technology?

How would the future Assessment Centre look like? It would be a centre that allows agile delivery, that is based on solid science and that adds value to client organisations. Am I excited about the future and Assessment Centres? My answer, like always – definitely.

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1Thornton, G.C., Rupp, D.E., & Hoffman, B.J. (2015). Assessment Center Perspectives for Talent Management Strategies. (2nd Ed.) New York: Routledge.
2Thornton, G.C., Mueller-Hanson, R.A., & Rupp, D.E. (2017). Developing Organizational Simulations. (2nd Ed.). New York: Routledge.
3Lievens, F., & Sackett, P.R. (2017). The Effects of Predictor Method Factors on Selection Outcomes: A Modular Approach to Personnel Selection Procedures. Journal of Applied Psychology. (102) 1:43 – 66.

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