Assessment Center Approach essay

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CEO who asked for a short report on strategic human resource management was impressed with the report. Following the reading of the research on strategic human resource management and considering how senior individuals in the organization are selected the Assessment Center Approach caught the attention of the CEO. The objective of this work is to prepare a proposal that includes a description of this approach as well as methods of measuring the effectiveness of the approach and the costs and benefits anticipated for such an approach.

The "Guidelines and Ethical Considerations for Assessment Center Operations" Task Force on Assessment Center Guidelines states that the Assessment Center "…consists of a standardized evaluation of behavior based on multiple inputs. Multiple trained observers and techniques are used. Judgments about behaviors are made, in major part, from specifically developed assessment simulations. These judgments are pooled in a meeting among the assessors or by a statistical integration process." (1989)

I. Characteristics of the Assessment Center Approach

The Assessment Center approach is inclusive of evaluation techniques of various kinds including "job-related simulations and sometimes interviews and psychological tests." (Byham, 2011a) Typical job simulations utilized in assessment centers include those as follows:

(1) In-basket exercises;

(2) Group discussions;

(3) Simulations of interviews with subordinates or clients;

(4) Fact-finding exercises; and (5) Written communication exercises. (Byham, 2011a)

The simulations used in the Assessment Center approach are designed for the purpose of discovering individual behavior in relation to the primary aspects of the level for which the individual being assessed has applied or is being considered for in the organization. These competencies or "aspects of the job" are stated prior to the individual being assessed through analysis of the position at focus. Identified by the job analysis are the "behaviors, motivations and types of knowledge that are critical for suggest in the target position." (Byham, 2011a)

II. Analysis of the Assessment Center Approach

The Assessment Center approach was reviewed in the work of Thornton and Byham (1982) in a review of 29 studies that examined the validity of the methodology utilized in the Assessment Center approach. Finding state that more support existed for the Assessment Center approach than for other methodologies that were examined. Byham (2011a) reports that Thornton and associated at Colorado State University in 1985 "processed 220 validity coefficients from 50 studies using a statistical approach called meta-analysis. They estimated the method's validity at .37. (Byham, 2011a)

Byham reports that research followed the advancement of participants in the years that followed and that eight years later another assessment was conducted and the previous assessment ratings were found to still be valid after the lapse in time. Wayne Cascio of the University of Colorado in a separate study also arrived at the .37 finding in his study of the validity of the assessment centers first level at Bell System. The bottom-line impact was also measured by Cascio in regards to decisions on promotion using the assessment center data as the measure. Organizations have made a move toward empowering their workforce and as such are providing their employees with the following:

(1) Responsibility for their designated areas or outputs;

(2) Control over resources, systems, methods, and equipment;

(3) Control over working conditions and schedules;

(4) Authority (within defined limits) to commit the organization; and (5) Evaluation by achievements. (Byham, 2011a)

It is reported that most organizations are "organizing employees into self-directed work teams." (Byham, 2011a)

III. Team Member and Team Leader Responsibilities

The teams are comprised by team members and a team leader and the teams take the responsibility for the following: (1) improvement of both quality and productivity as well as rotation of job; (2) planning in addition to scheduling; (3) deciding who performs what work; (4) audit of quality; (5) adjustment to equipment as well as maintenance and repair adjustments; (6) planning of vacations, housekeeping, absenteeism and tardiness as well as other job performance issues; and (7) choice of team leader. (Byham, 2011a)

The roles of supervisors and managers are changed greatly as the organization makes changes to teams that are self-directed. The supervisor gains a large range of control and the team members take on many of the normal functions of supervision as the supervisors take on more management functions including budgeting and planning. The role of middle managers are also impacted due to the multiple-level shifts in the organizational job functions. (Byham, 2011a, paraphrased)

IV. Methods of Measuring Effectiveness

The methods utilized for measuring effectiveness in the assessment center approach includes the following: (1) Individuals being assessed participate in exercises that simulate situations that are known to occur on the job; (2) assessors who are specially trained observe and document the participants' behavior; (3) assessors write individual reports which document their observations of the individual participant's performance; (4) Data is integrated by assessors into a consensus and the center administrator handles the documentation of the decisions and ratings; (5) Each individual who has participated receives the performance information which is objective in nature. (Waldrop and Joines, 1994) The behavior observed and noted by assessors includes the actions and words of the individual that is "observable and verifiable." (Waldrop and Joines, 1994) Ratings that are given by assessors include those in the following sample scale:

5: Much more than acceptable: Significantly above criteria required for successful job performance

4: More than acceptable: Generally exceeds criteria relative to quality and quantity of behavior required for successful job performance

3: Acceptable: Meets criteria relative to quality and quantity of behavior required for successful job performance

2: Less than acceptable: Generally does not meet criteria relative to quality and quantity of behavior required for successful job performance

1: Much less than acceptable: Significantly below criteria required for successful job performance (Waldrop and Joines, 1994)

V. Costs and Benefits

According to the Canadian Public Service Commission (2004) there are a great many benefits to utilization of the assessment center methods and stated as well is that the assessment center effects are "far-reaching….[and] often associated with core organizational staffing values." The assessment center method "provides information not otherwise readily available from standard sources such as interviews, file reviews, and performance appraisals. The AC results, when combined with other conventional sources of information, enable organizations to select the most qualified candidates." (Canadian Public Service Commission, 2004)

Additionally reported is that the assessment center method "provides objective, standardized information to organizations about employees' managerial abilities. Teams of trained executive assessors observe candidates in multiple simulations. Behavioral observations are then systematically integrated to arrive at ratings for relevant managerial competencies." (Canadian Public Service Commission, 2004)

It is stated that the assessment center method "…has been widely reported both by empirical research and users to be fair as well as perceived to be fair. Organizations using this method not only benefit by the unique types of information yielded, but also the positive effects that good staffing practices and values contribute to employee morale." (Canadian Public Service Commission, 2004)

Finally, the assessment centers are reported as being "…renowned for the contribution they make to effective staffing-related decisions. Whether for recruiting, training, or staffing, the objective in human resource selection is to select the most qualified employees. Informed staffing decisions save money." (Canadian Public Service Commission, 2004) The Canadian Public Service Commission states that all too often "…opportunities to learn about one's competencies are limited to on-the-job subjective information. However, at the assessment centre, candidates are provided with professional, objective feedback about their managerial competencies; they can then apply this information to direct their careers." (2004) Assessors trained in this approach are knowledgeable and skilled in objective assessment methods." (Canadian Public Service Commission, 2004)

According to the International Task Force on Assessment Center Guidelines (2000) the considerations when choosing assessors includes the previous knowledge and experience of the assessor and the use of professional psychologists as well as the assessors experience with an familiarity of the organization and the target positions in the organization. The frequency of assessor participation and other related assessor qualifications and expertise must also be given due consideration. Individuals participating in an assessment center approach should "receive feedback on their assessment center performance. .." And should be informed of assessment center recommendations. (International Task Force on Assessment Center Guidelines, 2000) In addition "assessment center exercises and assessor reports on performance in particular exercises are exempted from disclosure, but the rationale and validity data concerning ratings of dimensions and the resulting recommendations should be made available upon request of the individual." (International Task Force on Assessment Center Guidelines, 2000) Finally, the organization is required to inform the individual undergoing assessment as to "what records and data are being collected, maintained, used, and disseminated." (International Task Force on Assessment Center Guidelines, 2000)

The assessment center approach is examined in the work of Wollowick and McNamara (2007) who studied the validity of this approach in making predictions of the potential of management and in determining the relative value of the program components. The results are stated to indicate that the approach "is valid and…[continue]

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