Assessing and monitoring the competencies of the marketing and sales teams is a critical activity often undertaken by Commercial Business Leaders in partnership with Commercial Excellence and HR. An assessment centre can help to evaluate the gap between required competencies and actual, and so propose targeted development programs and a structured approach to career pathway progression. Assessments can also play an important role in any SFE or marketing effectiveness initiative by providing a baseline, a benchmark and an improvement goal.
An assessment center may consist of a set of evaluation tools used to assess behaviours, skills and personalities. An assessment centre is about a process, not a business or venue and often includes knowledge tests, job-related simulations, interviews, and psychological tests. They can be run in-house or by external specialists, or in a blended approach, depending on your needs and budget.
Job simulations tend to be used to evaluate candidates on behaviours and skills relevant to the most critical competencies of a particular job – either for recruitment and/or promotion assessment, or as part of an internal development-needs evaluation. Overall assessment ratings are based on aggregated data compared to participant averages and industry benchmarks or on the observations and assessments of multiple trained observers and assessors.
The costs associated with assessment centres are largely due to their complexity and the need to assess a database of results. Over the past decades assessments centers have gone in an out of vogue. Are they still relevant and if so, where are they best used to get the most ROI?
The predictive nature of an assessment centre is the most well-known reason for their use. In fact, the origin of the assessment centre model was to assess the suitability of army personnel to become officers or for espionage activities.
The first use of assessment centres dates back to World War I when Germany used the method to select their officers. During World War II, the practice was adopted by the United States’ Office of Strategic Services (OSS) to help them objectively select both military and civilian recruits for espionage activities. http://www.assessmentcenters.org/about
Equally relevant for pharma personnel, assessment centres can provide us an expectation of future performance of candidates and new hires.
Assessment centre simulations can serve a more than one purpose:
- Identification to senior management of team development needs by comparing to the competency grid and industry benchmarks
- Identification to senior management of individual development needs whether for recruitment, promotability evaluation, or for target development interventions, and
- Learning opportunity for the individuals involved.
Simulations have been proven to actively engage participants in identifying their own development needs because they can see for themselves how they are doing. If and when, a simulation is followed by a discussion, coaching and feedback, all purposes are equally served according to Mitch McCrimmon, PhD, from WJM Associates, who has over 30 years experience in executive leadership and assessment centre design. Even asking participants about the rationale behind their approach to various activities, generates a fuller assessment. On the development side, such discussion prompts self-reflection and developmental insight in participants.
- Knowledge Assessment: The focus of this is to assess knowledge and processes. This can be a set of competencies defined according to a role and the priorities agreed with the target customer. The assessment can often be performed online, with the ability to benchmark participants within the industry and/or within your own organization if you are assessing a large group or a growing group over time.
- Simulations (Online or face to face business scenarios): Assessment of the capability to apply specific skills according to the role and priorities defined. Again, this can often be performed online as a ‘serious business game’ or in traditional face-to-face scenarios. If online, you have the ability to benchmark participants within the industry and measure progression over time.
- Feedback Survey: 180 / 360-degree feedback surveys can be included, depending on the role to be assessed. 360 Feedback Surveys often focus on behavioural competencies and capabilities such a leadership or management. However, they can be customized to a set of competencies defined to a role and its priorities. Once again, they are often an online survey giving you the pability to benchmark participants within the industry; this works best if the competencies are not customized.
- Emotional Intelligence / Aptitude – Personality Tests - performed online which help the individual participant to understand how he/she see themselves in relationship to others, how pothers see them, and how best to manage personal and professional stressors.
- Face-to-Face situation or interviews – are an essential part of any assessment centre where a trained expert meets the participants in person, especially of the rest of the assessment centre has been completed online. They are usually behavioural based interviews customized to your needs, competencies and priorities.
Using Assessment Centres
Many assessment centres are a half-day to a full activity, with any online components completed beforehand. According to Hays, It is very important that participants know what they are likely to be faced with prior to the day, otherwise it could come as a total shock and they are unlikely to perform to their full potential! [Hays.com]
A cost-effective approach is to use off-the-shelf tests and simulations which are just as powerful for revealing leadership style, strengths and development needs. However, you can have assessment centres customised to the unique needs of your business challenges.
- Determine what you want to assess (and why). This should be aligned to your internal career pathways, job descriptions and desired job skills and knowledge;
- Conduct the assessment centre;
- To ensure a positive experience for the participants, provide as much feedback and coaching as needed;
- Develop meaningful reports for your key stakeholders. The report should include aggregated analytics so that the results remain contextual and relevant from different perspectives.
- Repeat the assessment centre over time, expanding your database using improved internal benchmark, and evaluate ROI on any interventions or actions taken from the last set of results.
Benefits for participants:
- Greater engagement and self-awareness through having to tackle realistic business challenges;
- Identification of development needs, leading to more targeted development opportunities and suitable career pathways; and
- An opportunity to learn and be challenged.
Advantages of an assessment centre for the business:
- It is proven to be more effective in predicting on-the-job performance because it simulates real work situations;
- Participants are given a much more realistic perspective on the role;
- All candidates are measured objectively using the same criteria;
- The cost of recruitment is potentially reduced because the success rate of securing the right candidate is higher; and
- Targeted training can be provided to participants with a clear baseline to assess improvement and ROI over time.
So, yes, assessment centres are still a very relevant tool, with clear measurable ROI metrics.
The Actando online Assessment Center allows you to assess the knowledge, skills and abilities of your team. It can be used to diagnose the current competency level or as a part of a blended learning programme to measure improvements after the program. It uses a combination of an online test, case-based serious game, personality test and feedback survey (180 or 360). We own a bank of approximately 2,000 knowledge test questions in marketing and sales that we can use. But, of course, we can customise and upload yours!
If you are interested in our mobile learning solutions on digital channels, contact Actando.
The Actando Consulting Team