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4 areas where assessment centres can inform strategic decision-making

David Bischof
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Assessment centres

Assessment centres have proven to provide rich layers of information for managerial strategic decision-making. However, human-related diagnostic information will - in all likelihood - only provide valuable outcomes for the organisation when assessment practices are clearly linked to long-term strategy. This argument is critical for justifying using assessment centres and related methodologies in the business value chain to assist organisations to achieve their objectives. Here are four areas where assessment centres can add value to organisational decision-making.

1. Use skills audits to assist in your strategic decision-making

Many organisations (particularly those in the public sector) want to understand their own skills levels, status and gaps. This is in an effort to:

  • Drive operational and strategic decision-making at strategic and operational levels, and
  • Inform HR activities and development priorities.

With growing pressure from the public for more efficient government spending, skills audits provide a great opportunity to improve the use of resources and inform strategic decision-making in this regard.

An effective skills audit can help you execute your HR strategy with regard to:

  • Targeted skills development,
  • Management reporting,
  • Succession and talent management,
  • Strategic workforce planning,
  • Sustainability, and
  • Optimally using the talent already in your organisation.

2. Use assessment centres to identify executive and leadership talent

More and more organisations are now trying to gain a targeted view of talent at their leadership levels through innovative and scientific assessment methods. A robust, methodical, objective and well-validated assessment methodology at this level can provide deep insight into potential for succession planning, which is crucial at this level to grow an organisation in a highly competitive environment.

A well-structured and effectively communicated talent management project can go a long way to retain talented individuals and effectively target development. The following can be used to predict success at this level:

  • Behavioural competencies: Can individuals actually perform the required competencies on the job?
  • Cognitive capability: Are they able to deal with the complexity required and do they have the potential to deal with higher levels of complexity?
  • Personality: what personality strengths will enable them to succeed and where do personality derailers exist?

Assessing these areas through a robust and comprehensive assessment centre can yield valuable information regarding the potential within a management pool that can be leveraged to the advantage of the organisation.

3. Executive and leadership talent need to spend time on development

Within the current fast-paced environment, executives and leaders are finding it more difficult to dedicate time to meaningful development. The problem is that this development is often not aligned to actual training needs. Targeted training based on the outcomes of an objective assessment of strengths and developments needs is critical to ensure that high-impact development takes place.

Organisations need to ensure that they assist and support leaders to acquire and apply skills "on the job" for maximum effect. There is also a trend towards more web-based, innovative development initiatives as opposed to classroom-based training. These types of engaging and blended learning platforms place the ball squarely in the court of leaders and executives to take accountability for targeting and managing their own training.

4. Use online tools to manage your talent effectively

Organisations are increasingly looking for innovative, cost-effective and efficient methods to identify talent within their organisations, particularly for entry-level leadership positions where the biggest development gap in leadership tends to reside.

Assessment and development methodologies are moving away from paper-based, resource-heavy and time-consuming standpoints towards online-driven and resource-light arenas which are time- and cost-conscious in their set-up and delivery. With the ever-changing organisational and talent management landscape, businesses need fast and innovative methods to make quick and effective strategic talent-management decisions – and to ensure that they retain the right people to enable success.


David Bischof is the chairperson of the Assessment Centre Study Group and a senior manager at Deloitte Consulting. He has a masters in psychology from the University of the Witwatersrand. David specialises in - among others - research psychology, assessment centre methodologies, psychometrics and talent management.

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