An assessment center, seen by many as the top-notch solution for hiring and development, fabricates real-life workplace situations to evaluate the skills and behaviors of participants in a controlled environment. They are designed to measure specific pre-defined competencies that are often mapped to multiple tools. However, while the benefits of assessment centers are many, their most significant drawback is that they are extremely resource-intensive.
With organizations adapting to a digital way of work, talent management processes are also witnessing a shift. Physical assessment centers are giving way to virtual ones owing to their cost, time, and resource efficiency, and quick and easy to roll-out features.
What Is A Virtual Assessment Centre?
A virtual assessment centre is a fully online simulation of a traditional assessment center. A virtual assessment centre brings together personality inventories, cognitive ability tests situational judgment tests, day-in-the-life situations, role plays, case study simulators, in-basket exercises, caselets, presentations, competency based interviews, and other such activities, in the virtual format, to make crucial decisions about hiring, developing and identifying organizational talent.
As opposed to a physical or traditional assessment center, a virtual or e-assessment center, administered online, optimally utilizes new-age technology to achieve comprehensive and efficient results, without compromising on the credibility and effectiveness of the process. With a complete suite of online tools and technologies, e-assessment centers assist organizations in matching employees to a particular role, defined by a set of competencies. Organizations also identify employees’ strengths and skill gaps required to succeed on the job.
“The virtual assessments are mapped to behavioral competencies just as traditional assessment centers. They also contain multiple tools that are administered online with accurate automated reports, eliminating the hassle of logistics and manual efforts. We are using a computerized simulation of specific job-related tasks. It’s a unique pre-employment test that allows the differences to surface in a manner that helps recruiters identify the best-fit candidates for the organization that delivers superior results. We believe that such virtual assessment does more than help the company select the right candidates.”
- Sophie Summers, HR Manager, RapidApi
Why Is An Online Assessment Center A Better Alternative To A Physical One?
The emergence of virtual assessment centres has enabled us to overcome many challenges faced in traditional assessment centers.
Traditional assessment centers come with a limited capacity for participants as well as assessors. A single geographic location is a hindrance to scalability. Online assessment centers enable an unlimited number of participants to perform their best virtually, without the hassle of travel and coordination. Virtual assessment centres enable us to conduct assessments at different locations at the same time, without hampering the quality of the engagement or the results.
The time-taken in a traditional assessment center, starting from scheduling, assessment implementation, analyzing results, providing feedback to making the final decision, can be excruciatingly long, given the multiplicity of factors. Traditional assessment centers can typically take weeks and months due to extensive planning and scheduling constraints. Online assessment centers expedite the process by harnessing technology. Participants can be a part of the virtual assessment centre, irrespective of their geographical presence. Given its sole dependence on the internet, the results are immediate, and the execution is simple.
A traditional assessment centre can be expensive, therefore unscalable and limited to a select few employees. Booking a physical center, and managing other logistical requirements, such as arranging for travel, food, and accommodation, and other costs involved in planning a center increases the overhead expenses substantially. However, e-assessment centers can provide a virtual environment with the same level of engagement at a fraction of that cost.
Participant & Assessor Experience
An e-assessment center enables participation from anywhere, ensuring candidates participate at a time convenient to them so that there’s no wastage of work hours. In a traditional setting, all the participants travel to a central location, which results in not only inflated costs but also the loss of productive hours.
A virtual assessment centre is an excellent tool of choice for teams spread across geographies, catering to employees across multiple departments/ functions, of certain seniority, or unwilling to travel. It also reduces the risk of stress affecting the participant’s performance during exercises and assessment, due to travel, and logistical discomfort.
Prone to Bias
Physical assessment centers are prone to bias and subtleties of individual assessors. Virtual spaces, on the other hand, are often perceived as more liberating. A virtual assessment centre assures a standardized online assessment, with little or no involvement of an assessor, leading to minimum bias, better employee performance, and results. A virtual assessment centre ensures a comforting, consistent, and objective environment where participants are safe from confounding or extraneous factors and can carry on with their assessment in a stress-free manner.
One Size Fits All
A holistic understanding of employees is a trademark of the traditional assessment center; one can challenge that it often overlooks employees who might be reserved or introverted. While traditional assessment centers have a one-size-fits-all approach for its employees, virtual assessment centres can be customized to provide a level playing field for all employees, thereby increasing employee satisfaction.
Data & Information
Another upside of choosing an online assessment center is that all the activity is happening in the virtual world, which means the piles of paperwork that assessors usually maintain during physical assessment centers and then collate for the final result is eradicable. Online assessment centers facilitate standardization of assessments, easy benchmarking, and easy culling of results. Their ability to produce instant and automated results with minimum or no manual efforts is often a business-puller.
“The virtual assessment and development centers are capable of replacing traditional workplace activities and initiatives and they already have replaced the traditional processes in the majority of the businesses. They are of immense help for goal-oriented organizations as then HR professionals have more time to focus on their core competencies. It is best recommended to organizations where high-volume hiring is required.”
- Sophie Summers, HR Manager, RapidApi
Virtual assessment centres help organizations get better results in a shorter time while ensuring it is a win-win for everyone involved in the execution, participation, and evaluation stages of the process. With technology acting as an enabler, an online assessment center allows organizations to extend opportunities of growth to all their employees in a streamlined manner.
Why Should You Shift To A Virtual Assessment Centre During Covid-19?
As the global economy comes to a standstill due to Covid-19, the workforce is looking up to their employers, not just to instill a sense of security, but also to keep them motivated during these unprecedented times. The lockdown has already pushed employees to take up skills initially taken for granted - interpersonal communication, stakeholder management, problem-solving, decision-making, leadership, agility, etc. While entering uncharted territories of the lockdown, employees continue to upskill and reskill themselves naturally. Organizations need to match this skilling speed and need with future-ready strategies.
"We will be moving all of our mentoring/training initiatives online. It just makes more sense to do it that way as it's easier to coordinate and can be recorded for posterity. In the case of continued education, online classes will greatly benefit our employees without putting them at risk in a physical classroom setting."
- Jennifer Walden, Director of Operations, WikiLawn
Embracing technology in these trying times can help boost an organization’s initiatives involving learning and development, high potential identification, leadership development, succession planning, and/or training needs identification.
If your organization had already planned workforce optimization and development, the pandemic is no reason to halt or defer them. There is, in fact, no better time to take these up and strive toward future-proofing your workforce. If a traditional or blended assessment center was your tool of choice, then transitioning to an online assessment center is a smart choice to make during the present business environment. It shows your employees your continued and proactive interest in their development, irrespective of the global crisis.
"Remote work is the new normal and many SaaS companies like ourselves had already adapted to the idea of agile working, where borders or where you work from becomes irrelevant...As far as learning and development goes, our learning center has moved online, and since the crisis, we have introduced aspirational objective and key results as well where employees can add to their tasks voluntarily and choose to take courses online paid for by the company for continuous learning."
- Shayan Fatani, Digital Marketing Strategist, PureVPN
How to Use Online Assessment Centers For Business Continuity During Covid-19?
Competencies are the fundamental building blocks of any assessment and development center. To holistically assess the personality, cognitive and behavioural competencies and paint a complete picture of an individual, the need for more than one tool is a generally accepted premise. Hence, a virtual assessment centre measures each competency through two or more tools, optimally utilizing the available time and resources, and striving toward future-proofing your workforce.
Identification of High Potential Employees
HiPo employees are considered exceptional contributors to the future growth of a business. A well-thought-out high potential program implemented through a comprehensive online assessment center can ensure that identified talent gets access and time to assimilate new skills in an objective and cost-effective manner, positively affecting the bottom line, which is a pressing need of the hour for many organizations.
With organizations committed to emerging from this economic trough sustainably, many organizations are building internal teams to meet the needs of the Covid-19 business crisis. A high potential identification initiative led through a virtual assessment centre can fulfil these specific needs.
If, for instance, your organization is looking to measure innovation to address current business challenges in a high potential employee, a combination of a personality profiler, cognitive ability test, and case study simulator can easily help you evaluate this competency.
Leadership Development & Succession Planning
With the unpredictable nature of this pandemic, organizations are truly acknowledging the value of good leadership skills to successfully traverse through uncharted territories of the lockdown while relentlessly striving to keep their teams engaged and motivated. The current market scenario, given its volatility, uncertainty, and competitiveness, demands future-proofing your business. Leaders are the backbone of any organization. Hence, it is essential for an organization to be future-ready and have a systematically identified talent pipeline that can be developed to take up more demanding roles and responsibilities and deal with complex future challenges. An e-assessment center can help businesses identify future leaders effective in the age of digital transformation and develop a structured and efficient succession plan.
For example, your organization is looking for competencies such as planning and organisation, data driven decision making, complex problem solving, strategic thinking, people development, etc. in the future leaders of the company. A virtual assessment centre can come to your rescue with exercises like inbox prioritization, situational judgement tests, and case study simulator that measure these competencies in an objective and unbiased virtual environment.
Training Needs Identification for L&D Initiatives
A critical strategy for future-readiness is identifying skill gaps in your workforce and creating engaging learning and development opportunities for your employees. Often these processes are sidelined due to other pressing business needs. But with organizations striving to find a fine balance between meeting business targets and motivating their employees to stay on track during Covid-19, these initiatives can increase the levels of commitment and engagement in an employee, whereby leading to an increased level of satisfaction, better productivity, or better still, a decrease in employee attrition rate.
“Without a doubt, more L&D initiatives can be moved online. Any organization that is not considering shifting learning modes online is living in the past and missing out on major efficiency gains, coupled with opportunities to increase the satisfaction and loyalty of the workforce. Access to development opportunities is a critical determinant in employee engagement and commitment.”
- Jeff Skipper, Owner & CEO, Jeff Skipper Consulting
An organization’s proactive contribution to talent development makes employees appreciate them more. In addition to loyalty and gratitude, employees feel closer to the broader business vision, especially at a critical juncture like this, when everyone is feeling alienated working in silos.
"We understand that employees hate to be stuck in a rut and are hungry for knowledge, especially now when we're all hemmed in at home and looking for ways to spend time productively. We devote every ounce of our energy to help employees grow professionally….with virtual mentorship opportunities...and online skilling courses and webinars, so they could devour knowledge and ultimately help our company reach its true North once the pandemic subsides. I think it's important to continually emphasize that, as a company, you're committed to helping employees grow their muscles. Otherwise, they are more likely to lose steam and eventually look for greener pastures."
- Jagoda Wieczorek, HR Manager, ResumeLab
Many organizations may face the risk of being overturned or disrupted, therefore continually upskilling and advancing with technology is not just imminent but also indispensable. Virtual assessment centres can turn this pandemic into a boon for your business and employees.
Whether businesses wait for the need to arise to be future-ready or take advantage of online assessment and development centres head-on to meet the needs of this implicit business revolution, virtual assessment centres are redefining workforce management in the digital world. They enable organizations to continue with their hiring and development plans by making a small shift from traditional to an online mode of operation. They also shorten the end-to-end execution time and make the transition preferable and profitable on all fronts. It is economically favorable as well as logistically suited.
If you are waiting for ‘when’ to transition to a virtual assessment centre, now is the time. Organizations should be thinking about laying extensive developmental plans for individuals and allowing them time, resources, and opportunities to upskill themselves and apply their newly acquired skills in special assignments.
How Mercer | Mettl Can Help?
How Mercer | Mettl’s Virtual Assessment Centre Replicates The Physical Centre Experience?
Real-life business scenarios and challenges are embedded in Mercer | Mettl’s Virtual Assessment Centre activities. Our team of experts helps you pick essential competencies for each role and map them to the right kind of tools, activities, and assessments.
Mercer | Mettl’s Virtual ACDC toolkit consists of:
Situational Judgement Tests and Role Plays are highly effective and practical exercises to witness employees display behavioral competencies necessary for the role and organization.
Cognitive Ability Tests measure a person’s ability to think fast, make meaning of ambiguity, reach meaningful conclusions, and formulate new concepts and strategies for innovation.
Caselets evaluate data analysis interpretation skills.
Inbox Prioritization is a business simulation to assess how an employee tackles the workload of a typical day
Case Study Simulators comprise real business-related problems for employees to experience critical interdependencies, execute best practices, explore alternatives for a strategy, and devise a structured approach to tackle the problem, etc.
They can be clubbed together, used in silos, or customized as per the needs of your organization to give you a flavor of how employees respond to situations, handle responsibilities, and come up with solutions.
The report presents a holistic view of the employees by highlighting their strengths and areas of improvement for the organization as well as the employees.
Mercer | Mettl helps you at each stage of the process by providing your organization with a technologically robust platform to carry out large-scale assessments, with an additional layer of proctoring (wherever required), and instant data-driven reports with advanced analytics. Our team of subject matter experts provide individual feedback and aid in creating organizational and individual developmental plans.