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Assessment centers, touted by most as the top-notch hiring and development solution, are designed to measure specific pre-defined competencies that are often mapped to multiple virtual assessment tools for hiring or development purposes. Talent management processes are undergoing a shift as organizations are adapting to a digital way of work. Physical assessment centers are giving way to virtual ones due to their cost, time, and resource efficiency, and quick and easy-to-roll-out features.
A virtual assessment center, also known as digital assessment center, is a fully online simulation of a traditional assessment center, which replicates real-life workplace situations to evaluate participants’ skills and behaviors in a controlled environment to make crucial decisions about hiring, developing and identifying organizational talent.
Designed to measure multiple skills and competencies for a particular role, virtual assessment centres use 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 combination, in the digital format.
As opposed to a physical or traditional assessment center, a virtual or digital 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, digital 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 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 centers 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 center, irrespective of their geographical presence. Given its sole dependence on the internet, the results are immediate, and the execution is simple.
A traditional assessment center 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.
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 center 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.
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 center 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 center 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.
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 centers can be customized to provide a level playing field for all employees, thereby increasing employee satisfaction.
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.
Virtual assessment centers 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.
As the global economy evolves and organizations encourage remote work, professionals are looking up to their employers, not just to instill a sense of security, but also to keep them motivated during unprecedented times.
The post-COVID-19 era 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 and striving for future-readiness, employees continue to upskill and reskill themselves naturally. Organizations need to match this skilling speed and need with future-ready strategies.
Embracing technology in 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 any global crisis.
Competencies are the fundamental building blocks of any assessment and development center. To holistically assess the personality, cognitive and behavioral 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 center measures each competency through two or more tools, optimally utilizing the available time and resources, and striving toward future-proofing your workforce.
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.
As remote work becomes a norm, many organizations are building internal teams to meet specific needs of such a scenario. A high potential identification initiative led through a virtual assessment center can fulfil the said 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.
With the unpredictable nature of changing work cultures, organizations are truly acknowledging the value of good leadership skills to successfully traverse through uncharted territories 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 organization, data-driven decision making, complex problem solving, strategic thinking, people development, etc. in the future leaders of the company. A virtual assessment center 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.
A critical strategy for future-readiness is to identify the 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, these initiatives can increase the levels of commitment and engagement in an employee, thereby leading to an increased level of satisfaction, better productivity, or better still, a decrease in employee attrition rate.
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.
A typical virtual assessment center includes several methods of evaluation. While these methods may be different for every company or situation, there are several common exercises that help boost the efficiency of a VAC. Let’s dive into the top five.
Various types of psychometric assessments are used to measure a candidate’s role-specific potential, industry-specific aptitude, personality traits, and other essential qualities. Various question formats are used for such an analysis depending on the goal of the assessment center process.
Virtual assessment center group exercise examples include group discussions and problem-solving as a team. They revolve around observing candidates and their abilities to collaborate with other people. There is a brief given and time-limit set for this exercise. Participants get the chance to demonstrate skills like reasoning, creativity, proactiveness, memory, social engagement, and public speaking.
Competency-based interviews take traditional job interviews to the virtual space. Questions asked in these interviews are chosen to understand the candidate’s industry knowledge, skill level, experience, etc. Results and selection are based on competency-focused interactions among candidates and interviewers.
A VAC case study provides the candidates with a set of documents highlighting detailed information about real-life industry-specific situations. The candidate is required to interpret this information and come up with insightful analyses, plans of action, data, as a way to highlight their findings.
Roleplay exercises are designed to evaluate a candidate’s interpersonal skills, negotiation prowess, communication abilities, and the knack to influence decisions in a logical, fact-based manner. These exercises can include elaborate discussions in mock professional scenarios where candidates may be asked to assume relevant professional roles.
Inbox exercises are classic assessment center activities designed to evaluate the candidate’s ability to prioritize multiple tasks and deal with challenges at work. It’s mostly related to sorting emails and working on quick projects within a short duration.
A situational judgement test, also known as an SJT, primarily involves multiple choice questions for testing a candidate’s ability to deal with real-life work-related situations. SJTs are a cost-effective and powerful tool for selecting strong professionals who can perform well in specific roles.
Candidates who have been a part of ACDCs (assessment center development center), will find it relatively easy to transition to a virtual assessment center. Once you have a fair idea of various virtual assessment center exercises, tools, and virtual assessment center ideas, you can begin preparing in a more focused way.
In this section, we enlist the top ten tips that will help you succeed in a virtual assessment center.
Before you appear at a virtual assessment center, it is crucial to know what to expect. Usually, it takes 2-3 hours for all VAC activities to complete. In addition, there could be specific tech requirements like setting up a webcam and microphone, accommodating tech installation settings in your system, etc. The more you learn about these details in advance, the better would be your preparedness on the big day.
You may be required to switch screens and browse through various types of digital tools and virtual assessment center examples. Therefore, digital fluency becomes essential for success in a virtual assessment center. Your speed should be adequate without causing you to feel overwhelmed or anxious.
In addition to basic digital fluency, it always helps when you are acquainted with the types of virtual assessment center platforms you would be introduced to during VAC exercises. While this guide gives you detailed insights into VACs, we recommend discussing the same with your organization to have a clearer understanding of what to expect.
As stated earlier in this blog, virtual assessment centers include complex assessments for aptitude, competencies, behaviors, and so on. Moreover, there are professional activities like case studies and presentations for which you should be well prepared.
Other than current affairs, it is vital to be aware of developments and trends specific to your industry and job profile. You should be confident about everything you say and write during a virtual assessment. And that kind of confidence comes from being updated with the most important highlights, data, statistics, and actionable recommendations from leaders and experts in your niche.
Virtual assessment centers are extensive and you cannot afford to deal with a fluctuating WIFI or malfunctioning network. A strong and stable internet connectivity is one of the top necessities if you want to succeed in a virtual assessment center.
In tune with the previous point, you should also ensure that your computer and additional equipment are functioning smoothly. It is always recommended that you test everything a couple of times before the assessment day.
You may be required to appear for a virtual face-to-face round during interviews, group discussions, and other activities. Therefore, formal attire is one of the simplest ways to ensure you feel confident and at the top of your game.
Making a list of things to do and practice before a virtual assessment session can be a huge help in taking away the jitters. It also helps remember every detail that is important to you. That way, you can enter a virtual assessment center feeling stress-free and less overwhelmed.
This is a key advice for candidates taking part in group discussions. Any type of group activity requires presence of mind, patience, and professionalism. Always remember the competencies that a group activity measures: ability to work in a team, interpersonal skills, problem solving qualities, etc. To be able to check all those boxes for the assessors, you need to prove that you are a good listener as well as an active contributor.
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 centers can open up several growth opportunities 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 centers head-on to meet the needs of this implicit business revolution, virtual assessment centers 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 center, 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.
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:
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 provides individual feedback and aid in creating organizational and individual developmental plans.
Mercer | Mettl VADC: Automate Your L&D Programs With Virtual Assessment And Development Centers
Originally published April 27 2020, Updated August 17 2021
Bhuvi is a content marketer at Mercer | Mettl. She's helped various brands find their voice through insightful thought pieces and engaging content. When not scandalizing people with her stories, you’ll find her challenging gender norms, dancing to her own tune, and crusading through life, laughing.
Assessment Center Development Center, commonly known as ACDC, is a comprehensive tool used by organizations to evaluate prospective or current employees for workforce management and planning. ACDCs can be implemented virtually, physically, or in a blended format, using a suite of assessment tools.
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