Previously, we discussed how traditional line management with simple hierarchies and small teams is rapidly becoming obsolete. Today’s flexible working practices and matrixed structures mean few managers have a direct line of sight over the work their people carry out.


As a result, managers’ assessments of people are incomplete at best, and inaccurate at worst. Online performance management systems make it easier for people to ask project and team leaders, and perhaps also peers for feedback on performance, but here again viewpoints are likely to be incomplete. Moreover, giving real-time feedback on ongoing, or just completed projects requires different skills from making an assessment about someone’s potential for a new, or future role.


In a climate of transformation or rapid growth, businesses must make quick decisions about who can fulfil certain roles now, and they must know their bench strength for the future. This bench strength is not just who has the skills and experience, but who can quickly take on the new roles that don’t yet exist. This keen understanding of the potential of the workforce can make the difference between rapidly taking up a new business opportunity, or missing out. In today’s world, if you see a bandwagon coming, you are too late. You have missed it.


These differing business needs bring assessment centres centre-stage. Assessment centres go well beyond interview methods, or psychometric testing putting candidates in the situation as opposed to presenting a description of it. As a result, they offer insight into abilities to actually do the work rather than knowing how to do it.


Assessment centre methodology is not new. It is well tried and tested, and well-researched with a strong body of evidence showing that carefully designed assessment centres are more likely than other selection measures to produce reliable assessment information which is predictive of future performance in a role[i]. Moreover, they are also held to be valid, fair, legally defensible, and acceptable to candidates and other stakeholders in a wide variety of jobs[ii].


Well-designed assessment centres achieve multiple objectives: raising individuals’ self-awareness of their impact: supporting their development: creating greater agility: providing data for organisational planning and decision-making: matching people and roles with greater accuracy: enabling individuals, and therefore the business to take on new challenges.


Our experience at Scala shows assessment centres are invariably popular: people believe the programmes help their careers, and find it motivating that the organisation is investing in them and valuing them as individuals.

[i] Thornton, G. C., III, & Byham, W. C. (1982). Assessment centers and managerial performance. New York: Academic Press.


[ii] George C. Thornton III ⁎, Alyssa M. Gibbons
Department of Psychology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523, United States