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Developing trends

On the face of it, learning through technology is a win-win, but, as with anything that appears too good to be true, it usually is, and as Ali Shalfrooshan, Senior Consultant a&dc warns, it’s best to look before you leap.

We recently partnered with Colorado State University in the USA to conduct a global survey of Assessment and Development Centre practitioners, reviewing key trends being seen around the world. It was the largest international survey on Assessment and Development Centre practices ever conducted, in terms of countries represented and sample size, respondents were from 53 countries, and the aim was to provide a holistic view of current practices. One of the key areas investigated was the use of technology when assessing and developing talent. Findings showed that the most popular feature of the technology being used, which was seen in 23 percent of centres, was the automated or semi-automated generation of participant report content. Respondents who were using this facility seem to be doing so as it was more efficient and saved a great deal of time because reports didn’t have to be manually compiled.

The recording of interactive simulations, such as role-plays or group exercises on video, was also a popular aspect, and results showed that this technique was used in 21 percent of Centres. Those HR professionals using technology in this way appear to be benefitting because it means that Centres can be run without assessors being present during the exercise. In fact, they don’t even need to be in the same geographical location, which can bring about real benefits in terms of time and convenience. Results showed that no one felt that the use of technology in Centres was having a negative effect. Instead, it allowed assessors to learn who the best candidates were for the role, easily and relatively quickly. Other benefits that were recognised related to costs and accuracy as it appeared to minimise human error, and it’s clear that, if used in the right way, technology can be a real advantage when it comes to finding and developing top talent. When HR professionals talk about Assessment and Development Centres, they tend to focus on the assessor and not the participants. However, I’d argue that, when it comes to designing the centre, the HR community also needs to ensure the methods chosen will be the most appropriate and provide the greatest opportunity to help individuals learn and develop. Assessment and Development Centres are a learning curve for an individual’s future development. Centres should provide an individual a challenging experience and an opportunity to gain insights into their own behaviour so that they can improve their future performance. The use of technology on its own can’t do this and feedback after the process is fundamental. If possible, feedback should be carried out in person or over the phone rather than via email. The key point to remember is that HR is all about people and so it’s fundamental to use a combination of techniques that doesn’t take away the human element. Technology can have a huge benefit if used to support and enhance an individual’s learning but not when it is only being used for the sake of it. For individuals to get the most out of their experience and gain a clear understanding of how they can improve, technology shouldn’t be used in isolation and should be used to enhance and support face-to-face assessment methods.

And, when an employee does join your organisation, it’s important to continue to develop their skill sets. This can be carried out through online training and Development Centres, and technology can play a key part in these. But again, too much focus on technology can be harmful, and learning still needs a practical on-the-job approach. It’s expected that the use of technology in helping people learn and develop will only become more prominent. But, there’s a real danger that, if organisations fail to recognise that a combination of methods are needed, they won’t be able to attract, develop and retain the best talent and will lose the important competitive advantage this represents.

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