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Greetings and Happy New Year! As I reflected on 2014, I thought I would share the most common comments I hear while conducting promotional assessment centers for public safety agencies.
“I don’t need an outside firm to tell me who my best employees are.” - Administrator
While this may be very true, having a professional assessment incorporating assessors from outside the organization will most likely add a non-prejudiced verification of the administrator’s beliefs. It avoids the perception of the agency administrator picking his favorite employee for promotion. It brings a sense of fairness and an unbiased process from the employees’ standpoint. It is vital that candidates and even those employees not participating feel the selection of leaders is done without bias and preferential treatment.
“I saw a different side of my people today.” - Administrator
Administrators typically have candidates they believe will perform well and those that won’t perform as well. Often times what they see surprises them. This is why I encourage someone from senior administration to sit in and observe the assessment process. It also gives insight into questions and topic areas they may want to explore further in a follow up interview. At the same time, the administrator can record comments and commitments made by the candidate to hold them accountable once they are promoted.
“This is so much more insightful than a paper and pencil test.” - Administrator
It’s been said that a paper and pencil test is predictive of behavior in a paper and pencil world. The assessment process is designed to elicit behaviors that candidates would exhibit in real situations. It gives insight into their thought process and how they evaluate issues and reach conclusions. On many exercises, there isn’t one simple approach or correct answer. How the candidates arrive at and articulate their response is as important as the answer itself. This response is very common from Human Resource professionals who are previously unfamiliar with the assessment process.
“The candidates all felt the process was fair and based on this agency’s needs.”- Administrator
I always enjoy getting this comment from the agency administrator. A great deal of effort goes into making the process fit the agency and its needs at that point in time. While many agencies experience similar issues, they also have unique problems and opportunities to address. If the candidates, even those who didn’t perform the best, feel the process was fair and appropriate for the position, the process is a success for the agency.
“The candidate promoted has exceeded my expectation during the past year.” -Administrator
Overall, follow-up questionnaires with agencies has reflected around a 96% success rate in those promoted after their first year. This follows along with item #2 above. Leaders may not see the performance potential in employees for a variety of reasons. The assessment process is designed to put candidates on an even playing field. Their knowledge, skills and abilities come through to assessors quite clearly.
“How can a one day assessment reflect the knowledge gained from my entire career?” - Candidate
The assessment is a focused procedure that is designed with a great deal of input from agency personnel. The instrument is designed to fit the needs of that agency at that point in time. The key here is that all candidates have the same stimulus and opportunity to respond to the situations that are deemed important by the agency, thus making it an equitable measure of the candidate’s abilities at that point in time. The assessment process serves as a valid predictor of the capabilities of the candidates.
“I didn’t expect the assessment to be as straightforward as it was.” - Candidate
A proper assessment is designed to bring out what the candidate knows and how the candidate responds to situations. An attempt to trick the candidate would do nothing to predict how the candidate would react in a real situation. The orientation for candidates is conducted prior to the assessment date and is designed to alleviate anxiety in order to allow them to respond as naturally as possible.
“The feedback I received from my performance was helpful in preparing me for future opportunities.” - Candidate
The feedback instrument is a compilation of written comments by assessors during the assessment process. This makes the assessment a 360° process. The assessors evaluate the performance of the candidates for administrators to make a promotional or hiring decision. This evaluation is compiled and given to the candidates to communicate their strengths and areas for improvement. When taken seriously, candidates can improve their performance for the future.
“The assessors were professional and came from agencies similar to ours.”-Candidate
The orientation for assessors points out the style of assessment and adequately prepares them to deliver a consistent assessment process time after time. Assessors are selected from agencies of a similar size and type as the candidate agency. It simply wouldn’t make sense to have assessors from large metropolitan departments to evaluate the candidates from a much smaller suburban or rural agency. The problems faced may be similar but the response can be very different due to workforce limitations and departmental assets.
“I would like to visit with you about conducting an assessment in our agency.”-Assessor
From a business standpoint, this may be my favorite comment from assessors. But aside from that, it is a good indicator of the success of that particular process. A similar comment is “I wish our agency could use assessments for promotions.” For a variety of reasons, agencies either choose or are not able to use the assessment process. The comment is still a good report card on the SLR assessment. When one thinks of civil service agencies, they think of paper and pencil promotional tests. A large number of SLR clients are civil service agencies who have chosen an alternative promotional process and find it better suits their needs for the selection of their future leaders.
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