No assessment center is perfect. Nothing is going to guarantee that 100% of the individuals you promote or hire are going to be high performers. But an assessment center that combines a few critical components can increase the probability that the person you select is going to be what the department needs going forward.
The validity of your assessment center is all important! Does your assessment center measure what it claims to measure? For example, if we think of a speedometer as a test of speed, it is highly valid because it accurately measures the speed of the automobile. Without doubt, you want your assessment center to accurately measure leadership ability. But because humans are more complex than a single element like speed, we do not recommend only one method of measurement. Instead, we recommend three general assessment components. Let’s take a look at what those components are. Perhaps we should call it The Three Components of Highly Effective Promotional Processes---with apologies to Stephen Covey.
Component #1: A Panel of Experts
Many of you utilize expert raters/observers already and, if so, perhaps this is further validation of the benefit of this method. My business partner, Todd Renshaw, recruits 3-4 respected Chiefs or Assistant Chiefs who have experienced the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat through years of hiring. They comprise a panel of expert raters who watch the candidates as they are put through the paces of our multifaceted assessment process. Inherently they rate the extent to which a candidate demonstrates both technical and role knowledge as well as their ability to demonstrate emotional intelligence during a varied assessment day.
Component #2: Behavioral Demonstrations
This segment is like an interview on steroids. Candidates are given the opportunity to sell themselves to the expert raters. Taking up a majority of the day, candidates are put through a fairly grueling array of individual and group exercises. Examples may include leaderless group exercises, tactical/operational exercises, public speaking exercises, a graphic biography (presented to the panel), leadership exercises, written exercises, employee counseling exercises, citizen complaint exercises, and a media interview.
Component #3: Job Fit Testing
Let us acknowledge up front that not all departments (civil service) will use job fit testing to make promotional decisions. But it does not prevent you from using this type of assessment to help you formulate your interview questions. Furthermore, some of you may wonder what a paper-and-pencil or online assessment is going to tell you that behavioral demonstrations do not. The answer is “a lot.” Furthermore, the right assessment will tell you what the individual will do in the future, regardless of what their interview behavior indicates. Interview situations are often a false depiction of the person. How many of us put our best foot forward when trying to impress a potential love interest only to reveal our true selves six months later?
Some years ago, a police department (later to become my client) called me to discuss an issue they were having with an assistant chief. “He’s an absolute disaster,” said the Chief. “He was one of the most positively anticipated people I have personally experienced in the past few years. I would have bet any amount of money that he would do a fantastic job. Now, I wish he had never promoted.”
The problem, as I would later find out, was that while the assistant chief was suited in his role at a lower level; the higher-level job required a vastly different skill-set of which he was not remotely suited. How did I know? Hi job-fit scores gave us the picture.