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                                 Human Capital Management

Development Centres


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What is an Assessment or Development Centre?

Development Cetres come in many forms, we use a variety of approaches and methodologies depending on the clients particular needs including technological solutions. We are not tied to one particular system or methodology which allows for considerable bespoke design and freedom.

A Development Centre is a process whereby a group of participants undertakes a series of job-related exercises under observation so that skills competencies and character traits can be assessed, a development and implementation plan drawn up (in the past the word Assessment Centre was used implying with feedback but no development plan). Nowadays Development Plans are supplied regardless of the intention so in most cases they are Development Centres rather than just providing Assessment and Feedback. Specially trained assessors evaluate each participant against predetermined criteria.

Various methods of assessment may be used, including interviews, psychometric tests, group discussions, group problem solving exercises, individual job-simulated tasks and role-play. An Assessment or specific Development Centre is used in selection for recruitment and promotion and in training development and succession planning, it aims to provide an organization with an assessment process that is consistent, free of prejudice and fair. The outcomes can be defined but usually action plans for development purposes and reports on participants are produced for planning purposes or a selection decision together with other data that is available.

The use of a range of activities ensures that each individual has a number of opportunities to demonstrate their strengths. And to avoid potential bias, each activity is usually observed by a different assessor or several assessors over time. The final piece in the jigsaw is the construction of a matrix specifying which competencies are to be assessed in each activity and a comparison of the participant is made against the criteria.

  • Ideally, each competency would be assessed at least three times, and no more than four competencies would be assessed in any one activity.

Because all activities are carefully structured around a competency model, with specific behaviours being tracked within each competency, a single rating scale is used to measure performance in the various settings. Assessors are specially trained in behavioural observation and recording, ensuring that individual ratings can be explained via behaviours either within the competency model or closely related to it. As a result, when the final discussion takes place a well-rounded picture of each individual emerges, grounded in specific demonstrated behaviours.

What is Competence?

Competence (skills, behaviour, knowledge, thinking, experience and values) are a highly descriptive language that communicates strategy and performance improvement required of people in an organization. They convert potentially disaffected members of the workforce into measurable and therefore manageable human capital. Once people become human capital the bias, familiarity and subjectivity towards them can be replaced by a fairer, more dispassionate, objective and efficient method of channelling their power. Using competencies to define human capital through role profiles and development planning enables all gaps between current and required state to be identified and addressed. Individual gaps are aggregated as an organizational capital risk. This gap becomes the liability on the corporate human capital balance sheet. It also defines what must be addressed to achieve business performance improvement.

What are Competencies?

We define competencies as those measurable skills, thinking, abilities and personality traits that identify successful employees against defined roles within an organization.

Core Competencies are those competencies that any successful employee will need to rise through the organization; the level of accomplishment may vary but the essential competency will remain the same. Competencies can, of course, change over time and should not be regarded as immutable (they are usually defined and set for the whole organization)

  • They uniquely define an organization’s values and requirements as expressed through its people.
  • They form the cornerstone for the implementation of HR systems such as selection, appraisal, management development, coaching and succession planning.

Specifically behavioural job competency is an underlying characteristic of a persons behaviour which results in effective and/or superior performance.

Assessment Methodologies

There are a number of ways to assess the competencies both psychometrically, through observational assessment and by exercise (a combination of all methods are usually used) or by using predefined standards (National occupational standards NOS).

Firstly though you need to decide on the number of variables to be measured (competencies, characteristics, traits or standards to measure against) and the assessment methods, technology, exercises and the behavioural observation techniques to be used or psychometric tests best suited to measure them (this is probably where you need the special skills of an expert in this field).

The Technology

There are numerous technological solutions out in the market for you to choose from, but which one do you select that will provide a unique solution to what you need for your particular organization and culture?


Page by Marshall Potts – Specialist Development Consultant. Marshall has written a number of articles on Strategy, Transformational Change, Corporate Values and Leadership Development.




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