Assessment is an oft-misused word. In the Indian context, it is viewed as a stressful exercise that leads to two possible outcomes – acceptance or rejection. From the day we are born, we undergo multiple assessments – in school exams, on the playground, in medical health camps et al. And each one of these experiences re-inforces our worldview of what an assessment would entail – a report card (sigh!)

Given this strongly ingrained cultural context, taking a ‘developmental’ view of assessments is not easy. Many mind-sets need to be changed including that of the learner.

At Catalyst, our approach to Assessment Centers focuses on designing and delivering thought-provoking and powerful assessments of skills and competencies that can be easily blended into a talent development framework.

Our intervention begins with understanding an internalizing the competency framework of the organization first. We co-create or validate the competencies and skills required of the job holder through extensive structured interviews with supervisors, sample job holders as well as other critical stakeholders. At the end of the exercise, we have a  common understanding of critical skills and competencies that drive performance within the organization.

Next, we work closely and collaboratively with clients to design centres that are entirely tailored to the tone, context and culture of the organisation. We marry our centres to the skills and competencies of the role holder and to his daily work-life as closely as possible. Our work is grounded in business reality.

In line with research on the validity of assessment and development centres, we use a variety of exercises which allow participants the opportunity to demonstrate their capability and strengths. Examples of typical exercises include structured interviews, business games, case-studies, in-trays, business presentations and strategic tasks. Further, multiple experienced assessors observe various candidates across the exercises generating multiple data points. This enables us to check for consistency of behaviours. Our assessment processes are rigorous and robust and we conduct intensive calibration sessions following each programme.

Most importantly, however, we balance assessment with development so that each person leaves the programme having grown in self-awareness and skill. Detailed feedback for the participant focuses more on his demonstrated strengths than only on his development needs and culls out avenues to further strengthen them through a robust forward action plan. We inspire individuals to take ownership of their own learning and development and our programmes involve stimulating pre and post workshop projects and additional developmental avenues to explore.

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