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The Experience of Golrang Industrial Group In Deploying a Competency-Based Selection System

Sara Rostamian, Business Excellence Expert, Golrang Industrial Group, Iran Rostamian_sara@yahoo.com & Nafiseh Mottaghian, Business Excellence Manager, Golrang Industrial Group, Iran excellence@excellence.ir Abstract
The necessity to use an integrated selection system for all the companies of GIG1 with the same competencies as its base, made the organization to search the existing models in this field. This attempt resulted in picking "assessment center" as one of the most valid methods to assess and select employees. In this paper at first the theoretical basis of the assessment center including its history, definition, ad applications are reviewed and then GIG approach to this process as a tool to assess and select experts and managers is explained and the group's lessons' learned are presented.

Introduction
Recruiting and retaining high-quality employees takes top priority in the competitive marketplace. Organizations continually evaluate selection procedures and seek innovative ways to increase the validity of applicants' assessment. On the other hand, in the traditional selection paradigm the focus is on the past prosperities of the applicant but in new paradigm, the main purpose is finding future stars and hence what matters is the applicant's capability and competency not his/her background. Consequently organizations increasingly turn to assessment centers to provide an accurate evaluation of applicants' competencies. This paper in addition to a brief reviewing of the theoretical concepts of assessment centers, will present the experience of GIG in designing, deploying, and running this process.

History
Early versions of assessment centers were used by the UK War Office Selection Boards in the ١٩ ٠s. Their introduction stemmed from the fact that the existing system was resulting in a large proportion of those officers which were returned to their unit as unsuitable. The mentioned system was relied just on interviewing to select officers and had some selection criteria as social and educational background. The assessment center approach subsequently adopted was an attempt to accurately elicit the types of behavior that an officer was required to display in order to be successful in his job. The tasks included leaderless group exercises, selection tests and individual interviews by a senior officer, junior officer and psychiatrist respectively. During the Second World War, this way was used by the US Office of Strategic Studies to select spies and security experts. Subsequently the use of assessment centers was taken up by the private sector especially the giant American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T) which began using assessment centers for management selection in 1956. By١٩٨٧ more than ٢٠٠٠organizations, including PepsiCo, IBM, General Electric, and the FBI, used assessment centers. Today this method is becoming a common way to select and promote managers and specialists in the organizations.

Definition
The term assessment centre does not refer to a physical place, instead it describes an approach. An assessment center is a process in which participants engage in a variety of exercises and have their
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. Golrang Industrial Group

performance evaluated by multiple assessors. The most important specifications of assessment centres are: − Using multiple practical exercises, reflecting different types of work activity; − Using more than one assessor; − Observing and assessing participants in dynamic group situations; − Assessing participants during several days(1 to 7days)

Applications
The primary purpose of assessment centers has been selection and promotion of staffs especially in managerial positions. But they have extended widely and today they can play a great role in many aspects of human resource management. Some of these areas are as below: Recruitment: assessing applicants' competencies so as to select them for managerial positions Placement and Promotion: assessing employees' competencies to promote them to higher positions Training: identifying training and development needs Performance Appraisal: identifying the strengths and weaknesses of employees and prospecting their performance in the future Career Path and Succession Planning: identifying current potential of staff to provide their succession planning Using assessment centers, in addition has some side effects. For example it increases the employees' trust in equanimity and reliability of assessment and promotion criteria. On the other hand, the feedback report of the assessment center is useful for the participant too. So, educated experts and managers prefer to be employed in the organizations which have assessment center and even stay longer in such companies. In addition, by using managers as assessors, assessment centers indirectly helps them to do their managerial tasks better; especially in some fields such as performance assessment, giving feedback, and identifying personnel training needs.

Design and deployment of assessment center in GIG
Studying theoretical foundations and related benchmarks
In this stage, in addition to benchmarking best practices and searching related surveys, a team composed of four senior managers of the organization, attended in an assessment center to be acquainted with this process and view its results. Remarkable accuracy of the results made GIG intent to use assessment center.

Building competency model
As the base of an assessment center is to assess participant's competencies, Building competency model is the most important prerequisite of this process. Competencies are the set of observable and measurable behaviors combined with knowledge and skills that individuals must have to successfully accomplish the desired results of a job. Since each organization has its own process and culture and the approaches to this tool are different, there is no fixed structure for the model. The first edition of GIG competency model was created in 2006 and was revised several times ever since. The last edition of the model as shown in figure1, consists of five major categories of competencies; personal competencies, academic competencies, and workplace competencies which are considered essential for all staff, regardless of their function or level in the organization, managerial competencies which are considered essential for staff with managerial or supervisory responsibility in any service or program area and applied horizontally across the organization, and technical competencies which are considered essential to perform any job in the Organization within a defined technical or functional area of work.

Figure1-The Last Edition of GIG Competency Model Developing exercises
In this stage, competencies assessment tools were chosen or designed. To increase the accuracy of the judgment, in assessment center each competency usually is assessed by means of two tools. The exercises which were selected in this phase are as bellow: Group Discussion: In this exercise a group of participants meet as a group to discuss an actual jobrelated problem within a given time period. As the meeting proceeds, the behavior of the candidates is observed to see how they interact and what leadership and communications skills each person displays. Oral presentation: In this exercise, candidates are given a brief period of time in which to organize their thoughts, make notes, etc., for the presentation. Traditionally, the audience is played by the assessors who observes the presentation and makes ratings. Candidates may also be asked a series of questions following their presentation. Case Study: In this exercise, some written information including numbers, charts, or tables are given to participants. The content of the case is commonly job-related and the participants have a limited time to analyze the information and write a conclusion report. In-Basket Exercise: The in-basket exercise closely simulates the day to day administrative activities of a supervisor or manager in an actual work-simulated condition. In this exercise, candidates are given time to review the material and initiate in writing whatever actions they believe to be most appropriate in relation to each in-basket item. When time is called for the exercise, the in-basket materials and any notes, letters, memos, or other correspondence written by the candidate are collected for review by assessors.

Behavioral Interview: The theory behind this type of interview is that the past behavior of an applicant is the most accurate predictor of his/her future behavior. As the name implies, the interviewer is asking about the past behavior or performance of applicant in employment situations. The most common way in this interview is to apply STAR method: Situation (Describe the situation that you were in); Task (Discuss the task(s) that you did); Action (Explain the actions you took to complete the task) Result (Illustrate the results of doing the task and what you learned) Psychological Test: These tests are the most common tools to identify applicants' personality, values, and interests. But they have not completely customized in our country yet. So at the first step, GIG tried to elicit the norm of the Psychological criteria inside the organization. The exercises of an assessment center commonly should be job-related but GIG found it difficult to arrange an assessment center for applicants from a specific job branch. Sometimes the time needed to arrange such assessment centers was so long that some of the applicants lapsed from attending in the process. As a result, arranging an assessment center with applicants from different job branches was used as a way to speed up the assessment process. The exercises used in these assessment centers are designed more general in a way that all the applicants can participate in the process. At the next stage, each exercise was assigned to one or more competencies. The assignment style is shown in table1 as competency-exercise matrix.

Table1 - competency-exercise matrix
Managerial Networking & Informing Workplace Academic Computer & Mathematics Personal Competency Personality Factors

Planning & Organizing

Recruiting & Empowerment Managing Conflict & Team Building

Strategic Planning & Vision Developing

Critical & Analytical Thinking

Crisis Management

Negotiation Skills

Business Acumen

Decision Making

Drive to Result

Ethical Values

Teamwork

Innovation

Reading

Writing

Exercise

EQ

Group Discussion Problem solving Test Text Analysis Test Case Study In-Basket Exercise Behavioral Interview Psychological Test

Selecting and training assessors
Assessors should be selected based on their ability to make effective judgments. So their age and rank are important. In addition, they should be aware of organizational norms and values. Thus some of the experienced CEOs and senior managers of the organizations were selected as assessors and trained in this field. One of the major problems about the assessors' performance and their interactions was their different and sometimes inconsistent interpretations of the participants' behaviors. To solve this problem, it was decided to make them familiar with behavior analysis through a training course.

Running the assessment center
Running an assessment center has many elaborations. Some of the most significant matters in this phase and some of notable GIG experiences in this field are as bellow:

− − − −

Running several experimental assessment centers with some volunteers from inside the organization as applicants, will help to recognize possible deficiencies, identify the most suitable time for each exercise, and evaluate the accuracy of the results. Running an assessment center needs an accurate scheduling. But deviation from the timed plan is sometimes unavoidable. So it is important to be ready to face such situations. Since assessors and applicants' time is limited and it is not easy to arrange a long meeting as assessment center, it is better to handle all the process in one day (and not more). It is necessary to plan for recalling replacement assessors when any of the main assessors can not attend in the process due to unexpected reasons. The attendance of the future manager of the applicant in his/her assessment process, will give the manager the opportunity to directly observe applicants' performance in different situations. In addition, in this case there in no need to apply a separate interview between manager and applicant. All moments of an assessment center even break or lunch time, can be useful resources to gather valuable information about the applicant behaviors and performance. So it is necessary to appoint someone to observe and record all applicants' manners in the absence of the assessors. Wash-up session is a main part of the assessment center. In this session assessors discuss about applicants' performance and come to a consensus. The output of this session will send to final decision makers as a report. This report contains applicants' scores, assessors' observations details and their final opinion about applicants. Designing a specific form to record assessors' observations and score related competencies in each exercise will simplify the wash-up session. Figure2 is a sample of form which is used in GIG assessment center. As it is seen in this form, each assessor gives a rate between 1 and 5 to each competency on a particular exercise. The assessor, in addition brings examples of behavior to support the given ratings. The raw score of each competency is the average of the assessors' ratings and its final score is equal to the raw score multiplied by the weight of the competency in GIG competency model.

Figure2 – Rating Form for Group Discussion Exercise
Assessor Name: Exercise: Group Discussion Participant Name: Observations

Competencies Under Assessment
Drive to Result Planning & Organizing Decision Making Teamwork Negotiation Skills

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4

5

1

2

3

4

5

1

2

3

4

5

1

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5

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5

While deciding about accepting or rejecting the applicant at the end of the process, his/her overqualifying should be closely considered as well as his/her under-qualifying. Because any kind of disproportion between the job and employee can lead to major problems for both employee and organization. The evaluation of Effectiveness of the assessment center by periodical performance appraisal of selected applicants is an essential way to insure of the accuracy and reliability of the process.

Due to the same base of assessment, the employees selected by this process have more similarity with together and with organizational culture. So their socialization process in the organization will take less time and cost. To centralize the assessment center in mother company will let all the sister companies to use a common source for selection and will reduce many parallel assessment and selection activities through holding company.

Conclusion
The assessment center is an expensive and complicated process but it has grown hugely in popularity because of its outstanding characteristics to select competent employees and specially managers. Since human resources are called the most important capital of the organizations, they should be attentively and mindfully selected or promoted. The high accuracy of the assessment center results (67%) compare to traditional selection tools like interviews (20%) has made it most effective tool available for selection or development. On the other hand, since the assessment centers are newly utilized in Iranian organizations, to be familiar with their advantages and disadvantages, run them efficiently, and customize them, relevant researchers and experts should extensively exchange their findings and experiences in this field.

References
− Strategies for Human Resource Management: A Total Business Approach, by Michael Armstrong, translated by Khodayar Abili and Hassan Movafaghi, First edition, Fara, 2001 − psychometrics.co.uk (2003) "Assessment and Development Centers" at − http://www.psychometrics.co.uk/adc.htm − referenceforbusiness.com (2006) "Assessment Centers" by Tim Barnett at http://www.referenceforbusiness.com/management/A-Bud/Assessment-Centers.html − dictionary.bnet.com "Business Definition for Assessment Center" at http://www.dictionary.bnet.com/definition/assessment+center.html − Assessment and Development Centers, by Iain Ballantyne and Nigel Povah, translated by Masood Soltani, first edition, Asia, 2006 − hr-guide.com (2000) "Personnel Selection: Methods: Assessment Centers" at http://www.hr-guide.com/data/G318.htm − Assessment Centers in Human Resource Management, by George C. Thornton, translated by Saeed Jafarimogadam, first edition, Tehran University, 2007 − oacp.org (2001) "Assessment Center Exercise Menu" at www.oacp.org/advise/exercise.pdf − alis.gov.ab.ca (2005) "Behavior-Based Interview" at http://www.alis.gov.ab.ca/tips/archive.asp?EK=161