Assessment centres & cultural change

  • Michael Van Heythuysen
  • Lauraine Oakeshott

    Student thesis: Coursework Masters - CDU


    Management assessment centres have been used extensively since the 1960's nationally and internationally in both the private and public sectors. The process has proven to be a reliable, valid and objective methodology. Trained assessors are utilised to assess the adequacy of a candidate's knowledge, skills and ability (competence) for selection or future development or promotion within an organisation.

    The value of the information generated about the participants and their organisations has been recognised as a key factor which needs to be further assessed. The results indicate strengths and weaknesses in skills not only with individuals but also at an organisational level can be identified. Organisations now need to be conscious of using the assessment centre process and resulting information as a key for organisational change, more as a messenger than a measure as part of the cultural change process, viz, as a way of transmitting culture and values down the organisation. In particular, more attention paid to the development of key competencies that are critical for current and future operations.

    By focusing on their skills, individuals are forced also to focus on organisational change. At the same time, organisations can communicate the message that the organisation is concerned about management skills and has preferences about management style.

    This dissertation focuses on this ability to utilise the assessment centres as a strategic process for cultural change at an organisational and individual level. It is an examination of the process whereby modern organisations seek to recruit, select and develop staff in order to support the achievement of their strategic objectives and implement organisational cultural change. The paper has three main objectives: to describe and explore developments in assessment and selection, to relate these to prevalent directions in organisational cultural change and to address the ways in which these processes have been treated within the available literature.

    Our main findings indicate that the field of international human resource development is relatively immature. Organisations are becoming increasingly complex and ambiguous. Organisations concerned with global alliances and joint ventures need to ensure that their assessment centre approaches avoid ethnocentric bias and that they focus on the importance of testing managers for their ability to manage diversity. Inevitably the question remains - can assessment centres be applied globally?

    The study raises nearly as many questions as it answered. Such questions as: Can you test the values and standards of an organisation in an assessment centre? Not enough research has been done on these issues. Current research has focused on using the assessment centre to test mainly for task competencies, but has little to offer in connection with organisational culture and change.
    Date of AwardJul 1997
    Original languageEnglish

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