Assessment Centers: The Beginnings and Beyond

Assessment centers were established by companies in the mid-20th century and the procedure has been expanding ever since. Assessment centers determine which employees exhibit the potential to earn promotions in managerial positions. This is accomplished through utilizing multiple assessment techniques that simulate realistic situations that candidates would face on the job for which they are being considered, and they are asked to handle these as if they were in the real situation. It goes without saying that there is no uniform way to design the content, administration, and cost of the process as these factors depend on the target group and its objectives.

When considering if a human resources department should utilize assessment centers, it is important to consider an assortment of factors. Let’s begin by briefly examining the history of this procedure. One of the first documented uses of assessment centers was in World War II when the United States was selecting spies to send to Europe.  The candidates were required to create a cover story and hide their identities while the interviewers attempted to break the candidates’ covers through situational tests. The next significant milestone in assessment centers occurred in 1956 when AT&T embarked on a longitudinal study to investigate which attributes of managers were correlated with success. Approximately ten years later the researchers noticed a significant trend in the data. Through the assessment intervention, the staff correctly identified 82 percent of the men who were promoted to middle-management positions. Likewise, the staff correctly identified 94 percent of the men who were not promoted. These predictions and many others made possible by the implementation of assessment centers led to their widespread usage that are still used today. Continue reading