We are still living and working in very uncertain times. With the impact of Brexit still not fully known, talk of negative interest rates for business current accounts and some predictions of recession, it is not clear exactly when our economy will be entirely stable.
In order to ensure they are fit for the future, many organisations continue to reorganise and restucture. In many cases this can lead to redeployment options or even redundancies for staff.
At a&dc, we have supported a number of public and private sector organisations with designing and implementing fair, robust and defensible assessment processes for redundancy and redeployment. We work with our clients to manage the sensitivities of the situation and work in partnership to support both the organisation and the individuals, during what is a difficult time for all involved. Here are our top tips for getting this stage of the process right:
Understand what to Assess
An important element in designing a successful assessment process is ensuring that the criteria for selection are directly relevant to the roles being applied for. This should also inform the selection of appropriate objective assessment tools. In order to do this, some form of job analysis should be conducted.
This involves talking to, and possibly observing, people currently in the affected roles to identify the behaviours demonstrated (which will be assessed), the types of tasks completed (which will inform the choice or design of assessment tools) and the level of behaviours required for success (which will become the benchmark for identifying effective applicants).
- Whilst it is ideal to speak with individuals already in role, during a redundancy or redeployment process these individuals are likely to be going through the process themselves.
- If new jobs are being created, or if roles are changing, observing people in current roles may not be appropriate. Even if this is the case, it is still important for some kind of job analysis to occur, as if a participant appeals their Assessment Centre outcome, evidence would be needed to show why specific behaviours, tools and benchmarks were chosen.
- In these situations, job analysis could be conducted with:
- Directors or those leading the restructure to understand the drivers of change
- Senior managers who can project the behaviours they anticipate being required in any new or changed roles
- Customers who can outline what their current needs are, or how these might change in the future
Identify Tools for Assessment
When Assessment Centres are being used as part of a redundancy process, it is vital for objectivity and legal reasons that the tools used provide a balance of themes, creating a ‘level playing field’ for all participants, irrespective of their specific prior experiences or knowledge. Tools for selection can include psychometric tests, questionnaires, application forms, structured interviews and business simulation exercises.
- By understanding the role requirements and what good performance looks like, you will be able to identify the key six to eight competencies essential for the role or job level, and which tools will provide a good measure of these.
- Assessment Centre simulation exercises have high face validity as they are designed to replicate the kinds of tasks we complete in our daily work. They provide objective behavioural evidence of current capability, which serves as an indication of future performance.
- Consider time, resources and budget, as these will all influence your choice of tools. Assessing for redundancy purposes warrants significant investment because of the potential cost of getting it wrong.
- Once you have selected your assessment tools, if possible, you should trial them. This confirms whether they are pitched at the right level for your specific purpose and will enable you to confirm the benchmarks being used.
Maintain Objectivity and Fairness
A key reason for using Assessment Centres is that they are one of the fairest and most objective selection tools available, meaning they can help to ensure that your assessment for redundancy or redeployment process is legally defensible.
- All participants must receive the same experience, the same communications and be treated equally when scoring.
- Think about how participants will access the centre – it may help to have events running in different locations to minimise travel for participants. The increased use of technology enhanced assessments also supports this access, though care should always be taken to ensure that remote access is monitored or supervised.
- Exercises should be delivered and marked by trained internal or external assessors who are able to objectively assess performance on the different activities.
- Scoring rules should be applied consistently to all participants. Your scoring rules should be determined in advance of the centre to ensure that decisions are not made after seeing individual participant scores. This is an important part of the process, as ultimately this is what the decisions regarding redundancy or redeployment are based on.
- The process should be overseen by an independent centre manager, who is both an experienced assessor and able to coach the assessing team and benchmark their write-ups.
Restructuring with Waterstones
We have successfully used this approach with many of our clients, including Waterstones, where we helped them to identify individuals who fit the profile of the new ‘Bookshop Manager.’
This process was implemented with no participant challenges and provided a clear indication to the business as to which individuals had met the benchmarks. The resulting restructure saw Waterstones return to profit within two years!
Whilst there are many other considerations when implementing a restructure, these tips will help you to ensure that the assessment element of your process is fair to all participants. Your organisation will have all the relevant data to support high quality decisions, helping to make a potentially difficult situation as easy and as fair as possible for everyone involved.
Tracy McNeill, Principal Consultant, a&dc