Shorter & Faster: Recent Trend in Assessment Centers


The past decade has seen significant changes in the assessment center practice, especially the rise of virtual assessment centers that preserve the live role-playing component and assessor observations of actual behavior. Now that technology has made assessment centers more convenient and cost-effective, there is a new push to deliver an even shorter version to a larger number of employees. What are these “shorter & faster” assessment centers like?

The key benefit of the assessment center method is that it allows for a direct measurement of employees’ behavior – you place them in a simulation and see how well they make decisions, communicate, or collaborate. This is the most direct way to measure leadership skills; you are not just relying on employees’ self-reports like with personality tests. Assessment centers subscribe to the “don’t tell me, show me” principle, and that’s what makes them so powerful.  

Traditionally these types of assessments relied heavily on consultants and their expertise, and were constricted by brick and mortar administration. However, in the last decade, we’ve seen assessment centers move online through various virtual assessment center platforms (click here for an example). Technology made assessment centers more convenient and cost-effective and so virtual assessment centers quickly began replacing their in-person counterparts. Last year, 66% of North American companies already had virtual assessment centers in place (Mercer, 2018).

Now we’re seeing a new trend in the market. Given the huge benefits of assessment centers, many organizations are including them as part of large culture-change initiatives. They are asking for a shorter and faster version that they can offer to every leader in their company. So what do these “shorter & faster” assessment centers look like?


Down to One Hour

Looking back to even a decade ago, many assessment centers were done in person and lasted at least one day - that’s how the “day-in-the-life” form of integrated exercises came to be. With virtual administration, the duration of time had to be significantly shortened to keep a positive participant experience. At Pinsight, we found that a 3-hour simulation was the right amount of time to keep participants fully engaged. This was also the right amount of time for five to six different exercises to collect a solid sample of behaviors per competency. Now the trend is moving toward an even shorter, hour-long simulation that consists of one live role-play and a couple of smaller written exercises (e.g., mini case study and in-basket). In pre-work, participants complete basic psychometrics like a personality and learning agility measures, which are later combined with assessor ratings from the one-hour simulation to generate a report.


24-Hour Turnaround on Results

Ever since technology streamlined assessor processes, the turnaround time on reports has rapidly decreased. Ten years ago, it could take as long as two weeks to manually prepare a narrative report by a consultant, who would painstakingly review different psychometrics, integrate them with assessor observations, and type up a narrative report. Today, software-generated reports are available 24 hours after participants complete the assessment simulation. Their added benefit is global consistency – no matter the location or language of the assessment, you can be sure that the quality of the report will remain the same.


A Development Solution for Every Leader

Perhaps the most exciting new trend is the integration of assessment and development technology into a unified solution. The greatest challenge for practitioners has always been development after the assessment center. Traditionally we would offer a feedback session, give participants their report with development resources, and then hope that something would stick. Today, mobile apps can ensure that the post-assessment development actually takes place. Utilizing artificial intelligence, these apps “read” the assessment results, generate a tailor-made development plan, deliver daily exercises to employees, and track their progress. To see an example, click here.

Technology is quickly changing the assessment center practice. A decade ago, assessment centers moved online and gave rise to virtual assessment centers that are now commonplace in majority of North American organizations. Now, aided by technology, assessment centers are becoming shorter in duration, reports are available faster, and integrated mobile apps are making the post-assessment development easier.


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About the Author

Martin Lanik is the CEO of Pinsight, a leadership assessment and development firm. Pinsight’s mission is to bring fairness to leader selection, development, and succession through unbiased people insights and highly personalized leadership development solutions. More than 100 companies - including AIG and CenturyLink – have implemented their programs, which have been featured in Forbes, Fast Company, Chief Executive, Chief Learning Officer, and Investor’s Business Daily. Martin holds a Ph.D. in industrial/organizational psychology from Colorado State University. Learn more at

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