hey hiI am here looking for the best article writer, I have provided the case study document and its rubric, using the rubric provided the summery has to be written in 2 to 3 pages with out any plagiarism in APA format(strict plagiarism is applied) the summer must have citations and must not use the first person as I, me and my. The reference is also provided must use only those references provided references. The documents are as follows. Thank you.Int. J. of Human Resource Management 13:6 September 2002 975-991
ij Routledge
g ^
Taylor &Francii Croup
Tensions between assessment, grading and
development in development centres: a
case study
John Arnold
Abstract Development centres capitalize upon tried and tested assessment centre
methods and are quite widely used in career management. However, a number of issues
arise in their operation. Some of these reflect the balance between, on the one hand,
assessing and grading people and, on the other hand, facilitating and guiding their future
development. An investigation is reported of how these issues are experienced and made
sense of in a UK-based international company. Data were gathered on two occasions one
year apart (Ns = 95 and 113) from participants and other stakeholders in a development
centre for potential senior managers. Findings indicate that participants who were
awarded a high grade at the centre did not necessarily have more positive perceptions of
the development centre process. However, grading, with its consequences for development, motivation and social networks, was salient in respondents’ comments about the
centres. Themes in these responses are identified and described. Participants were more
likely than others (e.g. assessors, line managers) to value the development centre for
reasons related to their development, whereas others were more likely to mention
assessment/grading. Few respondents mentioned both. Overall, the findings support, to
some extent, concerns about the incompatibility of grading and development, but also
suggest that the use of grading does not entirely negate the developmental value of the
centres. Much depends on perceptions of how the grading information is used.
Development centre; assessment; case study; career.
Assessment centres have been shown to be one of the most valid forms of employee
selection, with evidence for their efficacy especially strong among managerial
populations (e.g. Gaugler et al., 1987; Schmidt and Hunter, 1998). Their success is
normally attributed to the use of carefully designed exercises related to candidates’ job
requirements, and to the work of trained assessors who watch for evidence of defined
competencies or other personal attributes. In other words, development centres are
based on the notion that the fitness of a person for a particular job can be assessed on
the basis of his or her observable behaviour, from which inferences about job-related
attributes can be made. The emphasis is on assessment for the purpose of sorting
individuals according to their suitability for the job in question.
Particularly in recent years, the term ‘development centre’ has entered the language
of human resource management and related areas. As Ballantyne and Povah (1995: 150)
note, development centres use assessment centre technology for the identification of
individual strengths and weaknesses, in order to formulate development plans that will
John Arnold, Business School, Loughborough University, Ashby Road, Loughborough,
Leicestershire LEI 1 3TU, UK (tel: +44 (0)1509 223121; e-mail. J.M.Amold@lboro.ac.uk).
The International Journal of Human Resource Management
ISSN 0958-5192 prinl/lSSN 1466-4399 online © 2002 Taylor & Francis Ltd
DOI: 10.1080/09585190210134318
The Intemational Journal of Human Resource Management
facilitate more effective job and organizational performance. Relative to assessment
centres, then, development centres are less focused on assessing and selecting a person
for a job, and more concerned with identifying ways to develop people to enhance the
capability of organizations and/or individuals. The emphasis on development is often
seen as a way of maximizing the value of assessment centre techniques in an era when
the importance of an effective workforce is supposedly greater than ever before
(Boehm, 1985; Englebrecht and Fischer, 1995). Nevertheless, many development
centres have an element of selection, either for specific jobs or, more commonly, for
entry to particular developmental tracks or high-flyer schemes – a kind of selection of
those to be developed (Carrick and Williams, 1999). This can be alienating for
participants (lies and Forster, 1994), especially, as discussed further below, if they
‘fair. Woodruffe, among others, argues that trying to do both selection and
development is futile: ‘there is no point in calling a centre a “development centre” if
it is clear that a person’s performance will be reported upon and might be used against
t h e m . . . . I consider such “development centres” to be wolves in sheep’s clothing’
(1993: 22).
It is important to distinguish between assessment, grading and selection in the context
of development centres. Assessment is inherent in development centres, as illustrated by
Ballantyne and Povah’s definition given above. It can be formative, in the sense of a
narrative description of the person’s performance without any numerical or categorical
evaluation of any element. This form of assessment is purely descriptive with no
grading. Alternatively, assessment can be based on profiling of strengths and
weaknesses across different dimensions (e.g. competencies), for example by using
numerical or categorical evaluations on each dimension but avoiding an overall
performance rating. This is assessment with partial grading. The use of an overall
outcome grade for development centre participants can be thought of as full grading.
Then again, at least in principle, grading does not have to be used for selection.
Grades could be benchmarks showing an individual how he or she is doing without
being used by organizational decision makers. Much may depend upon who has access
to the assessment and grading information. If it is only the individual participant, then
it cannot be utilized in selection decisions unless the participant chooses to disclose it.
Usually, however, assessment and grading information is available to organizational
decision makers (Boyle et al., 1995; Jackson and Yeates, 1993). Even where that
information is not used in selection, participants are likely to believe that it will affect
their future prospects, if only because assessors are often senior managers who may
remember their performance at the development centre when they need to fill posts in
the future. This belief may, of course, be accurate.
It is widely recognized that the design and delivery of assessment and development
centres require considerable resources. Nevertheless, in general it seems that the
technical aspects of development centre design are generally quite sound, and are not
the source of major problems. Jackson and Yeates (1993) report that, in the ten
organizations they studied, most development centres seemed to be well designed and
delivered, but the integration of their output with other career development systems was
a consistent and significant weakness. Often there were no mechanisms for ensuring
that development plans were drawn up and subsequently implemented. Line managers
of development centre participants are frequently expected to play a major part in
supporting post-centre development (Carrick and Williams, 1999), but quite often
discussions between them and the participants do not happen (Jackson and Yeates,
1993). Consistent with this, Goodge (1994) obtained survey data for over 100
organizations that ran development centres, and found that limited post-centre
Arnold: Development centres
development was the most commonly reported problem. Two conclusions might be
tentatively drawn from these studies. First, the potential of development centres to
influence human resource management practices in organizations is not being fully
realized. Second, this is particularly true for development as opposed to assessment.
Perhaps, then, the assessment procedures and technology are more salient and occupy
more attention than the development issues.
Further, there is some evidence that the assessment and grading elements often have
a continuing impact on participants. Feedback from assessors influences many
participants’ self-ratings (Halman and Fletcher, 2000). Being perceived to have
performed poorly may affect not only whether a person gains access to specific
opportunities, but also his or her attitudes, mental health and willingness to engage in
subsequent developmental activities (Robertson et al., 1991; lies, 1992; Jones and
Whitmore, 1995; Francis-Smythe and Smith, 1997). The grading element of development centres can also affect the willingness of managers to offer developmental
opportunities. For example, Francis-Smythe and Smith (1997) found that line managers
were more interested in participating in the post-centre development of those who
obtained a high grade at the development centre than of those who did not. Ironically,
it can be argued that most benefit would be derived from focusing upon those who
perform less well at the centre. This approach might be consistent with the avowed aims
of many development centres, but it seems more common for the ‘winners’ to receive
most developmental resource (Jackson and Yeates, 1993). Participants who suspect that
this might be the case, or that the centre will be used for selection or ‘streaming’, may
well try to hide their weaknesses and avoid making mistakes. This rather undermines
the endeavour of identifying development needs (Woodruffe, 1993).
Underlying the tensions between assessment, grading and development there is a
clash of paradigms (lies, 1999). These paradigms are not logically incompatible in all
respects, but they are in some, and might also be seen as difficult to hold in one’s head
simultaneously. On the one hand, there is a psychometric model, which assumes
relatively stable human characteristics and sorts people according to the match between
their characteristics and job requirements. It will often, though not always, steer
attention towards an overall summative evaluation of candidates, which is used to
influence or even determine how high in a hierarchy they are permitted to rise. This
paradigm has long been dominant in much of the theory and practice of selection,
though, especially in more recent years, it has been challenged (for example, see
Schuler, 1993). In contrast to this is what might be termed a humanist paradigm. This
places more emphasis on the capacity of individuals to develop and change, and to use
feedback to alter their behaviour in ways that are consistent with both personal and
organizational goals. This paradigm resembles what McGregor (I960) called ‘theory
Y’, and also person-centred approaches to counselling and development (e.g. Rogers,
1965). This clash of paradigms may be another reason why it is difficult to achieve both
good selection and good development in development centres.
The empirical research discussed above is certainly informative but it is also limited.
Some rests on large-scale surveys where one person responds on behalf of a whole
organization (Boyle et al., 1995; Goodge, 1994). Some is based on case studies of one
or a small number of organizations where information has been gleaned from various
sources, usually a small number of people plus the researchers’ own observations (e.g.
Jackson and Yeates, 1993; lies and Forster, 1994). Then there are psychologically
oriented studies of development centre participants, involving quantitative measures of
attitudes and reactions to the development centre process (e.g. Robertson et al., 1991;
Francis-Smythe and Smith, 1997; Jones and Whitmore, 1995; Englebrecht and Fischer,
The International Journal of Human Resource Management
1995). There is a dearth of published work that investigates, with qualitative data from
diverse stakeholder groups, the perceptions and experiences of the whole development
centre process.
The aim of this paper is, therefore, to investigate the ways in which any tensions
between assessment, grading and development manifest themselves in reports by
participants and others involved in a development centre for aspiring senior managers
in a UK-based corporation with global activities. The aim is achieved through analysis
of (mostly) written responses to open-ended questions provided by development centre
participants and other stakeholders. There are two strands to the analysis. First, a
comparison is made between experiences and perceptions of the development centre
process reported by participants who obtained different grades at the centre. Particular
attention is paid to experiences of development. Second, responses that specifically
refer to issues relating to assessment and grading are used to examine the range and
nature of the tensions that can be experienced.
This research was conducted in a UK-based company providing services globally.
The development centres were first run in 1996. Their stated aim was to identify and
develop managers capable of fulfilling the role requirements at director level. They
were targeted at rising middle managers who were normally in their thirties. The
procedures and characteristics of the development centre tended to be typical of many
others elsewhere, according to the findings of Boyle et al. (1995). They fitted clearly
into the middle of three categories described by Jackson and Yeates (1993), where the
two extremes were orientation towards assessment, on the one hand, and towards
development, on the other. They also fitted Goodge’s (1994) designation of secondgeneration centres (as opposed to first and third) which he characterized as ‘acceptable
assessment’. Participants were not being selected for any specific job, but they were
assigned an overall outcome grade (1, 2 or 3) according to the extent to which their
performance at the centre demonstrated the company’s senior management
In the light of the literature and the avowed aims and the modus operandi of the
centre, analysis of the data for the purposes of this paper revolved around three issues.
The first of these was whether the participants who achieved the highest outcome grade
had more positive perceptions than other participants of the development centre in
general, and of development in particular. The second issue was how participants and
others viewed the overall value of the development centre process. Particular interest
revolves around whether they gave greater emphasis to development or to assessment
and grading, and what features of these phenomena appeared to be most salient. The
third issue was what themes concerning the interplay between grading and development
were evident in respondents’ comments about the centres.
Each development centre ran from the evening of day 0 to early afternoon of day 2.
Each centre consisted of psychometrics, an individual presentation about an issue
relevant to the company, a group management task, a structured interview and a
business case study requiring rapid analysis followed by a group presentation. Each
year there were some changes to the exercises and the order in which they were tackled.
These were made on the basis of the experience of running the development centre and
Arnold: Development centres
the need to ensure that exercises did not become too well known among the target
population. All participants were briefed before attending the centre and received more
briefing and orientation at the centre itself. Participants were assessed on five-point
scales in each of five competencies identified as key to senior managers in the company,
and were told so in advance. The competencies were widely known and disseminated
in the company.
Numbers of participants were sixty-eight in 1996, sixty-four in 1997 and thirty-one
in 1998. Usually there were six participants at each development centre – sometimes
fewer but not more. The drop in numbers in 1998 was due to difficulties in updating and
setting up the development centres in time for the annual cycle, which was tight given
the scale of the operation. Women made up 15 per cent of those in the relevant grades
in the company, and 25 per cent of participants in the development centres. There was
no statistically significant difference between men and women in the grades obtained.
Ten per cent of development centre participants were members of ethnic minority
groups in the UK, and for one third of them English was not their first language.
Comparative data from the company population in relevant grades were not
Participants had in a sense joined a special cadre by being selected for the
development centre in the first place, and there was officially no implication that
obtaining a poor grade would mean ejection. Nevertheless, there was a fairly
widespread sense among participants and others that the better the grade one obtained,
the more opportunities were likely to come one’s way. In 1996 it was stated that the
development of those who obtained the top grade would be managed corporately rather
than divisionally. The significance of this was that corporate development implied
access to a wider range of opportunities and influential people than divisional
development. Subsequently this special treatment for grade Is was dropped, and in
1998 so was the 1, 2, 3 labelling of outcomes in feedback to participants. However, the
descriptions that went with them remained, and the 1, 2 or 3 grading continued to be
recorded for each participant on the database supporting the centres.
Assessors were senior managers in the company. All had received training, including
refreshers and updates where necessary. Feedback to participants was principally via
the written report and a feedback meeting between participant, assessor and occupational psychologist. The meeting usually occurred two to three weeks after the centre,
but the written report was sent to the participant sooner. Some assessors also fed back
to the line directors of participants, but this was not universal. Development plans were
drawn up in consultation between line managers, participants and sometimes other
interested parties. Certain post-development centre events, such as an externally run
personal development workshop, were made available to participants. However, much
post-development centre development occurred by other more informal means.
The author’s brief from the company was to assess the operation of the whole
development centre process, as experienced by significant stakeholders. Certain issues
were of particular interest to the development centre managers and this influenced the
questions put to respondents. For example, in 1997 the value of post-development
centre networking events organized by the development centre team was a priority. In
1998 the suitability of the development centre for the global organization had become
a salient issue, with concerns similar to those expressed by Briscoe (1997). But no topic
was ruled out of bounds, and there was a concern on the part of the development centre
managers to pick up on all issues salient to stakeholder groups, including those to do
with post-development centre development.
The International Journal of Human Resource Management
Members of various stakeholder groups were contacted in early 1998 (time 1) and in
early 1999 (time 2) by the development centre management team administrator on
behalf of the author. The majority were contacted by electronic mail, but the most
senior managers were approached by telephone because this was thought to be the best
way of gaining their co-operation. It was stressed that the evaluation data would be
carefully considered by the development centre management team, and that the author
was conducting the evaluation as an independent outsider. A covering letter from the
author re-emphasized this latter point, and gave assurances of confidentiality.
Information was provided concerning how respondents could obtain a copy of the
summary of the report. Respondents were asked to answer a set of open-ended
questions concerning the development centres and what happened after them.
Responses came mostly by email or fax direct to the author, though 12 per cent of
respondents chose to send theirs via the development centre management team
administrator, and a small number elected to be interviewed by the author on the
telephone. The first data collection concerned those involved in the 1996 and 1997
centres. The time 2 data collection again included participants from 1996 and 1997, and
also covered those involved in the centres during 1998. A total of ninety-five people
responded at time 1, and 113 at time 2. Details about them are shown in Table 1.
Response rates were mostly somewhat higher at time 2 than at time 1. This might be
considered surprising, but was probably due to a better system being in place for
ensuring that all members of the stakeholder groups received the questions, and for
issuing reminders. Overall responses rates were a little disappointing, especially at time
1. Realistically, though, experience of the development centre process was only a small
part of busy and pressured work lives for many potential respondents. There was no
discernible tendency for any part of the company or either gender to be disproportionately represented among respondents.
The questions posed to respondents were somewhat different at time 1 and time 2,
though some were kept the same or nearly the same. The questions also varied between
stakeholder groups. They were designed to meet the following aims: (1) to capture all
aspects of the development centre process likely to be relevant to each group’s
experience; (2) to reflect changes in development centre operation and policy priorities
of the company; (3) to enable comparison between groups and across times; (4) to keep
Table 1 Numbers of respondents (% of target population in parentheses)
1996 participants
1997 participants
1998 participants
Assessors’ secretaries
Line managers of participants
Line directors of participants
Human resource managers
Human resource directors
Time 1
Time 2
21 (31%)
15 (23%)
28 (41%)
24 (38%)
15 (48%)
12 (40%)
6 (46%)*
12 (52%)*
2 (14%)*
10 (37%)
4 (80%)
* Only those connected with development centres run in 1998 were contacted.
Arnold: Development centres
Table 2
Examples of questions posed to various groups
How well administered was the process of inviting you to a centre and making the necessary
arrangements? Please indicate what changes, if any, you think are required. (1997 participants at
time I; 1998 participants at time 2)
What comments do you have about the written feedback and the feedback meeting? (1997
participant.s at time 1; 1998 participants at time 2)
How confident are you that appropriate development is happening and will happen? What is the
reason for your confidence, or lack of it? (1997 and 1996 participants at time I; similar question
for 1998, 1997 and 1996 participants at time 2)
[Similar questions about confidence were also posed to participants’ line managers, line directors,
HR directors and HR managers]
All things considered, what value do you feel the [development centre] process adds to xx’s
management development? (1996, 1997 and 1998 assessors, line managers of 1998 participants,
line directors of 1998 participants, HR directors, HR managers, all at time 2)
When and from whom did you receive feedback concerning the participant’s performance at the
development centre? How could this feedback process be improved, if improvement is needed?
(Line managers of 1998 participants, line directors of 1998 participants, HR directors, HR
managers, all at time 2)
the list of questions short enough to encourage responses and respect constraints on
respondents’ time. There was inevitably some competition between these aims but this
did not seem acute. Examples of questions are shown in Table 2.
Data analysis
Responses to individual questions varied from one-word answers to lengthy expositions. They were analysed primarily on a question-by-question basis. For each question,
responses were coded according to the theme(s) that were evident. Themes were
defined not only in terms of the topic of a person’s response, but also what they wrote
about it. So, for example, a response that included the observation that feedback on
performance at the development centre was delivered in a timely fashion was coded
differently from one that described how feedback came too late. Responses to each
question were also coded for their positivity or negativity. The former was defined as an
expression of approval, pleasure, satisfaction, appreciation or contentment, and the
latter as disapproval, displeasure, dissatisfaction, disappointment, criticism or discontent. Some responses were neutral or not obviously either positive or negative, so
there was also a neutral/unclear coding. Occasionally the positivity or negativity of a
response was ascertained by referring to the person’s other responses. Each substantive
point made in each response was assigned codes, both for theme and for positivity/
negativity. This exercise was done separately for time 1 and time 2 data, though usually
for similar questions similar themes, not surprisingly, emerged on each occasion.
It should be noted that many features of the development centre process were
positively evaluated by respondents. Almost all respondents who were asked were
complimentary about the pre-development centre administration and briefing, the rigour
and fairness of the development centre exercises, the support and training available for
assessors, assessment of participants, certain aspects of post-centre training courses and
the amount of self-learning for participants that arose from participation in the
development centre. Most participants also valued the feedback they received after
the development centre. Responses to a question at time 2 about the overall value of the
The International Journal of Human Resource Management
development centre process were about twice as often positive as negative. Overall,
then, the development centres were seen as professionally run and of significant value.
These are, of course, findings in themselves, and some of their nuances could be
reported further. However, they will be treated here as contextual, so that the themes
raised in the results section can be seen as being not the product of a poor overall
development centre process, but as issues that are likely to occur even when things are
perceived to be working quite well.
Comparison of responses of participants with different grades
Outcome grade did not necessarily colour all participants’ experiences of the
development centre process. Table 3 shows results of an analysis of the positivity and
negativity of participants’ responses across all questions. Within an overall context of
more positive than negative comments, it can be seen that, for the 1996 participants,
those who obtained a grade 1 were substantially more positive than those who obtained
a grade 2 or 3. This was especially true at time 1, and more markedly so concerning
development than concerning other experiences. The grade 1 participants in the 1996
centres were much clearer than the grade 2/3s about their future development and much
more confident that it would be appropriate. The 1997 participants who obtained a
grade 1 were more positive than others at time 1 (which for some was not many weeks
after they attended the development centre), but this gap had closed and indeed reversed
by time 2. The 1997 grade Is were especially negative about post-centre development at time 2. Among the 1998 participants, even the short-term ‘glow’ for the grade
1 s was not visible. Causality cannot be demonstrated here, but this picture suggests that
the changes in the emphasis given to outcome grade over the three cohorts did have
some impact on participants’ experiences of the development centre process. Among
the 1997 participants, the grade Is may have been disappointed by a perceived lack of
benefits arising from their top-level performance at the development centre.
Table 3 Ratio of positive to negative comments from development centre participants
1996 participants
Grade 1
Time 1 (all comments)
Time 2 (all comments) 1.8:1
Time 1 (comments on
post-centre development
Time 2 (comments on
post-centre development
1997 participanis
Grade2/3 Grade I
1998 participants
Grade 2/3 Grade I
Grade 2/3
2.1 1
1.5 1
0.9 1
Questions about post-centre development referred to what development had happened since the
development centre, how happy the respondent was with that, how clear his/her view of future
development was and how confident he/she was that appropriate development was happening and
would happen in future. The question was not asked of 1998 participants, even at time 2, because
insufficient time had elapsed post-centre for most of them.
Arnold: Development centres
Perceptions of the overall value of the development centres
An open-ended question about the overall value of the development centre process was
posed at time 2. Many respondents commented on the nature of the value added, though
some gave only a one-word answer such as ‘little’ or ‘considerable’. Positive comments
were substantially more common than negative ones by a ratio of about 2 to 1, which
reinforces the overall favourable impression of the impact and operation of the
development centres noted earlier. The themes evident in descriptions of the perceived
value of the development centre process are shown in Table 4. These themes emerged
from the responses to open-ended questions. Some respondents’ responses refiected
more than one theme.
Top of the list for participants, though not others, were phenomena more obviously
connected to development than assessment or grading. These included feedback and the
focusing of development plans. Together these accounted for twenty-six of the eightyone coded response themes for participants, and ten of the thirty-five for others.
Assessment-related themes were also prominent. Assessment itself, often with emphasis
on its objectivity and accuracy, was the most commonly mentioned theme by nonparticipants, with the identification of future top people not far behind. Both of these
also figured quite prominently in the participants’ responses. Overall, though,
assessment-related themes were more frequent in the responses of non-participants
(eighteen out of thirty-five coded comments) than in those of participants (twenty out of
eighty-one). On the other hand, responses to do with social factors, such as
opportunities for networking and feeling valued, were much more frequent in
participants’ responses (nineteen out of eighty-one) than in those of non-participants
(three out of thirty-five).
Taken as a whole, these findings might suggest that both assessment (with the
grading implied in identifying future top people) and development are seen as valuable
outcomes of the development centre by participants, with others tending to see it more
in terms of assessment than development. Furthermore, only six of the forty-six
participants who provided information about what they regarded as the value added of
the development centres spontaneously mentioned both assessment and development.
For non-participants, it was three out of twenty. This suggests that the dual purpose of
the development centres was uppermost in few minds. The responses as a whole also
suggested that problems centred more often on post-centre development than on the
assessment processes at the centre itself.
Table 4 Themes in responses to question about what value the development centre process
adds to company management development
Feedback, self-awareness and learning for participants
Guidance/structure/focus for participants’ development/career
Networking and visibility for participants
Assessment (objective, accurate, consistent) of participants
Identifies the most able/future top people
Improves company HR (e.g. retention, succession planning)
Helps participants feel supported/valued
Enhances participants’ motivation, confidence, performance
Involves senior management in development
The International Journal of Human Resource Management
Respondents’ comments about assessment, grading and development
None of the questions explicitly requested respondents’ opinions about whether the
grading system and developmental aims of the centres were consistent, but over the two
data collections forty-five comments referred to that issue. These will now be examined
under four headings. These headings reflect themes identified in the data – again, they
were not pre-ordained.
Post-centre devetopment better for ttiose witti ttie top grade The most common
theme was the post-development centre treatment of those who had been awarded
various grades, and in particular how that development seemed to favour those who
were graded 1. Some of these comments referred to the difference mentioned earlier
between corporately managed development for those who obtained the top grade and
divisionally managed development for others.
One attends The Centre and either passes or fails – if you pass then corporate
development takes place. If you fail then well done for being selected in the first place
and back to your work place. The current 1, 2, 3 system is wrong; my perception is that
they are only truly catering for those that gain a I.
(1997 participant, grade 2, time 1)
This was one of twelve responses that referred to superior developmental opportunities
and/or support for the grade Is relative to the rest. No distinction was made between the
fates of grades 2 and 3 in any of the responses. The corporately (as opposed to
divisionally) organized development for grade Is mentioned in the response quoted
above and some others was dropped at around the time 1 data collection, but lived on
in at least some respondents’ minds. There also seemed to be an implicit assumption
that corporately organized development was better, though perhaps this was more due
to what it signalled than to what it delivered. It signalled that the person had been
identified as a potential top manager who would be able to benefit from diverse and
challenging opportunities and who could probably be trusted not to make a mess of
No respondent indicated that developmental follow-up was better for grades 2 and 3
than for grade 1. However, one implied that grade 1 s needed no further development.
Another indicated that grading could be a distraction from development – a comment
which suggests that the grading issue was occupying the minds of some participants:
‘With the excitement of being told I had achieved a grade 1, I perhaps did not pay as
much attention to ensuring the [development plan] was completely accurate’ (1997
participant, grade 1, time 1).
Passing, faiting and demoratization The words ‘pass’ and/or ‘fail’ appeared in a
total of seven responses. Several references were also made to marks and marking, and
in another context some of the responses could have referred to an academic
examination. Many of these responses were closely connected to the observations noted
above about the superior developmental opportunities for grade Is. For example:
[the development centre] has helped, rather like an exam pass, in giving independent
weight to my CV and appraisal, to show I’ve reached the standard…. It was a huge
boost to my confidence. I have since spoken to people who got 2s and 3s and their
disappointment and knocked confidence made me wonder about how we handle the
grading and perceived pass/fail win/lose nature of the process.
(1996 participant, grade 1, time 1)
Arnold: Development centres
The reference to negative psychological consequences of being given a grade 2 or 3, or
‘failing’, was also evident in six other responses. These consequences were usually
described in terms of feeling a failure, but reductions in ambition, confidence and
motivation were also mentioned. It is notable that comments along these lines came as
often from those who had been graded 1 as from other participants. One example is
quoted above. It is as if those who obtained the top grade were freed to express
reservations because coming from them it showed collegial concern and even
magnanimity as opposed to bitterness. Perhaps in some ways the grading was acting as
a control mechanism, legitimizing some views and voices, and devaluing others. This
impression is borne out somewhat by occasional caveats in the responses of those who
obtained grades 2 and 3: ‘Easy for me to criticize since I scored a 3, but I think the
centre was too academic’ (1996 participant, grade 3, time I). But, while endorsing this
general view, two non-participants offered different perspectives, including complacency as an outcome of obtaining a grade 1. No participant gave a response of this
We don’t know what to do with people expecting to be Director but then don’t get the
grade. De-motivating. Need to improve the resetting of their expectations. Grade Is pendulum has swung too far. They now think they don’t have to succeed at work. So
many extra-curricular activities. Not allowed to give a grade 1 person mediocre
(Line manager of 1996 participant, time 1)
Again, this response reinforces the impression that grading and its consequences were
uppermost in some people’s minds when considering the development centres.
Club membership There was some feeling among the development centre ‘graduates’ that they formed a network or even a club (see also ‘Perceptions . . . ‘ section of the
findings above). To some extent membership was irrespective of grade obtained at the
centre. Many respondents mentioned networking opportunities with each other, and
some mentioned job opportunities that had arisen because of contacts with others who
had attended a centre. However, this club membership was definitely tied to grade in the
perception of some respondents:
Everyone in the organization should be made aware of who the top grades are, where
they currently work and the [development centre managers] should have a more active
role in suggesting some of the grade Is as candidates for responsible jobs throughout the
(Line manager of 1996 participant, time 1)
The belief that privilege was confined to those who received the top grade was also
evident among some of the participants who did not receive it themselves. Three of
them commented along the following lines:
No development activities have take place as a result of [development centre attendance],
but given the outcome of my assessment, none were anticipated. This has been a source
of some confusion for me – I was given to understand that outcome ‘ 3 ‘ meant my
development would be managed by my own Division, and yet I periodically get
communications from the [development centre managers] about attending various
(1996 participant, grade 3, time 2)
This uncertainty in the minds of at least some respondents suggests that the official
policy that once you had attended a development centre you were part of a special cadre
The Intemational Journal of Human Resource Management
whatever your grade was not shared by everyone. Some appeared to expect poor
performance to lead to expulsion from the club, or were at least confused about their
post-centre status.
Less emphasis on grading – the worst of all worlds? As noted earlier, attempts
were made by the centre managers to reduce the emphasis on grade. This began in 1997
with the dropping of corporately organized development for the grade Is. However,
some respondents held broader concerns:
I also question the purpose of ‘marking’ people 1, 2, or 3. At the time 1 received my
mark, I asked my lead assessor what it meant. Did it mean that I didn’t have the potential
to be a senior manager (because that was my understanding of the grades)? Because if
that was the case, then should I start looking for a career in another company? He said
not. So I asked him what people marked ‘ 1 ‘ were getting that 1 was not, and he said
‘nothing’. So what’s the purpose?
(1997 participant, giade 3, time 2)
The attempt to remove grading numbers in 1998 seemed to produce further confusion
and cynicism:
Written feedback was in draft form, with the outcome rating left blank. Much of the incentre briefing was at pains to play down the significance of the outcome rating, but this
reluctance to address the issue head on led me to conclude that in fact it is the key/sole
purpose of the centre.
(1998 participant, grade 3, time 2)
Interestingly and ironically, the reduced emphasis on differentiating between grades
also seemed to have the capacity to alienate the grade Is as well as others:
Although the numerical scores for outcomes have been removed . . . it is clear that there
is a top, middle and bottom score and I appear to have scored the top one. Nonetheless
. . . it is not in any way built into my development plan, so other than patting myself on
the back I can’t see what benefit there is in this. Why not remove all the outcomes if it
means nothing?
(1998 participant, grade 1, time 2)
These responses illustrate well the difficulty of dealing with the ‘to grade or not to
grade’ issue. Very few participants indicated that they felt their grade was definitely
unfair or inaccurate. But the perceived second-class treatment for the ‘losers’, plus the
indignation of the ‘winners’ if their personal achievements did not lead to noticeable
benefits, show how grading can lead to disillusionment. Worse, attempts to deemphasize the grade seemed to exacerbate matters in some ways by fostering suspicion
that some kind of disguised people sorting was going on.
Several authors have referred to potential tensions between assessment, grading and
development in the operation of development centres. Some have suggested that the
tensions are likely to be substantial, possibly to the extent of complete incompatibility.
However, there has been little evidence to support or refute these suggestions. The
purpose of this paper was therefore to examine the nature and extent of tensions
between assessment, grading and development expressed by various stakeholders in the
development centre process in a large company. Tensions between grading and
development were evident, and respondents’ stated concerns focused most often on the
Arnold: Development centres
consequences of grading. However, contrary to prediction, there was not an allpervasive trend towards those receiving the highest grade at the centre having more
positive perceptions of the development centre process than those awarded lower
Among 1996 participants (to whom the importance of outcome grading at the centre
had been emphasized), those who scored the highest grade were much more positive
than others about all aspects of the development centre process, including post-centre
development. On the other hand, this was not the case when the importance of outcome
grading was de-emphasized. Indeed, if anything, those who obtained the top grade
became more negative than others, perhaps feeling that their accomplishments were not
being sufficiently recognized. Participants described the value of the development
centres primarily in terms of the insights they received and the structure and focus they
gave to future development. Accurate assessment, identifying high-fiyers and networking opportunities were common subsidiary themes for participants. Others, such as
assessors and participants’ line managers, were more likely than participants to mention
accurate assessment and identifying high-fiyers as being the chief value of the centres.
However, few respondents of any group described the value of the development centres
in terms of both assessment- and development-related themes. Responses to various
questions highlighted several phenomena. These included: the feeling that the
development of those who obtained grades 2 and 3 was neglected; a strong sense of
passing or failing the centre with significant psychological and behavioural consequences either way; some feeling among grade Is that their performance was not
being rewarded; and a suspicion that a reduced emphasis on grading was actually
disguising the true purpose of the centre. Another theme was the extent to which
participants in the development centre formed a cohesive network, with some ambiguity
over whether those who did not obtain the top grade were really members.
These findings to some extent endorse those of Jackson and Yeates (1993) and Jones
and Whitmore (1995) in terms of the tendency for those obtaining the top grade to be
seen to be receiving better developmental opportunities than others. There is also some
support for past work (e.g. Robertson et al., 1991) in the respondents’ comments on
the negative psychological impact of ‘failing’ the centre, and indeed the prominence
of the very concepts of passing and failing. However, it seems that much depends on
how the development centre is seen by infiuential managers and described to
participants. An important aspect of the findings reported here is that those obtaining
the lower grades do not necessarily hold negative views of the development centre,
especially when the grade obtained has no immediate consequences for subsequent
opportunities. On the other hand, it might be concluded that, as long as grading is
present, it will be impossible to please all of the people all of the time. Either those who
do poorly will feel marginalized or those who do well will feel that their achievements
have not been sufficiently recognized.
It is perhaps significant that the grading issue was a matter of some controversy
among the various middle and senior managers who held some responsibility for the
operation of the development centres. There was a minority opinion that grading should
be scrapped altogether. This did not happen. The official position by 1999 was probably
that the overall grade acted as a guide to how much development was still required
before the person was ready for director-level duties, and not as a judgement about
whether or when they would make it. To some extent this may have been accepted by
the 1997 and 1998 participants, judging by the ratios of positive to negative comments
shown in Table 3. But the 1996 participants’ perceptions remained heavily associated
with grade. This suggests that how the centre is described and explained at the time of
The International Journal of Human Resource Management
attendance has a lasting impact on participants. In any case, the official position
described above was probably not expounded consistently by all involved in the
management of the development centre process and the briefing of participants:
We need to put more focus on the developmental aspects because no-one is perfect and
even those rated highly at the centre have areas of improvement they need to work on,
but equally those that are seen to need more development activity should in no way feel
de-motivated but see it as an opportunity to improve their prospects over the longer term.
It is very important this is not seen as a pass/fail situation and we really do need to
reinforce the fact that it is a development and not an assessment centre.
(Personnel Director, time I)
I am not sure that we have really identified whether [this] is an assessment centre and
means of entry to the [potential senior manager review process] or whether it is a
development centre for people already identified with director potential. My own view is
that we should position it as the main means of entry to the [potential senior manager
review process].
(Line Personnel Manager, time I)
While not strictly logically incompatible with each other, these comments do suggest
very different approaches to the development centre, and that contrasting messages
were likely to be communicated to participants and others. It is also likely that
participants perceive some consequences of their grading – for example, the seniority of
posts for which they are likely to be considered in the near future. It is therefore perhaps
quite a triumph for the centre managers that the 1997 and 1998 participants who
obtained grades 2 and 3 were at least as positive about the whole experience as those
who obtained a grade 1. It seems that there was no general perception of the
development centres as a means focusing development effort solely on those identified
as already demonstrating senior manager competencies (cf. lies and Forster, 1994)
among the 1997 and 1998 participants, though, as noted in the findings section, there
were individuals who held that view.
When participants found the development centres to be of value, this was most often
because of the feedback, learning and focusing of future development that arose from
them. The feedback and learning element of this suggests that not only can assessor
feedback be shown to infiuence self-perception (Halman and Fletcher, 2000), but also
this is quite salient to the participants themselves. Picking out the high-fiyers and
accurate assessment were slightly less prominent though still quite frequently
mentioned by participants. On the whole then, participants who described how the
centres were valuable tended to feel that the value lay in their capacity to promote selfinsight and development. This rather contradicts Woodruffe’s (1993) assertions about
the futility of using development centres both to report on performance and to guide
subsequent development.
On the other hand, only twenty-three (34 per cent) of the sixty-seven participants
who responded at time 2 spontaneously mentioned one or both of the two most
development-oriented themes (the first two listed in Table 4) as the main value of the
centres. Nineteen (28 per cent) of participants responded in terms of identifying highflyers and/or objective assessment. So it cannot be said with any confidence that the
majority of participants felt that the development centre enhanced their self-learning
and development or that substantially more of them focused on that than on objective
assessment and people sorting (though of course some might have seen objective
assessment as a contributor to their self-insight and development). Non-participants
even less often mentioned insight and/or development as the value of the centres. Ten
(25 per cent) out of forty did so, whereas seventeen (43 per cent) wrote about one or
Arnold: Development centres
both of objective assessment and identifying high-flyers. A further indication of the
overall tenor of responses is that, in responding to the question about the value of the
development centres, three participants and one HR manager specifically indicated that
the centre was about assessment rather than development, whereas nobody said the
reverse. Furthermore, although not asked to do so, some respondents included
deficiencies or missed opportunities of the centres in their answers to this question.
Thirteen described problems with post-centre development, compared with seven who
mentioned flaws in the assessment procedures.
Thus it cannot be said that the value of the centres for personal development shone
like a beacon in the reports of the various stakeholders. This does give some support to
earlier findings that the post-centre development process is more often seen as a
problem than the centre itself (Goodge, 1994; Jackson and Yeates, 1993). It also
suggests that, where grading occurs, it is likely to play quite a prominent part in
stakeholders’ understandings of the development centre process even if those involved
in the management of the centre do not wish it to, which supports some of Woodruffe’s
(1993) concerns. The fact that few respondents mentioned both assessment-related and
development-related benefits of the centres also supports the idea that they represent
two quite different ways of construing human resource management (lies, 1999).
The findings also reinforce the social impact of development centres within
organizations. At time 2, eleven participants and two others indicated that a value of the
development centres lay at least partly in networking and social contacts. This was
chiefly through two routes: exposure of participants to senior managers acting as
assessors and participants keeping in touch with each other. Most of the participants
would not have met each other had it not been for the centres. As noted in the findings
section, some of this networking revolved around getting a grade 1 and feeling like a
club of grade Is, although for others the club was the whole population of development
centre participants. Two participants recounted incidents where these contacts had
helped to secure a new job within the company. Breaking down barriers between parts
of an organization through new working relationships is sometimes mentioned as a
benefit of development centres (Carrick and Williams, 1999), and that was indeed
valued by those in charge of them in this company. However, existing literature stresses
the improved organizational performance that might flow from better networking
between people who might not otherwise have met. A rather different slant is offered by
the data collected here – that the development centres might be playing a part in
defining a kind of 61ite group which can monopolize the best developmental
opportunities and eventually perhaps the highest status jobs in the company. It was
ambiguous whether this 6lite would be confined to those who were awarded the top
grade. The potential role of development practices in the creation and maintenance of
6lites has received some attention (Larsen et al., 1998) but the data collected here
suggest that it could benefit from further investigation.
As ever, the limitations of this research must be acknowledged. It was conducted in
only one organization, so the generalizability of findings is uncertain. The use of
electronic mail for most of the responses meant that clarification or expansion of
responses could not readily be obtained, although in most cases the meaning seemed
quite clear and some respondents explained their views at length. The response rate
meant that the opinions of significant numbers of people in the stakeholder groups are
unknown. However, overall numbers were still quite healthy and some of those who
received questionnaires in both data collection phases chose to respond only once. So
overall response rates in the sense of the proportion who contributed data at least once
was higher than the percentages in Table 1 suggest (it is not possible to be sure exactly
The International Journal of Human Resource Management
how much higher because some respondents chose to maintain their anonymity or were
unidentifiable for other reasons). Perhaps richer data would have been obtained if the
study aims had concerned solely assessment, grading and development. The contrary
perspective is that by embedding these issues in a broader context it has been possible
in this research to examine them in the light of the whole development centre process.
Also, the research design ensured that respondents wrote about tensions between
grading and development only if that was salient to them.
As noted above, an avenue for future research might be the role of grading at a
development centre in the creation of an organizational elite. Another avenue might be
a similar study to this one in a company that uses development centres without grading
and/or conversely one which uses grading with explicit selection into certain roles or
onto certain developmental tracks. It could be that, where no grading is used, people
want it as a guide to their development – a tension between /io/i-grading and
development! A development centre with explicit selection onto a developmental track
might or might not be seen as having more tensions than the one reported here. The data
reported here suggest that grading, although contentious, did not destroy the overall
value of the development centres in the eyes of most respondents. But perhaps it would
if grading had clearer and significant consequences for individuals’ prospects within the
organization. Future research could focus on understandings of the consequences of
grading and the impact of those understandings on perceptions of the whole
development centre process.
The author wishes to thank those who facilitated this study in the organization
concerned, as well as all who responded. Thanks also to Lisa Jones for assistance in
transcribing some of the research data.
Ballantyne, I. and Povah, N. (1995) Assessment and Development Centres. Aldershot: Gower.
Boehm, V. (1985) ‘Using Assessment Centres for Management Development: Five Applications’,
Journal of Management Development, 4: 40—53.
Boyle, S., Fullerton, J. and Wood, R. (1995) ‘Do Assessment/Development Centres Use Optimum
Evaluation Procedures? A Survey of Practice in UK Organizations’, International Journal of
Selection and Assessment, 3: 132—40.
Briscoe, D.R. (1997) ‘Assessment Centers: Cross-Cultural and Cross-National Issues’, Journal of
Social Behavior and Personality, 12: 261—70.
Carrick, P. and Williams, R. (1999) ‘Development Centres: A Review of Assumptions’, Human
Resource Management Journal, 9: 77-92.
Englebrecht, A.S. and Fischer, A.H. (1995) ‘The Managerial Performance Implications of a
Developmental Assessment Center Process’, Human Relations, 48: 3 8 7 ^ 0 4 .
Francis-Smythe, J. and Smith, P.M. (1997) ‘The Psychological Impact of Assessment in a
Development Center’, Human Relations, 50: 149-67.
Gaugler, B., Rosenthal, D., Thorton, G. and Bentson, C. (1987) ‘A Survey of Assessment Center
Practices in Organizations’, Journal of Applied Psychology, 72: 493-511.
Goodge, P. (1994) ‘Development Centres: Design Generation and Effectiveness’, Journal of
Management Development, 13(4): 16-22.
Halman, F. and Fletcher, C. (2000) ‘The Impact of Development Centre Participation and the Role
of Individual Differences in Changing Self-Assessments’, Journal of Occupational and
Organizational Psychology, 73: 423-42.
lies, P. (1992) ‘Centres of Excellence? Assessment and Development Centres, Managerial
Competence, and Human Resource Strategies’, British Journal of Management, 3: 79-90.
Arnold: Development centres
lies, P. (1999) Managing Staff Selection and Assessment. Buckingham: Open University Press,
lies, P. and Forster, A. (1994) ‘Developing Organizations through Collaborative Development
Centres’, Organization Development Journal, 12: 45-51.
Jackson, C. and Yeates, J. (1993) Development Centres: Assessing or Developing People?
Brighton: Institute for Manpower Studies.
Jones, R.G. and Whitmore, M.D. (1995) ‘Evaluating Developmental Assessment Centers as
Interventions’, Personnel Psychology, 48: 377-88.
Larsen, H.H., London, M., Weinstein, M. and Raghuram, S. (1998) ‘High-flyer Management
Development Programs’, tnternational Studies of Management and Organization, 28: 64-90.
McGregor, D. (I960) The htuman Side of Enterprise. New York: McGraw Hill.
Robertson, I.T., lies, P.A., Gratton, L. and Sharpley, D. (1991) ‘The Impact of Personnel Selection
and Assessment Methods on Candidates’, Human Relations, 44: 963-81.
Rogers, C. (1965) Client-Centered Therapy. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin (1995).
Schmidt, F. and Hunter, J. (1998) ‘The Validity and Utility of Selection Methods in Personnel
Psychology: Practical and Theoretical Implications of 85 Years of Research Findings’,
Psychological Bulletin, 124: 262-74.
Schuler, H. (1993) ‘Social Validity of Selection Situations: A Concept and Some Empirical
Results’. In Schuler, H., Farr, C. and Smith, M. (eds) Personnel Selection and Assessment:
tndividual and Organizational Perspectives. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Woodruffe, C. (1993) Assessment Centres: tdentifying and Developing Competence, 2nd edn.
London: Institute of Personnel and Development.
Copyright of International Journal of Human Resource Management is the property of
Routledge and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv
without the copyright holder’s express written permission. However, users may print,
download, or email articles for individual use.
Revised Rubric for Assignment 6
CAR 100 & 600D – Career Planning and Development
Case Study
Typing Guidelines:
1. The critique must be typed using .12 font in Times New Roman or Arial style font. Margins
should be one-inch for the entire document. The entire document should be 3 pages in
2. The entire critique portion of the document (sections B – F) should be double-spaced.
Include the Following:
A. APA Reference Citation (20 points): A complete APA reference citation for each article.
B. Article Overview (20 points): Provide an overview of the purpose, research methods,
major findings, and conclusions of the article. This should not be taken from the published
abstract for the article but should consist of assessment of the article.
C. Analysis Implications (20 points): An analysis of the major implications of the article as
they relate to the management approach, business proceedings, or business issue
addressed in the article.
D. Research Limitations (20 points): What were some of the weaknesses of the research for
the article? Why does it not apply to every situation, every business, or every person?
Why would the research not be universally accepted? What aspects of the process used
to conduct the research are weak or flawed?
E. Personal Perspective (10 points): This is the only portion of the critique where you can
specifically state your feelings, views, or position from a personal perspective regarding
the article.
F. Critique Summary (10 points): Provide a conclusion of what you have said so far. Simply
restate and reiterate sections B – E in a succinct manner. You should also make a
recommendation about the type of reader likely to enjoy or benefit from the article and
what types of business leader, manger, or business entity might benefit from the content
of the article.
Assignment 6: Case Study
Arnold, J. (2002). Tensions between assessment, grading and development in
development centres: A case study The International Journal of Human
Resource Management, 13, 975-991.
Carter, C. & Izumo, G. (2013). The career tool kit: Skills for success (4th ed.). Upper
Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Purchase answer to see full

Why Choose Us

  • 100% non-plagiarized Papers
  • 24/7 /365 Service Available
  • Affordable Prices
  • Any Paper, Urgency, and Subject
  • Will complete your papers in 6 hours
  • On-time Delivery
  • Money-back and Privacy guarantees
  • Unlimited Amendments upon request
  • Satisfaction guarantee

How it Works

  • Click on the “Place Order” tab at the top menu or “Order Now” icon at the bottom and a new page will appear with an order form to be filled.
  • Fill in your paper’s requirements in the "PAPER DETAILS" section.
  • Fill in your paper’s academic level, deadline, and the required number of pages from the drop-down menus.
  • Click “CREATE ACCOUNT & SIGN IN” to enter your registration details and get an account with us for record-keeping and then, click on “PROCEED TO CHECKOUT” at the bottom of the page.
  • From there, the payment sections will show, follow the guided payment process and your order will be available for our writing team to work on it.