Are you considering cancelling your Assessment or Development Centre due to COVID-19? Many of our clients are asking us for advice on how to make the shift from in-person to virtual assessments. If you already have your assessment materials designed and are not sure what to do next, here are some tips to help with the transition.
Your key consideration is finding a way of sharing exercise briefing materials in a way that doesn’t compromise their security and confidentiality. A file sharing service that is time limited (i.e. only allows the briefing materials to be viewed for a certain period) would work well here. This feature is available in Google Drive (see here: https://www.labnol.org/internet/auto-expire-google-drive-links/27509/).
Conducting the Assessments
For interactive exercises, whether 1-2-1 or group discussions, videoconference facilities such as Zoom are quick, cheap and easy to set up and have reasonable quality audio and video features. Almost all phones and laptops have inbuilt cameras now, so technology shouldn’t be a barrier. Make sure that the participants in the exercise (i.e. the individual candidate(s) and role player(s)) have their cameras on, but that the assessors have theirs OFF so as not to distract the participants. Also, ensure you ask everyone in advance to base themselves in a quiet place, free from distractions or loud noises. Ideally, people should be asked to use headsets and microphones for the best audio quality.
In a group exercise, if ‘new information’ needs to be shared partway through the exercise then platforms like Zoom have a ‘screen share’ function, which the administrator can use to announce ‘breaking news’ or introduce new instructions partway through.
If a written response is required to materials, then you can simply email the response template to participants in advance and ask them to email back to a set email address, by a set time, from which responses can then be sent on to assessors.
As an alternative consideration, you could decide to change the format of your exercises for ease of administration: for example, a group discussion could be turned into a 1-2-1 discussion; or a presentation could be turned into a written exercise. You may not be able to measure the same competencies, but it may make the administration more feasible and you can focus on those competencies or strengths that ARE able to be assessed remotely. You also have the option of moving to a virtual assessment centre platform to administer exercises, although this will require a fair amount of customising of your existing content to achieve.
Integration / Wash-Up Session
Again, using videoconference facilities for this, along with the Administrator screen-sharing the integration matrix and completing it as the discussion progresses is perfectly workable. Make sure you schedule in regular breaks if it’s a long session so that the assessors remain focused.
You have a choice here: stick to the timetable as-is, or flex it so that the exercises occur across multiple days. The latter option may help with participants and / or assessors who require more flexible working hours to look after dependents, however this does run the risk of participants doing additional research on the assessment topics, collaborating ‘off-line’ or asking others for advice – so it may not be appropriate in all contexts.
Transform your assessor training into a webinar format, with accompanying interactive quiz elements to test their knowledge of the materials and process. In order to test assessment skills, you can either show a pre-recorded video of participants completing an exercise; or run a live role play over videoconference and ask assessors to rate it. Asking assessors to then compare their ratings and the evidence they used to inform these can help them to ‘benchmark’ expectations and also feel more of a cohesive assessor team. Comparing the spread of scores can also help you to identify where any leniency or harshness bias may be occurring.
Feedback works well over videoconference or phone. Again, screensharing facilities can enable the sharing of reports, or these can be sent a few hours in advance – assuming that participants give their consent for their data to be emailed.
For virtual feedback to be most effective, schedule a little more time than usual at the start for rapport-building and explaining the logistics of the session. Ensure that both participant and feedback giver are in a private space where the feedback won’t be overheard and encourage the participant to take notes and regularly summarise the feedback heard.
Pulling it all together
Moving to virtual assessments represents a significant change for participants and assessors alike. It is important that a process document is drawn up at the start which explains exactly what will happen, by when and who is involved. This should be sent to everyone involved and relevant webinar briefings held so that any questions can be addressed.
You also need to consider whether remote assessments require any changes in your data handling processes – especially in light of GDPR. Making use of an online data-sharing portal (such as Box) can be a better solution than having everything emailed back and forth. Consider password-protecting documents and/or encrypting files.
If you would like help with setting everything up, then we would be happy to talk through your particular situation and what plans will work best for you. Call us for a discussion on 0208 090 0147 or email email@example.com
As a final thought and looking on the positive side, who knows – once you’ve experienced the flexibility and lower costs of running a virtual assessment centre, you may never turn back!