Center for Research and Service

Assessment Center Case Study

Assessment Center Purpose

A fast growing high tech company asked the Center for Research and Service (CRS) to assist in identifying and evaluating the current leadership skill profile of the company. This included the reviewing of key leadership competencies determined to be critical to leading the company forward and assessing the levels to which the senior leadership team has attained or mastered each of those competencies. Many of the leaders at the mid- to senior levels of the company were relatively new to leadership roles and did not have a clear definition of the leadership competencies needed for success in their roles.

After fine tuning the competencies, CRS created an assessment center (AC) to evaluate and develop individuals in terms of attributes or abilities relevant for succeeding as a leader at this company. The AC provided insight about employee strengths and areas for development as they related to the leadership values important to the organization.


A software development firm located in a major Midwestern city found itself facing several challenges:

  • Positions at the senior levels were becoming more complex and demanding of advanced leadership skills
  • There was a lack of strategy for consciously developing leaders
  • Planning for successors for key leadership positions needed to begin

Assessment Center Competencies

Leadership competencies were identified from the company’s Leadership Model with the help of its staff and the center’s industrial-organizational psychology consultants. The following four areas were the competencies on which participants were evaluated in the AC:

  • Managing for results
  • Effective decision making
  • People development
  • Strategic leadership

Process and Simulation Exercises

Each participant received a “schedule” that mirrored a “normal” work day for the participant’s job. The participant’s performance in each of the exercises was evaluated a group of trained, professional consultants from CRS using the previously defined leadership competencies

This AC process included a one-on-one interview and three simulation exercises for the participants:

  • Team meeting with other participants in the AC
  • role play development exercise involving a face-to-face meeting between the AC participant and a trained confederate playing an assigned business role of an underperforming employee
  • A collection of in-basket items completed throughout the day

Post Assessment Center and Follow-Up

  • Individual Reports: The center prepared individual reports for each leader assessed. The report highlighted areas of strength, areas for improvement, and recommendations for resources to assist in the leader’s development.
  • Individual Feedback: The center’s consultants met with each leader to present the AC findings and facilitated a dialogue. Leadership strengths and developmental needs were reviewed. This was completed after the AC.
  • Team Profile Feedback and Action Planning Session: The center prepared and presented a team report outlining the team’s strengths and areas for improvement.
  • Individual Development: The individuals evaluated as part of the assessment center each developed action plans to specifically address their leadership development needs.  The team was also able to develop a plan to address the needs of the overall team moving forward.