The design of Development Centers (DC) is usually defined as a top-down process: Requirements and format are determined “top down,” i.e., by HR and/or the management. The criteria are to map the requirements defined by them with regard to a specific position, whereby the company’s existing competence model or management mission statement usually provides the framework. Based on the definition of the requirements, the assessment experts develop exercise modules in a second step, which make these competencies observable.
This format corresponds to the logic of selection Assessment Centers and has also proven itself in Development Centers over the years. This is particularly true when it comes to certain target positions or levels whose requirements are clearly definable and which are made tangible for the participant within the scope of the procedure. A classic example in this connection are Development Centers for taking on leadership positions at a certain level. Due to the standardized formulation of criteria and modules for an often larger group of candidates, this top-down approach seems to make sense in such situations.
However, in many cases Development Centers also pursue other goals and allow formats in which the involvement of participants can already be of great benefit at the design stage of the procedures. It is particularly important to take the participants’ perspective into account when defining the criteria to be evaluated and when developing the exercise modules. Especially development-oriented feedback in the context of change processes or individual assessments of skills means that predefined criteria can be dispensed with and more freedom can be given to participants for their input – an approach from which the entire process can benefit.
ADVANTAGES OF PARTICIPANT INVOLVEMENT
An established conviction in change management is that the more people are confronted with a situation over which they have no influence, the more likely it is that resistance arises and acceptance decreases. As change management research has shown, not only regular communication, but also the involvement of those affected is of considerable benefit.
Furthermore, involvement offers the additional advantage that qualitatively valuable ideas are incorporated into the process and aspects relevant to those affected are automatically taken into account. Just as the involvement in change projects, co-creation approaches in Development Centers can bring advantages:
- Greater acceptance and a positive attitude among participants, which in turn increases their willingness to accept the resulting feedback and take the subsequent development measures into their own hands
- Increased quality of the Development Centers themselves by focusing on criteria and situations that are particularly central to participants and that have a particularly high validity against the background of the challenges “in real life”
Apart from these central advantages, there are other positive aspects depending on the target group:
- Participants feel appreciated and become more committed to their tasks. As part of the co-creation process, they intensively examine their (possibly) new role and thus strengthen their awareness with regard to tasks and requirements. Last but not least, the approach corresponds to a forward-looking understanding of personnel development by promoting participants’ personal responsibility in the entire learning process. In this way, the “recipient of a service from the HR development department” becomes an “active co-designer” of the process.
- For the manager, the employee’s active involvement initially means higher motivation by avoiding a classic “test situation.” In addition, professional challenges are mapped even more realistically, so that participants can relate the feedback more strongly to their own situation. The active approach to tasks also creates more clarity about structures and roles in the team and makes it easier for the employee to be successful in a new position more quickly.
- By facilitating the process, the HR department increases the added value of Development Centers, positions itself more strongly as a partner and supporter, increases the attractiveness of Development Centers, and ensures more effective development measures based on higher participant motivation and feedback that is perceived as particularly relevant to everyday life.
- The company as a whole benefits from more personal responsibility through employee involvement and a higher return on investment from personnel development measures, and supports the development of a modern corporate culture that is attractive to many potential applicants.
So what exactly does co-creation in Development Centers look like? How are Development Center participants involved in the planning and design stage specifically?
CO-CREATION IN THE DESIGN OF DEVELOPMENT CENTERS
In a co-creation approach, participants can be involved at two key points:
- Involvement in the selection of the evaluation dimensions. Participants often know best what their greatest challenges are under the current conditions and what skills are required in this connection. Their input constitutes a meaningful supplement to the corporate competence model or they select which of the competencies should be focused on.
- Involvement in the selection of exercises. By being able to collaborate on the type of simulated situations, participants can ensure contextualization: The exercises are particularly relevant and topical to them. They take into account their specific context. This gives participants the opportunity to face personally challenging situations in a safe environment, in which they actually want to test themselves.
PRACTICAL IMPLEMENTATION OF CO-CREATION IN DEVELOPMENT CENTERS
Participants’ design ideas can be developed effectively during a workshop. Depending on the objective, a duration of about half a day is advisable.
The aim of the workshop is to develop ideas about the competencies to be assessed and/or the exercise modules of the upcoming Development Center. In both cases the current or upcoming tasks and challenges at the workplace are a suitable starting point for this process. This gives participants the opportunity to reflect on existing and new requirements systematically and intensively.
The next step is the translation process, which focuses on the specific situations in everyday professional life in which these challenges are central or on which competencies are crucial for overcoming them. This task also allows participants to deal intensively with new behavioral patterns and their implementation or translation into day-to-day work.
The following graphic summarizes the structure of such a workshop. The structured result of these two steps already provides valuable ideas and insights for the design of the Development Centers. In the case of a large number of suggestions, the individual options are prioritized by the participants during the workshop.