Skip to content
Candidates waiting

Assessment and Development Centres explained

You might be grappling with your talent management strategy; needing to make decisions to inform workforce development; or maybe you’re going through a merger or acquisition and need to harmonise organisational cultures. These contexts and many others will benefit from using either assessment or development centres as part of your approach. But what are assessment and development centres? Here we look to explain what assessment and development centres are, the advantages of using them and how they differ.

What is an Assessment Centre?

An assessment centre is a method used by organisations to evaluate and select candidates for employment or promotion. It typically involves a comprehensive, multi-faceted evaluation process where candidates are assessed on various skills, abilities, and attributes relevant to the job role.

Below is an example of how an assessment centre could work.

  1. Invitation: Candidates who are selected for possible recruitment/promotion are invited to participate in the assessment centre.
  2. Duration: Assessment centres typically span one or more days, depending on the complexity of the evaluation and the number of candidates involved.
  3. Activities: During the assessment centre, candidates participate in a series of individual and group exercises designed to simulate real-world work situations.

These activities can include:

  • Role-plays: Candidates may be asked to act out scenarios relevant to the job, such as handling difficult customer interactions or resolving conflicts within a team.
  • Case studies: Candidates may be given hypothetical business problems to solve, demonstrating their analytical and problem-solving skills.
  • Group discussions: Candidates may engage in group discussions or debates on topics relevant to the job, allowing assessors to observe their communication, collaboration, and leadership abilities.
  • Presentations: Candidates may be asked to prepare and deliver presentations on specific topics, showcasing their communication and presentation skills.
  • Psychometric tests: Candidates may be required to complete various psychological assessments, such as personality tests or cognitive ability tests, to provide further insights into their suitability for the role.
  • Assessment: Throughout the activities, candidates are observed and evaluated by assessors, who use predefined criteria to assess candidates’ performance and behaviour, often using rating scales or checklists.
  • Feedback: After the assessment centre concludes, candidates may receive feedback on their performance, highlighting strengths and areas for improvement. This feedback can be valuable for candidates to understand their competencies and development areas.
  • Decision-making: Based on the assessments, the organisation makes decisions regarding candidate selection, often considering factors such as performance in the assessment centre, alignment with job requirements, and organisational fit.

Assessment centres offer several advantages over traditional selection methods, including the ability to assess multiple competencies in a controlled environment, the opportunity to observe candidates in realistic situations, and the potential for more objective and reliable evaluations. However, they can also be resource-intensive and time-consuming to implement. Overall, assessment centres are widely used by organisations seeking to identify top talent and make informed hiring or promotion decisions.

What is a Development Centre?

A Development Centre is a structured approach used by organisations to identify, assess, and develop the potential of their employees. Development centres concentrate on evaluating and enhancing existing employees’ skills, competencies, and leadership capabilities.

Below is an example of how an assessment centre could work.

  1. Selection of Participants: Employees who have been identified as having high potential or who are targeted for career advancement are usually chosen to participate in a development centre. This selection is often based on performance appraisals, talent reviews, or succession planning discussions.
  2. Duration: Development centres can vary in duration, ranging from one day to several days, depending on the depth and breadth of the developmental activities planned.
  3. Activities: Participants engage in a variety of exercises and simulations designed to assess their strengths, weaknesses, and developmental needs.

These activities may include:

  • Role-plays: Participants may be asked to simulate leadership scenarios or workplace challenges to assess their decision-making, communication, and problem-solving skills.
  • Feedback Sessions: Participants receive feedback from assessors, peers, and supervisors on their performance in various exercises, providing insights into their strengths and areas for improvement.
  • 360-degree assessments: Participants may undergo assessments where feedback is gathered from multiple sources, including supervisors, peers, subordinates, and self-assessments, to provide a comprehensive view of their competencies.
  • Developmental Planning: Participants work with coaches or facilitators to create personalised development plans based on the feedback and insights gained during the centre.
  • Assessment: Trained assessors observe participants’ behaviour, interactions, and performance during the centre’s activities. They use established competency frameworks or assessment criteria to evaluate participants’ potential and readiness for future roles.
  • Feedback and Development Planning: Participants receive detailed feedback on their performance, strengths, and areas for improvement. They also work with coaches or facilitators to create actionable development plans tailored to their individual needs and career aspirations.
  • Follow-up and Support: Development centres are often followed by ongoing support and development interventions, such as coaching, mentoring, training programs, or stretch assignments, to help participants further enhance their skills and capabilities.

Development centres play a crucial role in talent management and succession planning strategies within organisations. By identifying and developing high-potential employees, organisations can build a pipeline of capable leaders and ensure the continuity of leadership talent in the long term. Additionally, development centres provide employees with valuable insights into their strengths and areas for growth, fostering a culture of continuous learning and development within the organisation.

Learning at assessment and development centres

What are the differences between Assessment and Development Centres?


The primary purpose of an assessment centre is to assess candidates for selection or promotion. It focuses on identifying candidates’ suitability for specific roles based on their skills, competencies, and potential. The primary purpose of a development centre is to assess and develop the skills and potential of existing employees. It aims to enhance employees’ capabilities, identify areas for growth, and prepare them for future roles or responsibilities.


Assessment centres focus on evaluating candidates’ current competencies and performance to make selection or promotion decisions. They often assess a wide range of competencies relevant to the target role. Development centres focus on assessing employees’ developmental needs and potential for growth. They aim to identify strengths to leverage and areas for improvement to address through targeted development interventions.

Participant Selection

Participants in assessment centres are typically external candidates or internal employees applying for a specific job or promotion opportunity. Participants in development centres are typically existing employees identified as having high potential or targeted for career development within the organisation.

Duration and Activities

Assessment centres can vary in duration but are generally shorter in comparison to development centres. They involve activities such as role-plays, case studies, interviews, and psychometric assessments to evaluate candidates’ suitability for the target role.

Development centres often span multiple days and include a broader range of activities aimed at assessing and developing participants’ skills and capabilities. These activities may include role-plays, feedback sessions, 360-degree assessments, and personalized development planning.


The primary outcome of an assessment centre is to make selection or promotion decisions based on candidates’ performance and suitability for the target role. The primary outcome of a development centre is to identify participants’ developmental needs, strengths, and areas for improvement and to create personalized development plans to support their growth and career advancement within the organisation.

In summary, while both assessment and development centres are structured evaluation processes, they serve different purposes and target different groups of individuals. Assessment centres focus on selecting candidates for specific roles, while development centres focus on assessing and developing existing employees to support their career growth and advancement within the organisation.

Now we’ve covered what assessment and development centres are, the examples and benefits of both and how they are different, read our follow-up article where we will delve deeper into how assessment and development centres can support an organisation following a merger or an acquisition.

More Insights

Back To Top