Assessment Centres: Potential Management At Shoppers Stop

Updated: Nov 1 2003, 05:30am hrs
Umesh Dhand and Shibani Shourie are employees of Shoppers Stop Ltd. Mr Dhand works as a category manager and Ms Shourie works as area visual merchandiser. For both of them, the promotions and new responsibilities have not come through recommendations by their immediate superiors, but through their performance at the assessment centres at Shoppers Stop. And at the assessment centre, potential employees applying for promotions are put through various analytical, management & communication tests to assess their strengths & weaknesses.

The journey through the assessment centres has been beneficial for both my professional and personal growth. For it has made me aware of certain competencies which I thought didnt exist and also weaknesses which I can improve upon, said Mr Dhand. For Mr Dhand, the journey through the assessment centre at Shoppers Stop began one and a half years ago, where he has moved from Deputy merchandiser to merchandiser to category manager. In between, I shifted from to store head, but through a development program-me, the realisation was that my capabilities can be better utilised in merchandising, said Mr Dhand.

The Assessment centre has been in existence at Shoppers Stop for the last four years and aims to tap the existing talent pool within the company for higher responsibilities. The idea explained Vijay Kashyap, general manager - HR, Shoppers Stop, was to arrive at a scientific and rational way of assessing the performance of potential candidates through assessment centre and doing away with recommendations by immediate superiors for promotions. So across the organisation, whenever positions come up, the requirement is consolidated and it is advertised on the intranet. The employees applying for the position are made to undergo basic competency test. The activities tests the candidates capability and competency vis-a-vis the position which he or she is seeking. And through that, a candidate is selected out of the select few. The activities comprise of activities, consolidation and finally the feedback. The feedback herein is done by assessors, from the senior management, who assess the candidate on the basis of the activities carried out at the centre. The feedback by the assessor delves upon the strengths of the candidate and also the weaknesses which the candidate needs to work upon to excel in the new role, said Mr Kashyap.

The efficacy of the assessment centre lies in the fact that it puts the candidates through a series of analytical, interpersonal and management activities, which brings out a true picture of the candidates capability, which is not possible in an interview. In an interview, a candidate can mask himself but at the assessment centres it is not possible, said Mr Kashyap. On assessors, he said the people chosen are all above general manager level and for every three participant there is one assessor assigned. The assessors are employees who are senior enough in the organisation that individual judgement do not cloud the perspective behind the venture. There are not immediate superiors of the candidates and all of them are part of all the assessments which happen in the year thereby ensuring consistency, said Mr Kashyap.

In a year, there are a minimum of six levels of assessment which are conducted and completed by December. The assessment are done at the training centre at Mumbai.

For Ms Shourie who has been promoted to area visual merchandiser from visual merchandiser, the activities at the assessment centre enabled her to learn and also unearth management skills. In order to be eligible for the position, assessment was done on financial, people and management skill-sets. The people skills looked at human resources and appraisals, while management skills emphasised on aspects like communication and presentation, said Mr Shourie.

In both the cases, the follow up on their progress in the new responsibility is handled by a coach. The coach, here again, senior members of the management act as a sounding board and also monitor the employees performance in their new responsibility over a period of six months to a year. Mr Kashyap said that though the assessment centres were primarily utilised to screen employees within the organisation, for specialised posts in buying and merchandising, candidates applying from outside the organisation were put through the activities at the assessment centre.