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MAKING VIRTUAL DEVELOPMENT CENTERS
Development Center has been long identified as a very effective methodology to provide leaders with rigorous and
effective competency-based feedback. Traditionally, development centers have been organized as physical F-2-F
events where batches of participants go through assessment exercises while being observed by a set of assessors.
However, in the past few years, development centers are increasingly being conducted in virtual mode with
participants completing some exercises online and interacting with assessors over Skype/phone for other exercises.
While Virtual DCs offer advantages like significantly higher scale-ability, reduced operational burden for HR teams
and cost effectiveness, delivering effective Virtual DCs still requires HR teams and consulting service providers to
partner and collaborate closely on the following key aspects of design and delivery of these interventions.
2018 Copyright Think Talent Services
A general perception among talent management professionals is that Virtual DCs do not have the same effectiveness
as physically delivered DCs since impact is lessened when participants connect virtually. However, with enhancement
in the effectiveness of tools like Skype, participant experiences of interactive exercises has improved significantly in the
past few years. So, while there are other aspects like design of the DC process which still need thorough focus, the
virtual nature of interactions itself is not a significant blocker of effectiveness of Virtual DCs.
In traditional DCs, participants complete multiple exercises within a day and therefore have a tightly packed schedule
for the day. This creates a certain intensity for the process. Virtual DCs can tend to lose this intensity if not carefully
managed. While in Virtual DCs, participants are empowered to take control of the assessment process – when to
complete an exercise, in which order to complete the exercises etc. – it is critical that participants are required to
complete each exercise in a time-bound manner. In-built timers in online exercises are also a great way to build
intensity into the exercise. Also, participants should be provided clear and well-defined deadlines to complete the
overall process to build further intensity into the process.
The next important aspect is the operational management of the DC. In a physical DC, participant schedules are drawn
up well in advance. HR team’s primary operational responsibility is to ensure participant reach the venue. However, in
virtual DCs, participants complete the process only over a number of days. It is therefore important to ensure that HR
teams are aware of the progress of each participant through the process at any point of time and can work closely with
the Consulting team to support completion of the process. An online dashboard showing completion status of each
participant is a good way to ensure steady flow of completion status info to the HR teams.
Finally, the rigor of any DC process depends on the team of assessors. In a physical DC, the team of assessors works
together in a face-to-face environment. In Virtual DCs, however, assessors are often based in multiple locations. It is,
therefore, critical that assessors are briefed properly about the process and the context and their inputs for each
exercise for each participant is captured in a structured manner. This, together with a well-designed integration and
calibration process, ensures that assessment feedback is rigorously arrived at and avoids most biases which typically
Virtual DCs are today enabling organizations across industry sectors to scale up their talent management processes
and provide a significantly larger target population with effective competency-based feedback. A well-designed
virtual DC process ensures strong process effectiveness and allows participants to start new development journeys
using relevant development inputs.