Ethical Issues and Challenges of AC in South Africa
The use of the Assessment Centre (AC) technique in South Africa has been around since the 1970s. AC use and application generally aligned closely to the Unites States model with a strong influence from the American experts, Doug Bray and Bill Byham who visited the country and introduced it to organisations. This trend continued in South Africa and soon other organisations adopted the AC model and techniques into their businesses (Meiring, 2008). Since the 1980s ACs and DCs have grown from strength to strength with the Assessment Centre Study Group (ACSG) leading the way in South Africa. The main aim of the study group has always been to promote the professional and ethical use of the AC technique and to facilitate the exchange of experience and skills with regard to AC practice in South Africa.
In the middle of the 1980s, the ACSG started playing an active role with regard to the professional and ethical aspects of AC. Firstly, appropriate legislation to regulate the use of personnel assessment techniques was lacking and, secondly, consultants and HR practitioners who were not qualified to implement AC methodology were exposed. These issues were considered to be serious and it was decided to adapt the 1979 International Guidelines on AC and Ethical Practice for South Africa. It was furthermore decided to publish a document containing the amended guidelines, as well as the role of the ACSG in monitoring AC applications in South Africa. Currently the ACSG has published three versions of the guidelines. The 2007 Guidelines is the latest published version and is aligned with the 2000 International Guidelines as well as the 2006 Professional Guidelines for global ACs.
In the absence of laws governing the practice of ACs in SA, the ACSG has assumed the unofficial mantle of “ethics and standards watchdog” in order to ensure that the highest standards of practice are shared with its members through workshops, conferences, an updated website, and now for the first time the AC Blog.
Ethical Issues and Challenges of AC in South Africa is the first discussion topic to be introduced to the AC Blog. The reason for the introduction is the overwhelming reaction and debate the topic generated at the 30th Annual Conference of the ACSG in March 2010 in Stellenbosch. AC practitioners indicated that the time during the conference was too short to have meaningful discussions on the critical ethical challenges thatwere introduced.
The ACSG wishes to open the debate again and give the AC Blogger the opportunity to voice their opinions, concerns and debate these issues. The way we would like to go about it, is to focus on only four (4) ethical AC challenges raised at the conference.
You are welcome to add your comments on these issues to the AC Blog and then follow the discussions as it unfolds. Once a month, the respective Editor (in this case Prof Deon Meiring) will summarise the discussion and perhaps give the discussion new impetus.
ETHICAL CHALLENGE 1
[Mis]application of Assessment Centre Results
- How do we manage the way AC results are being used by our clients?
- What about designing ACs for one purpose and then applying them for something else?
- What is our right to recourse if we know an ethical line has been crossed?
ETHICAL CHALLENGE 2
Using assessors and role-players who are not properly trained or only partially trained
- What role does assessor training play?
- How long should the training be?
- How frequently should assessor training take place?
- How do we manage assessor quality?
ETHICAL CHALLENGE 3
- When do assessors discuss candidate performance?
- Discussing candidates “in the corridors” may well affect how assessors rate them in subsequent exercises. How do we manage this?
- Who do we share AC results with?
ETHICAL CHALLENGE 4
Scope of Practice
- Can the AC not be seen as a psychological act?
- Can anybody perform this act, especially if we measure psychological constructs in the AC?
- Can everybody be trained to give feedback?
- The purpose of the AC Blog is to
encourage continuous discussion on relevant AC issues throughout the year. All AC enthusiasts are invited to
- Please share your comments / ideas / suggestions / recommendations / research findings on the discussion topic with us on the AC Blog. We also invite our International AC enthusiasts to contribute to this discussion.
- Please also own your contribution by clearly indicating your name and surname.
- A topic will be on the AC Blog for
three months. Once a month the appropriate Editor will summarise the discussion and perhaps provide new
impetus to the discussion.
- The current Editors are: Prof Deon Meiring; Prof Rian Viviers; Prof Petrus Nel; Francois de Kock. Please give your
comments on the AC Blog and not directly to the Editors.
- The Editor for Ethical Issues and Challenges is Prof Deon Meiring.