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Orienting Participants effectively for Virtual DCs

While virtual DCs can have more or less a similar framework to that of a physically conducted DC, the way it is experienced by participants is very different from physical DCs. If you have traditionally delivered your DCs physically, you may find that you need to adjust your approach to DC delivery in order to ensure that participants are properly engaged and are able to deliver their best performance across exercises.

In a physical DC, participants and assessors are present together in one common physical location. In a virtual DC, typically participants and assessors are dispersed across multiple locations. In a virtual DC, participants can feel disoriented and unclear about the entire process unless they are provided clear orientation material and instructions on how to go through the entire process.

Here are some questions which can help you review the suitability of your current orientation material for virtual DCs.

What is the purpose of this entire process?

  • What is an Assessment/Development Center?
  • What is the outcome of this process? Who else will have access to info on my performance in this process?
  • When will I get my Report? I have never participated in a DC before.
  • How can I prepare before attending the final process?
  • Do I need to block an entire day for this process? Or can I login and complete the exercises any time before the deadline?
  • Where can I find my login credentials?
  • What do I do if I have not received my login credentials?
  • How do I know if my work computer or home internet connection is suitable for completing the DC exercises? Can I do the exercises on my phone or personal laptop?
  • Who can I reach out to if I get stuck somewhere?
  • What do I do if I face any technical issues?
  • How do I know that I have completed everything that was required of me in this process?

Put everything in one place

You are likely to confuse participants if you send piecemeal information in multiple emails from multiple stakeholders. Try and use one common email ID for all Program related information. Try and put information answering most of the above questions in a common orientation document or video. Ideally, if you can put the orientation material, support aids and instructions for accessing exercises on the same platform, it just simplifies things for the participant.

Put in place clear support process

Participants feel much more focused and confident about the process if they are clear about what they need to do in case they have a question or need technical assistance.

  • Check if your digital platform allows participants to check their system compatibility by themselves. Otherwise, provide them a clear checklist of stuff they should check for before starting the process – minimum internet speed requirements, browser or OS configuration, JavaScript enabling, Webcam/Microphone access etc.
  • For small groups, you can provide a phone number where they can reach out for support. For larger groups, creating a knowledge base or FAQ page and email support may be more feasible.

One very powerful way to get this engagement from them is to clearly address the questions “what is in it for me?” or “why should I put in this effort?”.

Establish relevance

DC orientation material, especially in physical DCs, often focuses on explaining the process. In case of virtual DCs, you need stronger engagement and focus from the participants since you need them to plan for the process, block time and complete the exercises – all by themselves and in the middle of their normal work. One very powerful way to get this engagement from them is to clearly address the questions “what is in it for me?” or “why should I put in this effort?”. Sometimes the answer to these question lies in the process, especially in case of promotion or selection Assessment centres i.e. you need to complete this in order to get promoted or selected for that role. What about personal development or learning focused DCs? In those cases, linking the outcome to career aspirations or role effectiveness can be an option e.g. feedback inputs from the process will allow you to prepare for a GM level role or working on feedback inputs from the process will allow you to become a more effective people manager. Participants are more likely to invest mental space and time in the process if they see the process as linked to their priorities than if they see it as only an organizational priority.

Participant communication and orientation remains a crucial ingredient for any DC – physical or virtual. However, taking into consideration additional elements, as outlined above, can allow you to ensure that your communication strategy retains its relevance and effectiveness in the new format.

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