Patrick James Smith, Fielding's School of Human & Organization Development
This study presents a review of how variation in assessment center (AC) ratings has been regarded among AC scholars and practitioners. The author reiterates the prevailing paradigm within I–O psychology that treats individuals as objects (Weiss & Rupp, 2011) and thus may limit our ability to develop a deep understanding of individual performance (George & Dane, 2011; Mischel, 2004; Orom & Cervone, 2009) that could benefit organizations, AC participants, practitioners, and scholars.
The AC results of 2,968 participants were reviewed to derive a purposive sample of co-researchers in a rarely studied Saudi Arabian leadership population to explain performance variation. The author interviewed 14 AC performance outliers, 13 males and one female, with ages between 28 and 49, who have been with the company from 3 to 22 years. The co-researchers had anywhere from a high school diploma to a medical degree. Each co-researcher had an empirical performance increase (≥95%) or decrease (≤5%) indicated by the simulation vector (simvec), a statistic devised by the author that indicates magnitude and direction of simulation performance reminiscent of the personality signature (Fournier, Moskovitz, & Zuroff, 2008, 2009) and complements the overall assessment rating (OAR).
This study contributes to the literature by answering the call for a creative and more person–centric direction in I-O psychology research (Weiss & Rupp, 2011) to advance understanding of individual (Allport, 1937; Fleeson, 2001) AC performance variation in non-Western cultures (George & Dane, 2011; Lievens, 2002; Phan, 2007; Rupp, Snyder, Gibbons, & Thornton III, 2006; Thornton III & Rupp, 2005). The explanatory sequential mixed method design used in this study addresses the criticism that most research in I-O psychology has been descriptive, not explanatory (Orom & Cervone, 2009). The author further responds to the charge that ACs are a-theoretical (Lievens & Christiansen, 2012) by explicating empirical incidences of performance variation from the perspective of andragogy (Knowles, 1984) with theories such as reflective learning, whole person studies, discriminative facility, interactionism (Hellervik, Hazucha, & Schneider, 1992; Lance, 2008; Phan, 2007; Weiss & Rupp, 2011), and self-theories (Dweck, 2000).
Key Words: Assessment center, AC, performance variation, performance inconsistency, mixed method, reflective learning, transformative learning, whole person studies, person-centric, episodic memory, autobiographical memory, autonoetic awareness, conscious experience, mindfulness, intrinsic motivation, motivation, flow, discriminative facility, interactionism, trait activation theory (TAT), the cognitive affective personality system (CAPS), self-theories, social-cognitive theory, incremental theory, entity theory, simulation vector, simvec, adult development, Saudi Arabia, industrial-organizational psychology.