PFC Assessment Centers: a world-class standard for developing globally competent human resources

Makoto Inoguchi is Representative Director, Pathos Corporation and Insight Now, Inc.

Editor and writer of business books, contributor to business magazines and web media. He also develops human resource education content. He conducts interviews, analytical reports based on research, video production, and marketing consulting.

How to perform in different cultures and markets

As business transcends national borders and becomes increasingly global, the globalization of human resources and the utilization of global human resources are becoming increasingly significant issues. Global human resources require skills and competencies that differ from those previously emphasized in Japan.

Taro Yasuda, one of PFC's consultants, explains the current situation as follows:

"Sending people overseas means using local staff overseas to see if they can really work in a different culture and market, and the differences can be substantial. Managing and exercising leadership in Japan and doing so outside of Japan may seem the same at first glance, but even the way of communicating can be completely different. Unless the individual perceives these differences and flexibly changes his or her communication style, it will not work. Naturally, the skills required differ from country to country."

One such method for assessing and developing specific skills and competencies is the 'assessment center'. An assessment center is a format that uses specialized assessors to evaluate and analyze human resources in a focused manner. It is mainly used to evaluate, analyze, and plan the development of leaders.

In typical personnel evaluations, the evaluation criteria may lack objectivity and consistency due to the subjectivity of the evaluators, such as superiors, but an assessment center conducted by a third party can provide a more objective and impartial review. Another difference is that, while regular personnel evaluations mainly assess current positions, assessment centers can assess future jobs and positions.

PFC's Assessment Centers for 'development' rather than 'selection'

People Focus Consulting (PFC) offers Assessment Centers to support the development of leadership and competencies required by clients for recent globalization and overseas expansion.

The benefits of PFC's Assessment Centers are as follows:

  • Analysis of competencies and management skills required for selected members
    • (Multidimensional analysis through multilingual assessment of diverse cultural backgrounds)
  • Decision of posts and risk management based on evaluation of leaders,
  • Selection of the right person for the leadership position
  • Identification of needs for effective human resource development
  • Identification of issues and competencies for future human resource development strategies

PFC's assessors include not only Japanese consultants, but also Taiwanese, British, and Americans, who operate in a variety of languages, including Chinese, English, and Japanese. The multilingual capability allows for analysis that takes into account the cultural background of the country in question. Also, in order to properly provide the assessment center and produce results, the competence of consultants (called Assessors) is extremely important, and various skills are required. The four necessary skills are those of 'Observation', 'Evaluation', 'Reporting', and 'Coaching skills'.

Taro Yasuda, one of PFC's Assessors, says, "All PFC consultants are fully equipped with these skills through extensive experience and training. They also know from experience that different cultures are different, and can verbalize what the strengths and challenges are."

One of the characteristics of PFC's Assessment Center is that its primary objective is not only to 'select human resources' but also to 'develop human resources'. Although this can result in 'selection' of human resources, the primary objective is development of human resources.

Yasuda says, "We base our work on is what kind of strengths this person has and what kind of issues he or she is facing right now. We are looking at how they can solve these issues, and how they can make the best use of their strengths overseas. If you call it an assessment, it sounds like a survey or evaluation, so it is sometimes called a development center. All human resources are capital, and we have to think about how to make the most of them."

It is important to create a strategy for future HR training through the use of assessment centers. After the assessment, it is important to resolve the issues of how to educate each individual and how to develop human resources that can be used overseas.

Global company, Aiphone, conducts an Assessment Center

Aiphone Corporation, which promotes security and care businesses for a wide range of applications from residences to nursing homes and hospitals, is a global company with approximately 2,000 employees on a consolidated basis.

Aiphone dispatches leaders to various countries overseas, but the company needed to understand the appropriate competencies for candidates for overseas assignments and link this to future training. In order to clarify what competencies were actually needed, we considered conducting assessments.

PFC was selected because of our ability to conduct assessments on a global scale, and because of our ability to identify leadership strengths and challenges in an overseas environment, as well as the type of human resource development that would be necessary in the future. Furthermore, considering the time and cost required with overseas staff, the requirement was "everything to be done online", including case study exercises, interviews with subordinates, and press conference exercises.

Yasuda noted the advantages of PFC's Assessment Center:

“At PFC's Assessment Center, the person being assessed read the case and we asked them to think about what solution they would come up with if they were the main character in the case. We asked them to think in concrete terms about what kind of solution they would formulate and how they would communicate it. If they were in Asia, how would they think in an Asian context? If it were in Europe, I would ask them how they would communicate in a European context, and I would look at it from multiple perspectives to see if it would really work in the country where they are located.”

PFC developed a detailed assessment plan and proposed a specific implementation plan to enable Aiphone to investigate and analyze the competencies in line with the challenges they face.

Frame of Assessment

Relationship between competencies and each tool

High marks for assessment reports

Aiphone gave the assessment reports high marks in several respects. The first was the quality of the report.

Assessor Yasuda commented, "The assessment allows us to see what strengths and areas for improvement each of candidates has in the overseas context. For example, whether they understand the background of their subordinates and communicate well, or whether they are good listeners but do not communicate what they want to say. We analyze their strengths and challenges, such as not being able to communicate what they want to say, and identify issues in human resource development. Each report resonated with the candidates themselves, and the HR person who has observed them for many years commented, 'How did you see so much just from this assessment?’ I think they were very satisfied with the results.”

Aiphone also asked for PFC's opinion on what they imagined was going on in the field based on the assessment results, even if it was just a hypothesis. They wanted to understand what people tend to do in the field based on the assessment results for each individual.

"It was just a hypothesis," Yasuda adds, “But it turned out to be mostly true. The behaviors that were shown in the assessment were also largely shown in the field. What we wrote in the assessment was almost exactly what they found. I think they felt, 'I see, so that's what’s happening’.”

'Assessment Centers' will play an increasingly important role in the future

In recent years, non-financial information has become increasingly important in corporate evaluation, and in Japan, listed companies are required to disclose non-financial information from fiscal year 2023. Non-financial information refers to information other than financial information that can be expressed numerically or quantitatively, and one area in which particular emphasis is being placed is in the area of "human capital”. Human capital refers to the abilities that people possess as capital. The "Human Capital Visualization Policy" announced in 2022 by the Study Group on Visualization of Non-Financial Information includes information related to human resource development, such as training hours, training participation rates, and the effectiveness of human resource development.

As a result, assessment is likely to become more important in this regard in the future.

In the future, Japan's population will decline. There is no doubt that many companies will be looking to do business and form partnerships in foreign countries. However, in human resource development, we need to take into consideration the fact that Japan's unique way of thinking is no longer applicable. It seems that developing human resources that can be used globally is an urgent issue for many companies.

The Assessment Center is likely to play an increasingly important role as a tool for human resource development to achieve this goal.

(Translated from the original Japanese article)

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