Providing materials which allow candidates to prepare for upcoming assessments is known to be good practice. But why? And is it just a tick box exercise which can be skipped? Let’s explore.

  • Providing support materials in advance of an assessment means that you know candidates can get prepared in the right way. It takes the guess work out of what they should be doing.
  • You can ensure candidates are spending time on activities which will be increasing their understanding and improving their performance. Whether this is having the relevance of the Leadership Qualities (or other criteria such as values) explained, to practice exercises designed to explore how they would be likely to respond to certain types of tasks, candidates will have the opportunity to learn details relevant to their assessment.

  • Preparing the right way will help candidates feel more confident. Anything which is unfamiliar and unpredictable is nerve-wracking. Throw the importance of the outcome into the mix, and a lack of support can increase candidates’ anxiety in a way which can be easily avoided.

  • Supporting candidates to do their best demonstrates that the organisation values them. It suggests it is prepared to invest in helping them to achieve their goals and priority for a partnership approach to the assessment. This, after all, is in both the individual’s and organisation’s best interests.
  • Providing specific training tools for candidates is a good way to guide candidates towards the type of behaviours the organisation needs and expects to see.

  • This sort of support shows that the organisation respects the individuals’ time and prioritises their wellbeing with clear steps to support both.

What should this support look like?

Preparation materials should include an explanation of what to expect and what activities will look like; guidance on what will be assessed and why; practical exercises in a range of formats to help cement learning; opportunities for self-reflection and review; interactive exercises and a variety of approaches to suit different learning styles. The information needs to be targeted, relevant and allow candidates to choose the depth they wish to go into i.e. options to explore further or skip ahead, as they prefer.

With any preparation support, it is important to gain input from previous and future candidates on format and content and gain feedback on the materials after completion. Suggested changes should be considered and amendments made as appropriate.

Our Experience

We have always provided ‘briefing sessions’ for candidates on the promotions processes we design. Sometimes these are delivered in-house by FRS staff, sometimes in workshops facilitated by our team (in person or more latterly via video conference). These have worked well, but were resource heavy in terms of both internal staff time and costs. It was also difficult to maintain consistency in delivery.

In 2021 we spent several months in consultation and development on a new e-learning course, which by the end of 2022 has been used by over 100 candidates at 4 levels.

Feedback has been consistently good, with candidates reporting positively on format, content and learning experience. After trialing we amended:

  • The ability to skip ahead for sections the candidates didn’t feel they needed

  • Changes to the ‘drag and drop’ exercises to make them more intuitive

  • We suggested a time limit for completing practice exercises

Early Evidence

On a recent Watch Manager assessment process, two Services used the CPG and e-learning course within the same month.

27% of candidates from the first FRS completed the e-learning course, and 47% of candidates from the second FRS. The pass rate for the first FRS was 31%; the second FRS had a pass rate of 50%.

We would need further data to confirm this trend, but its an interesting statistic to consider in relation to the potential positive impact our e-learning course has on performance.

Another important note; if a candidate has been given the opportunity to use preparation tools and confirms that they have used these on completion of these materials, we have seen a marked reduction in the number of grievances/ appeals at the end of the assessment process. This seems to be related to a candidate’s sense of fairness and how empowered they feel over outcomes.

To take a look at VCA’s Career Progression Gateway based e-learning course, please contact us here.