Using the VCA Career Progression Gateway – Middle Manager Online Assessment Process

Project summary

The VCA ‘Career Progression Gateway’ on-line assessment system allows FRS personnel at all levels to be assessed for career development more simply and cost-effectively. It does this by minimising the use of FRS time and resources. The streamlined process is managed by VCA working with FRS staff, creating a more relaxed and positive experience for HR teams and candidates alike.

The assessment exercises are completed by candidates online using a computer to access our user-friendly assessment portal. Candidates complete a written (case study) exercise, roleplay (facilitated over the phone) and a Values Questionnaire tailored to your organisation.

The assessors also work online via the assessment portal. By recording all output online there is less chance of errors in interpreting handwritten text by both assessors and candidates.

The results of the values questionnaire generate additional questions to be explored during final interview.

Click here to read more information on the Career Progression Gateway.

“We like the idea of an online assessment process to reduce the need for internal assessors and the same team will be used for all candidates, ensuring a more consistent and independent approach by a team of people who assess regularly. The process would also be a better experience for the candidate as they would come in and do the exercises and then they can go. Currently they have to wait around and are unavailable for duties for most of the day.”

Lucy Taylor, OD Business Partner

Feedback from Emma Bolton, HR Business Partner

What was your role in this process?
Contributing to the development of the Assessment Centre and facilitating the assessment day on site.

What made you as an organisation decide to try an on-line assessment system?
To reduce the impact on Station Managers who have been previously used as assessors, to reduce any unconscious bias and to deliver a consistent and independent approach by individuals who assess regularly and are impartial.

How did you find the organisation/ arranging in the weeks leading up to the event?
Generally very good. There was a moment with the values-based questionnaire might not have been ready due slight difference of understanding of its purpose/content but the team worked hard to have this ready for us on the first day.

How easy was the process to manage on the assessment days?
Very easy

What feedback did you get from candidates about the how they felt the process went for them?
Most said they preferred the online version with only a small number preferring a role play face to face.

How did you find working with VCA?
Very good experience- the team were readily available to offer support and advice and provided a successful toolkit for our assessment centre. Listened to feedback and responded to queries in a timely manner.

What has been the best/ most successful part of the process?
Impartial and informative feedback reports from qualified occupational psychologists. The system also allowed us to be flexible with an individual who was off-site on a course, which traditionally we would not have been able to do and he would have missed his chance.

What would you say to other FRS who may consider using this system?
Would recommend it. It is important to provide the right information and put the preparation in with VCA in order to achieve meaningful and measured results which are aligned to your organisational values/priorities. It’s been lovely working with Hannah and the team on this.

Feedback from Elizabeth Sandiford, Head of HR

What was been the greatest difference in running this new process from previous events?
Consistency of the feedback in terms of the assessors being unknown to the applicants, so no unconscious bias, timely as could undertake the assessments under a shorter period of time, didn’t impact on capacity as we didn’t need to pull in people from across the organisation to undertake the assessments.

Did you have any reservations about the system, and if so were they realised?
I did have reservations, I couldn’t see how the values questionnaire would actually evaluate values plus I wasn’t sure that the activities would actually be able to assess people. My reservations were not realised, we also ran SHL tests and the findings of the assessment verified the same findings of the SHL and interview.

What benefits would you give having now run it online compared to the traditional methods used before?
Time and capacity

How well were you supported by VCA throughout the whole process?
We were supported well, it was a new way of doings things and VCA promptly responded to changes and patiently explained how the process worked. We had a few IT issues but it was new so to be expected and VCA sorted out promptly.

Would you use it again for other promotion events in future and why?
Yes because built capacity and was consistent and the results triangulated with the results of the interview and SHL tests gave us a rounded picture of individuals strengths and areas of development.

What would you say to other FRS who may consider using this system?
I would recommend use. Spend some time early on working with VCA on the activities to ensure that they meet your needs and VCA understand your organisation and what you are looking for.

Price Comparison (Traditional ADC Vs Online Assessment)

12 candidatesTraditional MM Assessment/ Development CentreVCA’s Online MM Assessment process
Assessors £2538 (8 FRS assessors x 2 days)*£4080 (2 Occupational psychology assessors/ role-players over 3 days)

*This is based on the lower pay rate of SM, and sometimes GMs are used to assess, so costs are usually higher than this.

Assessors needed to be found and taken away from normal operational duties.

Experienced and efficient, ensuring quality and accuracy.

Exercises (x 2 exercises)£3500£2640

*£120 x 7 role-players = £840 x 2 ADC days = £1680 + £200 finder’s fee = £1880

£120 x 7 role-players for 1-day training on the toolkit = £840

Role players used are the assessors

Assessor training£1904*N/A

*Toolkit training for Assessors (half day) plus training for new assessors (full day).
Assessors taken away from normal operational duties.


2 administrators for typing up un-edited scripts (scale 3) for approx. 2 days post ADC = £149.60 (based on lower end of the pay scale).

Required finding suitable staff, briefing them and managing them. Subject to possible error in transcribing which may affect how easy the feedback is to interpret.

Full developmental assessment report by Occupational Psychologists

Values Questionnaire

(including interview questions tailored to individual)

Results inputtingN/A



A saving of 24%

Not including costs for venue, refreshments, centre administration, printing, timetabling, results checking and inputting, conservative estimate an additional £1000.