As you can imagine, behaviours are quite difficult things to specify and to measure accurately. The professionals who design assessment centre exercises usually try to overcome this problem by subdividing behaviours into separate factors that are more specific and therefore easier to measure. To do this we need to introduce the concept of KSAs.
The acronym KSA stands for Knowledge, Skills and Attitudes, and is the way behaviours are ‘broken down’ into more easily measurable metrics. There are other ways to do it but KSA is the most straightforward. These three separate components that together make up a particular behaviour.
The assessment centre exercises have been designed to test your ‘behaviours’ and it is the KSAs you need to portray to ensure you display the required behaviours. This illustrates to the assessors that you are ready and competent to perform the role. These competencies are defined by the assessors, and the Human Resources Department for each particular role. These behaviours and competencies form the foundation of the scoring sheet to be used during any assessment centre.
To succeed you must understand what KSAs are required for the role and that you can ‘show’ the assessors’ you possess them by exhibiting them appropriately during the exercises.
You must allocate sufficient time to the task of defining the roles KSAs an
First, to help you in this process it is essential that you understand how KSAs are defined and used within this eBook. Lewis Rowe provides us with a very broad definition. Whilst helpful it is not really very helpful when creating your own or job specific KSAs.
'Knowledge, Skills, Abilities and Attitudes that are required for competency.'
Source: Lewis Rowe, Tina; A Preparation Guide for the Assessment Centre Method;
(2006) Charles C Thomas Publishers Ltd, Illinois, USA.
By looking at the individual dictionary definitions for each of the KSA components it helps to provide a clearer framework.
• KNOWLEDGE – something that you have learned or discovered.
• SKILL – the ability to do something well.
• ABILITY – being able to do something, a talent.
• ATTRIBUTE – a quality or characteristic.
But whilst clearer, these definitions are still very limited in their use. This is especially the case when you are trying to decipher exactly how you can display them at your assessment centre.
For example: Exactly how is a 'skill'’ something you're good at; different from an 'ability', which is something you are talented at or in?
The only difference is 'doing it well'. Once again this is not a very clear and makes it extremely difficult to work out whether something is a skill, an ability, or an attribute.
Over the years many other definitions of KSA have appeared and whilst their overall meanings are very similar, there is not one universal definition or interpretation of the acronym itself, or the definition of each individual component. This lack of correlation between the KSA definitions is further complicated by specific industry sectors having their own KSA definitions reflecting the nature of their work.
To help you achieve success we have created our own definition of the KSA acronym. Our individual definitions have been designed so that they constructively help you prepare so you are able to portray the required behaviours during the assessment centre exercises.
An assessor will be assessing your behaviours in the following three ways:
• How do you use the knowledge you have?
• Is it appropriate to the role you are applying for?
• Do you make use of more than one type of information – facts / ideas / principles?
• What abilities do you have?
• Are these learned experiences relevant to the required role?
• Can you exhibit these skills at the role's level during the assessment day?
• If you don't have a skill how will you address this?
• Through your behaviour do you show the appropriate attitude to the situation or scenario being played out in the assessment centre exercise?
This is especially important as it includes how you interact with others, and how your attitude is perceived by them.
Comparing your competencies with that of the Role is the single most important activity you will undertake as part of your preparation for the assessment centre and your own personal development to ensure success.
This is best illustrated by an example from an assessment centre. You are attending an assessment centre because you are seeking internal promotion.
Your Current Position: Sales Assistant
You desired Role: Salesman
Exercise: Telephone role-play exercise that is being observed by a team of assessors.
Background: You work for a company, which sells computer hardware support contracts.
In the role of Salesman, you will have direct contact with high value corporate customers and significant autonomy in dealing with them.
You will be provided with information of your customers and their support contracts.
Scenario: You receive a phone call where you are faced with a customer whose server has crashed and they want you to send out an engineer immediately.
The customer has called you directly because they have not received an immediate response from the Customer Services Hotline and you are the salesman who sold them the maintenance contract.
The customer is very unhappy and is insisting that you arrange to have an engineer sent out immediately.
Your behaviour when dealing with this scenario can be measured in terms of three factors: your KSAs -
Is the customer being reasonable in expecting the Customer Services Hotline to respond immediately? It may be that they stipulate a response time of one hour.
Is the customer entitled to have an engineer sent out immediately? This will depend on the service contract they have paid for.
These and other ‘matters of fact’ represent the knowledge that you would be expected to have if you were a salesman in this role.
The main skill required here is in verbal communication.
Can you calm the customer down? Are you able to show empathy with the customer’s problem?
Can you get a full and clear picture of the problem? If the customer is not entitled to an immediate response under the terms of the contract then you may need to show your diplomacy skills when telling them so.
How do resolve the problem? Is there an implication for the organisation? The resolution you propose is appropriate for this customer’s importance to your organisation.
Is there an opportunity to show sales and persuasion skills by trying to sell the customer an upgrade to a support package, which did include an immediate response?
Whether the customer is entitled to an immediate response or not, your attitude to them over the telephone will be a big factor in determining the outcome of this situation.
Are you too deferential? Do you promise things that neither you nor your organisation can deliver?
Is your manner helpful / constructive? Do you offer a solution that meets their business needs and suits their support contract?
Are you unnecessarily antagonistic? Do you stick to the letter of the support contract and offer little help in solving the customer’s problem?
If several salesmen were given the same scenario as an exercise, then it would be much easier for the Assessor to compare their performances against the KSA’s and competencies they have defined as necessary for the role.
The assessors can then use these KSAs to ascertain how each salesman candidate did in terms of displaying the required KSAs. This makes it easier for them to assess each candidate’s performance rather than trying to measure each of their behaviours as a whole.
You may also be interested in:
What is an Assessment Centre?
Who uses the Assessment Centre?
What are the Different Types of Assessment Centre?
What Format Does an Assessment Centre Take?
Who are the Assessors?
What are Assessment Centre Exercises?
What is an In-Tray Exercise?
What is a Presentation Exercise?
What are Group Exercises?
What are Role Play Exercises?