4 Components of Delivering a Successful Development Center
4 Components of Delivering a Successful Development Center

Designing an immersive and insightful development center experience that delivers your target learning outcomes and engages participants.


There are many different types of development center – from those aimed at senior business leaders to those targeted towards early career apprentices – designed to address different strategic purposes across a wide range of industries. Whatever the target outcome, our experience has shown that pairing a robust, objective approach with an immersive, reflective and engaging experience brings out the best in the participants – which in turn helps the organization to thrive too.

Well-designed development centers encourage participant self-insight to explore current performance, future potential and development gaps, and should by their nature deliver a positive impact. A key instrument in the talent management toolbox for group-wide career and personal development, development centers are typically a one- or two-day event with a mix of observed and assessed group and individual exercises, where participants are actively involved in the assessment of their own behavior as part of their professional development.  

Development centers present a key touch point between a qualified agent of change i.e. an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist (or Occupational Psychologist), and the individual. To ignite real change and learning, and to enable the participant to thrive in the workplace, they use multiple sources of clear, impartial feedback from a range of relevant assessments and simulations, combined with professional facilitation in a safe environment.



Our top 4 components for delivering a successful development center:

1. Create a positive climate – the delegates should enjoy themselves. This doesn’t mean that all moments of the development center have to be rip-roaring fun, but the experience as a whole should be inspiring, motivational and insightful. SHL was recently challenged by a client to create a development center for apprentices starting out on their journey into the world of work, and so it was vitally important they had a positive experience. We incorporated specific design elements, built around the concept of ‘thriving at work’ by providing the experience of learning through group exercises to help with learning new skills, and by adding in fun energizers and non-assessed exercises to create the kind of atmosphere the client desired.

2. Combine robust, objective assessments with individual feedback – measuring behavioral preferences, cognitive ability and motivation using an objective approach against clearly defined competencies is a must for any development work. Measures of where the participant is now, and where they could be, must be based on something other than subjective opinion. The participants should receive feedback on their results and have the opportunity to question and explore these in a facilitated feedback session. Ideally, the feedback session should happen before the live exercises to provide individuals with a lens to understand why they prefer to behave as they do and to allow them to consider trying alternative approaches. Continual improvement, self-reflection, and learning on the part of the individual participant is the overall aim here.

3. Establish trust and respect – Development centers can provide a safe space where participants can experiment with new styles and strategies, make mistakes, and try again – so trust and respect are pre-requisites for a successful development center where the participant thrives. SHL consultants follow a professional code of conduct and are fully trained to ensure ratings of behaviors are objective, non-biased and standardized. Participants feel they are in safe hands as debriefing and feedback are implemented fully and with great care and sensitivity.  Clear ground rules should be established up front so that participants know that they are operating in a safe, professional environment geared towards their personal development.

4. Design an immersive experience – an essential component of the learning experience is to capture the brand, mission, and goals of the organization e.g. by offering the opportunity to practice, reflect and gain feedback as part of a ‘day in the life of’. SHL assessors use a variety of methods to encourage reflection and experimentation including using actors for role play, forum theatre where participants engage with actors and have the power to stop and change the performance, or by using mid-way breaks and reflective exercises to explore alternative styles that participants could use.

Apply our top 4 components on your next development center engagement to maximize participant learning and enable them to thrive via positivity and self-insight gained through objective assessment and safe exploration. Your participants will be better equipped to build their self-awareness of current strengths and development needs and to know what they need to do to achieve their career objectives – and help their organizations perform.

To find out more about ensuring your development centers are providing the positive and safe yet immersive and robust experiences that your participants can really learn from, get in touch with our team.


Helen Farrell

Helen Farrell

Helen Farrell is a Senior Consultant in the UK & Ireland Professional Services Team at SHL. Helen has a decade of extensive experience working in the talent assessment industry with a proven track record for delivering creative, custom solutions across a range of industries. Helen’s work with SHL has involved her managing and delivering on all aspects of a variety of assessment and development consultancy assignments, delivering training and undertaking executive assessment across a range of industries and job levels.
This article is reposted from SHL's Blog. Evalion Operates as SHL Enterprise Reseller.