Development Center for Managers

Management diagnostics are not only suitable for selecting managers in the company, but also as an instrument for personnel development, for identifying strengths and areas for development and for planning development measures. Development centers are structured in a similar way to assessment centers: various instruments (interviews, exercises/simulations, tests and questionnaires) are used to identify participantsstrengths and areas for development.

Particular emphasis is placed on integrating the latest scientific findings and methods to ensure comprehensive and targeted development.

Unlike the selection assessment, however, the final result is not a statement about suitability (or non-suitability) for a particular position or management level. Participants do receive feedback, but the focus of the feedback is on planning individual development.

This process is supported by a detailed analysis of the results and individual advice to ensure that each manager takes the best possible development path.

In a development center, often held in the form of a “personnel development seminar” or “orientation center”, participants are given the opportunity to take an in-depth look at their own skills. They recognize their strengths and areas for development and develop ideas to improve their skills.

This often involves working with the HR development department and/or diagnosticians to create an individual development plan that is tailored to the specific needs and goals of each individual.

Don't have much time to read? Then read this summary:

Development Center are aptitude diagnostic procedures that are located in the middle of the continuum between “selection” (assessment center) and “individual development” (e.g. coaching). They offer a unique combination of assessment and targeted support, with the main focus on developing employees’ skills and personalities. This approach makes it possible to take into account and promote both the individual needs of the participants and the strategic goals of the company.

References from over 35 years of experience

md stellt sich vor
Play Video about md stellt sich vor
Bild von Olaf Ringelband zur Kontaktaufnahme
Dr. Olaf Ringelband, Managing Director md

Management Diagnostik

Our consultancy focuses exclusively on management diagnostics and can draw on benchmark data from over 30,000 executive assessments.

Making the right management staffing decisions. Recognize competencies and potentials of managers. Avoid bad investments due to miscasting.

Definition: Development Center

A Development Center is a management-diagnostic process that focuses on the individual development of participants. It is not just about potential recognize potential and assess competenciesbut above all about potentials to promote and develop them. Particular attention is paid to the promotion of Self-reflection and self-awareness of the participants in order to enable sustainable personal and professional development.

Differences between Assessment Center and Development

Development Center vs Assessment Center

While assessment centers are primarily used to select candidates, the focus of a development center is on identifying and promoting employee potential. The focus here is on developing participants’ skills and personalities. In the practical application of assessment centers, it becomes clear that they are not exclusively focused on selection, but also integrate development aspects.

In assessment center practice, there is no strict separation between “selection” and “development”; diagnostic procedures are generally located on a continuum between the two poles. This is reflected in the variety of methods used and the flexibility of implementation.

Selection versus development

Even supposedly pure selection assessments always include aspects of development. md’s management assessment and executive assessments often focus on suitability and fit for a specific position; the candidates are often external applicants who have been approached by recruitment consultants (“headhunters”). The client (i.e. the hiring company) essentially wants to know from us consultants whether the candidates “fit” or not – so it’s first and foremost about selection.

Development tips in the Executive Assessment

But even in these “tough” selection assessments, participants always receive feedback with tips for personal development. In the written results report of the individual assessment that participants usually receive, specific development tips are also mentioned. This feedback is essential in order to provide participants with a prospects for their personal and professional development. for their personal and professional development.

Assessment center vs development center
Comparison assessment center/development center

Selection in the Development Center

Conversely, development centers are not free from selection aspects. Not necessarily because there is a “hidden agenda” (I know of examples where managers are sent to a “development center”, but the hidden objective is to achieve a Staffing decision to meet), but also because the result of a development center is definitely the Development recommendation can be a Bearer of potential to another position so that he (or she) can gain new experience there – this is usually a Promotion.

Motivation of participants in the Development Center

In the assessment center, the motivation of the participants is clear: to achieve the best possible result, because “passing” an assessment center is often the prerequisite for a career move. In development centers, participants usually have mixed motivations: on the one hand, they naturally want to receive the most positive feedback possible, but on the other hand, all managers and talents are also interested in honest and objective feedback on their strengths and development potential.

Development Center versus coaching/personal development seminar

The distinction between a development center and coaching (or a self-awareness-oriented personnel development seminar) is similarly blurred. The participant also receives feedback during coaching – from the coach or trainer. In both cases, the aim is the individual development of the coachee/participant – through feedback and the promotion of self-reflection, but also through the joint creation of development plans and measures.

Development center vs Coaching
Comparison of development center/coaching or personnel development seminar

Objective of the Development Center

The main difference between coaching and development centers lies in the definition of development goals. In coaching, the coachee sets their own goals, which are not necessarily based on the competency models and the requirements of the company must be oriented.

In a development center, on the other hand, the goals are often aligned with the skills and requirements specified by the company. This focus ensures that the development of participants is in line with the company’s objectives.

Self-reflection of development centers

An important aspect of development centers is the promotion of self-reflection. This enables participants to develop a deeper understanding of how they see themselves and others, to clearly recognize their strengths and areas for development and to define the resulting learning areas. This intensive self-reflection not only supports the development of individual development plans, but also promotes a better understanding of one’s own career options.

Diagnostic procedures

Another difference is that the coach uses the interview with the coachee as the only “diagnostic tool” (there are also coaches who use psychometric procedures to promote self-reflection, but this is the exception), while classic AC exercises(role play, psychometric procedures) are also used in the development AC. Especially if the participants are talented individuals with little management experience, it is advisable to use simulative and psychometric methods in development centers.

Competence models in the Development Center

Another difference is that feedback in the Development Center is often competence-based, i.e. based on the requirements defined by the company for managers, whereas the standards and direction of further development in coaching are determined exclusively by the coachee/manager themselves. This means that in development centers, the feedback is based on the skills and behaviors that the company wants from managers, while in coaching, the areas of development are defined jointly by the coach and the coachee.

Personnel development in the area of conflict between personnel selection and development

The distinction between “assessment center” and “development center” is more of a theoretical nature, because as described above, good assessment centers always have facets of personnel development. Development centers, on the other hand, often have aspects of coaching and personal development.

Comparison Assessment Center - Development Center - Coaching

Practical example: Development Center process

The commissioning company was undergoing a process of cultural change: it wanted to transform itself from a highly hierarchical organization divided into specialist departments into a lean organization in which responsibility is delegated, improvements are initiated across departments, criticism is expressed openly, processes are aligned with the customer and success is made measurable.

Such a transformation requires different leadership skills from managers – in the Development Center, top management should be given the opportunity to identify areas of development for themselves and create corresponding development plans.

Development Center process

Development Center Ablauf in der grafischen Darstellung


In the run-up to the DC, the participants completed various psychometric procedures (personality questionnaire, cognitive performance tests, motivation questionnaire). They were also asked to prepare a short presentation in which they were asked to present ideas on how they could promote the desired new culture and what they wanted to focus on.

Ablauf Development Center

Contents of the Development Center

The DC Development Center, which focuses on carrying out specific tasks and exercises, used a variety of methods, including employee interviews, management case studies, presentation exercises and structured interviews.

These methods were designed to assess the participants in different scenarios and at the same time enable intensive self-reflection and feedback.


The Development Center was conducted with two consultants from md, each with a single manager. The DC started with the presentation prepared by the participant. Based on this presentation, a spontaneously developed role play then took place, the content of which resulted from the situation presented by the participant (e.g. conflict discussion with a critical employee who does not think much of the planned changes).

The Development Center concluded with a detailed biographical interview or structured interview.

Conclusion and follow-up

Two to three weeks after the DC, a development meeting is held with one of the consultants. This is where the results of the tests and questionnaires are reported back, as well as the consultants’ assessment. The participant receives a rough version of the results report and can make changes before the report is officially sent to the company.
The supervisor is present at the feedback meeting and supplements the consultant’s feedback if necessary.

Based on the feedback, the participants then write their own development plan (see below), which they agree with their line manager.

Development plan as part of a development center

Development Center Managers

The professional process
between selection and development.


Development Centers are proving to be a central instrument in modern HR work. They offer a unique combination of diagnostic assessment and personal development, making them a valuable addition to traditional assessment centers and coaching methods.

In practical application, the boundaries between selection (assessment center), development (development center) and individual support (coaching) become blurred, as these elements cannot be viewed in isolation, but are rather located on a continuum.

This continuum adapts flexibly to the specific requirements and individual needs of the participants, which underlines the versatility and effectiveness of these methods. Overall, development centers are therefore an indispensable tool for promoting and developing the potential of managers and employees in a targeted manner.

FAQ - Frequently asked questions

How does a Development Center work?

A development center begins with preparation through psychometric tests. During the program, participants work on various exercises and case studies to demonstrate their skills. Finally, they receive individual feedback and develop a personal development plan.

What is the difference between an assessment center and a development center?

The main purpose of an assessment center is to evaluate and select candidates for specific positions. A development center, on the other hand, focuses on identifying and developing participants’ potential for personal and professional development.