What is in-basket training?

HR Professionals are looking for flexible and adaptive leaders in today's more complex and ever-changing company environment. This is a difficulty for modern leaders since they are sometimes forced to move between seemingly incompatible skill sets in addition to the increased responsibilities and external pressures they encounter. For example, they are continually bombarded with infinite quantities of information and must decide which demands their immediate attention and which does not; nevertheless, they must also exercise good judgement and make excellent decisions, which necessitates a more careful and systematic approach.

Choosing and developing leaders with these often contradictory attributes is not straightforward; thus, we question what tools are accessible to HR Professionals to aid in this area. The in-basket exercise is a widespread technique in recruitment and development. It assesses an individual's adaptive thinking, judgement, problem-solving abilities, planning and organizing skills, decision-making, and prioritization abilities when the individual is under pressure.

Employees used to have in-basket trays on their workstations where others would leave memos, messages, or jobs that needed their attention before the digital age. It emulated a manager's day in the office. The purpose of the assessment was to examine the assessed individual's capacity to execute tasks, solve issues, and prioritize.

In business or government lingo, an in-basket method, also known as an in-basket exercise, represents the hiring or promotion of personnel within an organization. This technique works by keeping worries or issues in an in-basket and requiring employees to become acquainted with these issues or concerns in their work environment.

Employees must investigate the concerns placed in the in-basket, including gathering comments from other employees and talking with them. Employees will move these complaints or references to the "out-basket" once resolved.

Procedure for in-basket training:

In the in-basket approach, the trainee is given specific specifics about the activities that must be completed, such as a description, duties, and so on. Now, the trainee will be given a log of items that constitute an in-basket, and they will be given a time window to reply to the specific log of materials.

The trainer has a discussion meeting with the trainees after finishing the in-basket. The trainees must present reasoning for their judgments, and the trainer will provide appropriate feedback to the trainees after hearing the justifications.

As a result, the trainees will be given various in-baskets with a particular ordered information collection. To make better judgments, the trainees must interact with one another.

What is the purpose of an in-basket exercise?

The in-basket exercise assesses administrative abilities necessary for effective performance in supervisory and management positions.

The in-basket is a behaviorally based activity that is standardized. Multiple trained raters analyze and grade applicants based on performance characteristics relevant to the in-basket exercise. Following the completion of the in-basket exercise by each applicant, a panel of experienced raters conducts a question and answer session with the prospect to evaluate performance on the activity using a set of predetermined rating scales based on job-related abilities (e.g., planning and evaluating, problem-solving and decision making, etc.). The in-basket exercise results in each applicant receiving a composite score from numerous raters based on established criteria.

The in-basket exercise is intended to assess the candidate's adaptive thinking, problem analysis, judgement, administrative abilities, planning, organizing, delegating, and integrative skills while dealing with memos, emails, requests, messages, handwritten notes, and so on while under pressure.

Advantages and disadvantages

In-basket activities have several advantages when employed in the selection or development processes.

  • For starters, they are intended to imitate real-world scenarios by providing participants with frequent ill-defined difficulties and circumstances that managers confront. According to research, participants quickly connect with their fake position and feel deeply absorbed and engaged in the experience. At the same time, the simulation is broad enough to apply to a wide range of sectors and job kinds.

  • Second, the in-basket exercise gives extensive behavioural data and insight into various talents or skills. Consequently, an organization's competence model may be established equivalencies, notably in problem-solving and judgement abilities, management and execution, and interpersonal competencies.

  • Finally, in-basket activities may be utilized to discover and develop future managers. When used for development, the exercise's outcomes may be easily leveraged to offer participants with the objective and development-focused feedback. Trained assessors may identify behavioural themes and patterns, investigate how this behaviour manifests in their current work, explain its influence and effectiveness, and identify pertinent developmental objectives.

The in-basket activity has certain limitations as an assessment tool.

  • Although it is good at imitating real-world situations, no evaluation tool can completely replicate reality. For example, most in-basket activities require participants to acquire information via email; thus, other forms of regular communication, such as casual discussions or body language, are not permitted.

  • Furthermore, many real-world problems take months or years to address, but in-basket activities urge participants to solve problems on the spot.

Some In-Basket Exercise Examples

Management is looking for an administrative professional to help them. They construct an in-basket task that includes revising written letters, filling out a purchase request, and completing a trip voucher. An in-basket exercise consisting of preparing a press release, responding to a reporter's written queries, and offering comments on a sample brochure meant for the general public may be part of the recruiting process for a public information officer post.