We provide clients who run assessment and development centres with a wide range of expertise. This includes designing interactive scenarios to test competence and advising on calibration to ensure equality of opportunity. We also provide exemplar films to illustrate what competencies look like in practice to assist in the consistency of marking.
We supply actors who fit very detailed briefs by using our database of over 1600 who have been specifically trained to play roles opposite candidates. We are often casting 50 actors a day for professional exams that require actors to play characters at the same level of challenge for each new candidate. Interact actors are also trained to give feedback and mark behaviour and communication skill levels.
The challenge for British Gas was in just 16 weeks to test over 6000 staff in a range of behavioural assessments which tested customer service and people management skills. The examinations needed to be conducted face-to-face and over the phone at eight examination centres across the UK.
As the largest supplier expertly trained actors for assessment, Interact was able to not only meet the requirement but to also advise British Gas on how to best carry out the assessments, what to assess, and at what level to score candidates on specific behavioural nuances.
Interact worked in partnership with British Gas examiners to design over 20 assessment interventions which tested candidates against a range of organisational competencies. Both examiners and the Interact delivery team, comprising 60 actors, undertook ten days of rehearsals, briefings and behavioural calibration to ensure all were consistent in assessment marking, thus creating a level playing field for all British Gas candidates.
The 6000 customer service and people management assessments were delivered across eight sites around Britain. Not only did the Interact actors effectively portray a range of British Gas customers and staff, but at the end of each assessment they delivered expert feedback and guidance to British Gas examiners in order to finalise scores for each candidate.
British Gas was so impressed by the level of expertise demonstrated by Interact that the company was contracted for post-programme consultancy, specifically advising on which areas of communication and behaviour British Gas should be focusing in order to develop its workforce. Additionally, Interact designed and delivered a customer service skills programme specifically focused on improving the telephone skills for British Gas employees.
Interact was later commissioned to provide a call centre telephone skills course for effective communication.
College of Optometrists
As part of the College of Optometrists’ OSCEs (Objective Structured Clinical Examination), trainee candidates, seeking registration with the college, are assessed in a range of skills including history taking, data interpretation, communication, clinical examination and practical skills. As part of the OSCEs, since 2010, Interact has been providing a pool of actors who play the roles of patients, as defined in each of the exam’s 16 briefs. Each brief requires specific actor casting in order for candidates to tested under as-real- as-possible conditions.
Working closely with the College of Optometrists, Interact has a diverse pool of over 200 expertly-trained, actors who are able to meet the specific requirements of the briefs. For instance, one brief will require a teenage actress to play a 16-year old female who refuses to accept she needs to wear spectacles, whilst another has need of an older actor to play a disgruntled pensioner who has the onset of cataracts. Interact ensures that for each brief there be multiple actors able to play the part, thus ensuring continuity of service should an actor be ill.
Whilst the pool of actors are highly trained to ensure consistency of performance in terms of demonstrated emotional behaviour, they are required to flex their communication with each candidate in order provide a realistic interaction. For each of the assessment centres, Interact provides each day an experienced senior facilitator who is there to ensure standardisation of actor performance, logistical support and expert consultancy to College of Optometrist examiners.
Interact has held the contract since 2010. The College of Optometrists as commended Interact for its rigorous actor-training processes, attention to detail in terms of brief scrutinisation and review, the casting of realistic simulated patients, and the quality of account management.
Royal College of General Practitioners
The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) required the supply of 45 actors per day for its Clinical Skills Assessment exam. Candidates’ diagnostic, examination and communication skills are tested in simulated patient encounters. Three circuits of assessments run simultaneously with 13 briefs each being played by a set of three actors.
There are 500 patient briefs in total. The range of scenarios used in the assessment centres cover every patient interaction that a general practitioner is likely to have with patients – from being presented with symptoms of a common cold to being able to recognise signs of serious disease.
Interact was instrumental in creating many of the role player briefs. As part of the design for the exam, a selection of Interact role players were invited to improvise various scenarios in order to assist the RCGP writers who created the briefs.
To ensure the standardisation of the assessment, actors take part in a calibration exercise at the beginning of each exam day to ensure that cases are played in the same manner and at the same ‘emotional’ level by each actor.
Interact has also filmed a number of the briefs. These films were integral to the training of the assessors. They were used to explore the behaviours being displayed, and messages given, by the actors in order to determine what a good candidate response should be to each scenario.
Interact has successfully held this contract for 10 years and continues to deliver the service to the RCGP.
Interact has also worked with the College, NHS Improvement and NHS England to create dramas that tell Carers stories. Interact presented a road-show event that toured the UK in order to highlight the importance of Carers and to bring to light their emotional well-being and health needs.