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Better Assessments - Tips and Tricks

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What does your Assess-meant mean?

Does your assessment of an employee check the capability to perform the activities (including cognitive skills like analysis and judgment) or does it test recall of fact (memorization)?

This is the key question I posed in Measure-meant and Assess-meant.

My experience is that most assessments deployed are recall tests, which makes no sense in many cases, because:


  • Most information tested is accessible and available in the workplace for reference when employees would need to apply; there is no need to memorize.
  • The shelf life of most facts in your workplace is becoming shorter and shorter; by the time it is memorized, it may already be out-of-date.

But, let’s face it. Good assessment is tough stuff. Lifting recall questions from content and adding a test at the end of a course is a relatively efficient way to add an assessment that gives a clear score to trigger completion.

But does it provide any measure of an employee’s capability to perform on-the-job?

In most cases, the answer is No.

It might indicate the employee can recall steps of a process, or state facts about it, but in most cases, it doesn’t check if the employee can exercise key judgements or perform the tasks required for their job.

The job of assessment is to understand an employee’s capability to perform their job, whether for formal auditing purpose or for an executive’s understanding of workforce readiness to execute against strategic objectives. Continue reading to learn our 6 tips to obtain better LMS assessments.




Better Assessments Start with Real Work Challenges

So, where do you start? Real work challenges.

There are many places to find them. Business metrics forecast the issues. Executives will be able to tell you their top concerns immediately (and often appreciate being asked). Ask key workforce personnel about challenges. This will give you a good pool of ideas to explore.

I say “explore” because often performance issues can’t be resolved with training. Most people have the knowledge, skills, and resources needed to eat properly, floss regularly, and drive the speed limit. More training on areas like this won’t improve performance; be sure your case is something training can impact.

Once you find a work challenge that training can improve, then research to discover its failure points. Interview, observe, videotape… do whatever is required to get at the key issue.

In rare cases, you can create an assessment based on an experts input on the ideal flow of a process and best practices. Deploy the assessment and measure the specific failure points by non-experts.





Ask Your Employees to Explain their Problems

Once you discover the issue/trends, you can determine how to close the performance gap by collecting samples - actual samples from the field. You want to re-create this challenge for employees to learn.

This is a fairly straightforward process. Once you identify the issue, you ask those in the field to keep an eye out and “when you encounter it, send me the information”. It’s a bit tougher with soft-skills, but in software scenarios where they can capture screens, gathering the information is not difficult.

If the problem you have identified is truly a driver to a key performance issue, you will have many sample cases quickly.





Convert Problem Cases to Assessment Opportunities

Document each step in the scenario and then design assessments for each key decision point and action. You want to create similar challenges to what employees will face at work so they can practice, get feedback, and improve without having to make the mistakes on the job.

It sounds like a tremendous amount of work. And the first time, it is. There are a few challenges to getting it right, and a lot of initial setup. But you learn as you go along, the formula becomes a bit more refined, and your initial setup work starts to act more like a template so you gain economies of scale.

If you are concerned about asking for additional development time or resources to execute this deeper level of assessment, ask a simple question: is the cost of making the mistake “on the floor” more or less costly than what it would take to develop a deep assessment of this type to minimize the mistake from occurring?





Customer Privacy

Many companies differ in their perspective on using actual customer names and information for training purposes. My perspective on the matter is simple: as a customer, if I learned a company used my actual name and other customer data (often they have SSN, credit card data, family information) for training, I would stop being their customer.

It isn’t terribly difficult to remove actual customer names and information in scenarios and use false names. Here is one of my favorite resources to create fake customer accounts.





Deepen the Pool: Identify and Tweak Variables

The most interesting thing about developing good work-based assessments, is that for each key assessment item, you only need one good case.

Let me say that again, you only need ONE GOOD CASE.

During my presentation at the 2011 eLearning Guild Learning Solutions conference last year, I gave my attendees a parting gift. It is a 5 minute video demonstrating a simple spreadsheet trick anyone can learn to take one good assessment question and adapt it for many derivative questions to create deep question pools.





Better Assessment = Better Understanding

The industry has used assessments far too long as a way to put a completion check in a box for a course, record scores, and fulfill audit requirements. Most do not provide stakeholders any insight on employee capability or actionable data to help improve business performance.

Better assessments can provide key data points regarding the work force’s potential to apply specific skills in their job, and what specific points of challenge they may face in execution. If you know what to look for, it is not difficult to construct better assessments and collect this critical data for the stakeholders in your organization.



| Categories: eLearning

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