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4 Ways Assessments Help You Make the Most of Limited Training Resources

Wednesday, June 12, 2019
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No one wants the skinniest slice of the budget pie, but if you’re a learning and development or human resources professional, you know who’s getting it. In other words, say goodbye to your training initiatives.

You’ve heard the explanations: The company didn’t grow as projected; the economic downturn means cuts had to be made; ROI wasn’t quantified with past training initiatives; business needs have evolved.

Experienced L&D and HR professionals know that training is not something you throw away. Poorly trained staff produce lower-quality work. Complaints skyrocket. Negative attitudes spread. Customers begin to look elsewhere. Now you’re dealing with something far costlier than training: turnover and lost market share.

While training isn’t expendable, it surely can be adaptable—if you’re willing to consider a leaner methodology by integrating high-quality assessment tools. As training budgets continue to be cut, it is important to use a high-quality assessment to understand how well someone is naturally suited to take on the duties, tasks, and behaviors required to be successful in a job. Aside from their other benefits, assessments can help you target limited training resources with greater precision.

According to the Talent Board, 89 percent of companies are using some form of pre-employment assessment.. The best ones can be used for selection and development. With limited training resources, you can pull double-duty from high-quality assessments as part of your training and employee development process. Here’s how:

1. Assessments are designed for the workplace and measure an individual’s strengths, limitations, and areas of development.

One-size-fits-all training programs are expensive to upkeep, difficult to adapt, time consuming, and deliver only limited results. Additionally, when people feel they are being herded through a process, they are less likely to commit; and those who fall behind quickly get lost in the mad rush to satisfy a mandate.

Assessments, on the other hand, enable you to pinpoint a person’s strengths and motivations and match training assignments accordingly. A new hire who is interested and engaged by meaningful learning opportunities will get up to speed faster and exhibit more self-determination in acquiring knowledge and skills. Meanwhile, identifying people’s shortcomings lets you know what areas to target for reinforcement. Why hammer away at a concept the person already understands and shortchange them elsewhere?

It takes effort to target training this way, but when your employee develops faster and with greater confidence, the resulting productivity offsets the initial investment. Customized attention also shows new hires that you are engaged in their success, which leads to greater loyalty and reduced turnover.

2. Assessments align people with jobs.
When someone’s in the wrong role, no amount of training will turn them into a top performer. To sustain top performance over time, people need to be in jobs that line up with their intrinsic strengths and motivations. Old-fashioned hiring methods provide almost nothing in the way of consistency. Instead of using a data-driven approach, these out-of-date practices rely largely on biased guesswork and the hiring manager’s hunches.

Turnover remains high and training is the easy target for blame, even if the true culprit is the hiring process. With assessments, applicants are aligned to jobs. Putting the right people in the right roles enables you to cut unnecessary training steps then target your efforts. Company-wide, people get up to speed faster and are more engaged.

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3. Assessments identify high-potentials and hidden talent.

Assessments are about replacing guesswork with data. In a training context, they help you decide how to train people. Taken to the next level, assessments help you decide where to target your training resources.

Some employees are comfortable and content in individual contributor roles and perform best there. A smaller number have potential as future leaders. Instead of training everyone as if they are capable of and interested in expanding their responsibilities and working up the ladder, imagine a leaner approach in which an employee’s capacity is quantified. Once you spot high-potential and hidden-potential applicants and staff members, you can allocate your training resources more judiciously.

4. Assessments are versatile and support enterprise-wide talent development.

When it comes to collecting and analyzing talent management data, assessments can serve as the anchor for your in-house metrics because of their objectivity and consistency. Once you have a big enough human-capital data pool, your organization can zoom out and see the big picture. What do we have, talent-wise, in our building? What do our team dynamics look like? Where are our talent gaps?

Access to such information can revolutionize your training approach. You can pinpoint key shortcomings that need to be addressed, and you’ll have data to take to management and say, “Look. This is where we need to devote our resources.”

Tips for Choosing an Assessment

The assessment market is cluttered. When considering the right instrument for your organization, choose carefully, because many assessments don’t serve any real business purpose. Everyone has heard the expression, “You get what you pay for,” and nowhere does this apply more truthfully.

You need an assessment that is consistent, reliable, and built upon a solid data foundation. If it costs $15 and hit the market six months ago, you probably aren’t getting a solid data foundation. Data collection takes time, and reliability testing takes even more time. Your assessment should also be designed for a business context so it can support training and development and not simply a “personality test” for the curious.

Your assessment provider should be able to answer “yes” to these questions:

  • Does the assessment measure work-related behaviors?
  • Is it scientifically validated for job matching?
  • Do you know if it will produce reliable results?
  • Does it limit the possibility of an individual faking the results?
  • Does it comply with state and federal regulations?
  • Does it include cognitive measures (the best predictor of performance across jobs)?
  • Can the assessment data be used for all areas of selection and development?

If your company already uses assessments for selection, you’re ahead of the game. Now it’s a matter of applying all that reporting and data in a training context. Using the ideas presented here, you can re-invent your training programs to cost less and yield a bigger return in productivity and engagement.

About the Author

Trevor J. Shylock, MS, is an industrial/organizational psychology consultant at Caliper, a talent management solutions company, leveraging decades of data and validated assessment results to provide deep insights into employee and candidate potential, predict job performance, and uncover developmental opportunities for the workforce.

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