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Suzana Lopes

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Ten ways to better assessment


As part of's August theme of HR vs training, here are 10 great tips for professionals on how to get the most from testing your workforce, as chosen by industry expert Suzana Lopes.

In the old days, HR professionals would place plenty of emphasis on training their staff, but relatively little on testing them afterwards. In the past, questionnaires, a show of hands or other elements of training programmes were soon all forgotten.

In these more enlightened, post-recessionary times, it behoves all of us in the business of personnel development to think and work smarter. Assessment is one of the most powerful tools at our disposal, and here are 10 ways to get the best of it:

  1. Minimise risk. Business strategies are becoming ever more ultra-low risk. Every member of your staff is to some extent the guardian of your organisation's brand or reputation, and must therefore be able to demonstrate the skills required in order to protect it. A human error in anything from manufacturing to customer service can not only threaten your reputation, but can also lead to legal action or worse. Certification of job roles to a standardised level would clearly offer peace of mind by ensuring a far lesser likelihood of such an outcome.

  2. Increase staff retention. Contrary to popular belief, if you support your staff with clear, meaningful career progression including helping them gain recognisable qualifications, they are less likely to jump ship with their new-found skills. Research has proved that they will feel more empowered, valued, motivated and, in turn, will become more loyal to your organisation.

  3. Hire better. Professional pre-employment and aptitude testing at the selection stage of the hiring process will help find the right person for the job. Selection assessment can ease the workloads of HR departments by giving them the necessary understanding of candidates' professional competences, even in niche and specialist skill positions. Furthermore, in a growing assessment culture, the selection process will also be eased by industry-recognised job-specific qualifications and certifications listed on candidates' CVs.

  4. Identify management potential. Once the right person is in the right job, continuous assessment can help you pinpoint individual areas of strength, assess potential for leadership and management roles and then make sure their career with you goes in the right direction.

  5. Push the pace of industry evolution. A good example is the IT industry. IT companies know that their future depends on continuous improvement and rapid evolution, both in terms of technology and the skills and competencies of the people working with it. As a result they place the highest emphasis on encouraging IT professionals to take the course, sit the exam and gain the qualification at the same rate as new technology is released onto the market.

  6. Gain competitive advantage. If your people are all certified to a certain level and your competitors' are not, you can be confident of having the edge. The skills and abilities of your workforce are proven and your credibility will be unassailable in the eyes of customers and suppliers alike.

  7. Test behaviours, not just knowledge. Tests now exist that can distinguish not just what people know, but also how they behave. These are already popular for use in the hiring process to identify types of people by the general behaviours they fit, but these tests can also be utilised to prove how behaviours and competencies have changed over time or as a result of training.

  8. Prove ROI on training. If a workforce is required by its employer to undergo training, yet does not sit a test or receive a meaningful qualification or certificate for it, then how does that employer validate this training was effective? In a business world where accountability is ever more in demand, HR departments need to demonstrate some more tangible return on investment – and recognised, measurable qualifications are the best way.

  9. Stay ahead of regulations. As our society becomes ever more litigious, more and more business sectors are bound by government-enforced regulation. Already in the US, even estate agents and beauticians must by law hold the correct qualification before they can practice - and the UK is heading in the same direction. It seems only a matter of time before anyone from hairdressers to car salesmen becomes required to be qualified, all in the name of protecting the consumer. But this is not a bad thing – it will create a fairer marketplace, with less likelihood of honest businesses being undermined by unscrupulous competitors.

  10. Make the move to Computer-Based Testing (CBT). If you are serious about assessing your people for all the reasons above, the modern way to do it is electronically. Technology exists to make exams available for candidates to sit whenever convenient for them – with more frequent 'testing windows' – without the risk of exam content being exposed to risk of cheating. CBT is logistically less complex than distributing, supervising and collecting test papers; plus it offers better security of test content, test centres, test-takers and their private data. It can also offer more valid, relevant and robust testing, as ever-more-sophisticated psychometric models are available. It is possible to use established processes for standard setting and equating, plus automated scoring, thereby reducing the inconsistencies caused by individual judgement or human error.

Suzana Lopes is VP sales and marketing EMEA of Pearson VUE


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