The role and value of assessments in L&D programs

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John Kleeman looks at the benefits of workplace assessments and the impact of new technology

Hybrid working models are rising in prominence, with new technologies for collaboration and engagement being implemented across most industries in the UK and globally. Many companies have taken a more proactive approach to enhanced focus on learning and development (L&D) programs, fuelled by a global climate of skills shortages and employee churn.

As we head into 2024, businesses must help their employees develop professionally by prioritising learning and development opportunities t o help their business thrive with all the rapid changes happening to gain skills.

The benefits of assessments in the workplace

First and foremost, assessments are essential to measuring training effectiveness and setting businesses up for successful L&D outcomes, with benchmarks of progress.

L&D certification also offer a valuable ‘win, win’ for employers and employee. Employees have their skills and achievements recognised and organisations increase their chances of talent retention and productivity .

One the most beneficial elements which employers can take from L&D/assessment is the ability to tailor learning to address fundamental knowledge and skills gaps, removing assumptions and providing priceless insights that can allow for actionable ‘next steps’ to incorporate into training processes.

Why you need more than a Learning Management System

An LMS (Learning Management System) acts as a centralised repository for learning resources, making it easy for employees to continue learning and access various training materials, courses, and content in one location. An LMS is the best tool for delivering relevant training and learning to keep the workforce compliant, competent, and competitive.

However, while many LMSs have some assessment features included, they’re often unable to deliver the depth of reporting and the range of assessment formats needed to move the needle.

Increasing test equity

Integrating emerging technologies into L&D processes represents an opportunity to enhance equity of assessment by removing traditional constraints such as the translation of questions for non-native speakers in real time.

There are tools available for fully translating a question or simply double-checking a test-taker’s understanding of a particular word or phrase, which is particularly helpful for those taking a test in their non-native language.

This kind of technology can be amazingly beneficial for those people with reading difficulties, non-native speakers or those who have low confidence with written exams, who can be at a notable disadvantage – especially for tests that influence a person’s future.

Through integrating emerging technologies into test design, organisations can enhance equity and accessibility by removing barriers which may traditionally prevent a capable and competent individual from proving knowledge.

Data-driven insights empower organisations to build assessments with equity, fairness and inclusivity at their core and, in turn, improve training quality and drive innovation. Accessing the right data can shed light on overlooked biases, uncover actions to correct the issues, and provide equal access to opportunity regarding promotions, retention and engagement rates.

Impact of emerging technology

The assessment landscape has changed forever with the mass adoption of AI technology however, which is an opportunity more than a threat.

From a security point of view, there is clear and obvious potential for test fraud with tools like ChatGPT making it extremely easy to produce passable answers. As with any new technology, people will look for, and indeed find, ways to ‘game’ the system.

However, AI tools offer way more options, such as tools used in the creation of exam questions and is supporting a huge boost in productivity for assessment authors, making the creation of question banks up to ten times faster. Taking a task which would historically take hours to a matter of minutes, with no loss of quality.

This is where emerging tech can, we will, see the biggest impact – productivity.

The best practices to achieve L&D goals

Assessments are the closest thing L&D professionals have to a crystal ball, highlighting competency, where more training may be needed and allowing employees to ‘prove knowledge’ —a critical part of skills retention.

To get the most out of assessments employers must:

  • Test above knowledge: most jobs involve more than just knowing things; you should also be testing on application, understanding, and evaluation. Questions that ask for facts are easy to write but not representative of job performance.
  • Consider the pass mark/cut score of an assessment (whether people pass or fail) based on the complexity of the questions and the competence needed. Many organisations set a fixed pass mark of 70%, but that doesn’t make sense unless you know how hard the questions are—there are various excellent and easy techniques to do this reasonably.
  • Consider the needs of minority test takers. Ensure that your test-taking experience is accessible. Work out what to do about people whose primary language is not English. Ensure your questions are well-reviewed and do not have cultural, geographical or other biases.

The right assessment practices can enhance learning outcomes, improve efficiency, and provide reliable and timely results. It is important to have a robust infrastructure, data protection and ethical considerations to ensure a trustworthy and inclusive assessment environment.

As we move into the future of e-assessment, the potential of artificial intelligence and machine learning will enhance assessment practices and play a central role in continuous learning and professional development, enabling individuals to showcase their skills and knowledge throughout employee careers.

John Kleeman is EVP of Learnosity & Founder of Questionmark

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