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Dear Workforce How Can We Make Sure Skill Assessments Are Used To Address HR Training Issues

We're developing a program to identify employees' baselines of knowledge and skills related to new technologies. Our client--a large mutual insurance/financial-services company with more than 35,000 employees--shies away from using skill assessments out of fear they will be cause for action in employee disputes. How can we ensure that the skill assessments are used to address HR training issues?
September 7, 2011
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Dear Worrywart:

Let's look at steps you can take to decrease your client's concerns and to make employees more comfortable with the assessments.

Use the supervisor to communicate a believable message. Begin with communication about the assessments. Research indicates that communication from supervisor to employee is the most effective channel. The first step is to brief supervisors, outlining the process, benefits, and how the organization will use the results of the assessments. Then, provide supervisors with briefing cards they can use with their direct reports.

Explain confidentiality. Be clear about what you're promising (anonymity, confidentiality) and the steps you're taking to deliver on your promise. Conduct a quick check with supervisors to be sure that they understand what you are promising employees. You don't want to confuse confidentiality of individual responses with using aggregated information to drive improvements.

Communicate results of assessments. Let people know how assessment results will be used to modify future training. A simple chart that pairs specific training options with different assessment results can clarify the value of the assessments and help employees understand how they will benefit.

Make it easy for employees to complete the assessment. Evaluations make people anxious. Provide adequate notice, and allow enough time to complete the assessments in a private area, away from co-workers and supervisors. These steps decrease anxiety and help you get a truer reading of knowledge and skills.

Don't keep secrets. Once the assessments have been completed, brief supervisors so that they can communicate the aggregated results. You can increase support for the process by closing the loop with employees and providing details on the next steps.

Protect confidentiality. The final step for ensuring that the data is used appropriately for workforce training issues is protecting the confidentiality of individual-level data. Protect confidentiality by conducting assessments in privacy, without management being present. Don't attach employee names or identifying information to assessment data. Keep attendance and follow-up data physically separated from assessment data. When you don't have names or IDs linked to the assessment data, it's impossible to violate the promise of confidentiality. Decrease concerns and the likelihood of people "guessing" about individual responses by reporting aggregated data for groups of 10 or more.

In the long run, effective assessments will improve the effectiveness of technology training. In turn, this will improve the return on your technology investment. Taking the steps above will keep employees involved as willing partners in the processes.

SOURCE: Jeffrey M. Anderson, Ph.D., director of consulting, AchieveGlobal, Tampa, Florida, May 6, 2003.

LEARN MORE:Using Assessment Tools for Better Hiring.

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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 The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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