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Dear Workforce How Do We Assess Informal Workplace Learning

We are a growing northern community of 70,000. Our major industry is oil sand production. We really have two issues. One, it is difficult to recruit new workers to our community; we are in a remote location and the isolated way of life does not appeal to many people. Two, we don’t want to lose our current employees. They have learned a lot informally on the job, and we want to keep those who are willing to learn new skills for jobs we need filled.
July 29, 2005
Related Topics: Behavioral Training, Dear Workforce
Dear Alone in the Wilderness:

You raise a number of issues that can be very challenging given your location and an increasingly robust job market. These issues include:
  1. Ensuring objectivity and accuracy in your hiring and promotion decisions (selecting the right person for the right job)
  2. Assessing informal learning and experience when determining an internal candidate's readiness and ability to assume a new position
  3. Attracting new qualified workers to a remote community
The first two issues are addressed by establishing a well-defined profile of successful performance in the job or role and by assessing your internal and external candidates against those criteria. This allows you to collect job-related data about the candidate instead of assessing people's skills, knowledge and motivation in a vacuum.
Make sure the profile comprises:
  • Competencies. These are the clusters of behavior, knowledge and skills that are related to job success or failure.
  • Experience (i.e., job challenges or preparatory experiences). Examples include functional knowledge like accounting or information technology; sales experience; carrying an assignment from beginning to end; implementing a major organizational change; developing and implementing a plan to cut costs; negotiating agreements with other organizations; and so on.
  • Motivations. This refers to a person's likes and dislikes pertaining to the job (measured as organizational fit, job fit and location fit). These ensure that you consider the extent to which your company's location, mode of operation, and values and the specific job activities/responsibilities are consistent with the candidate's preferences and factors that provide personal satisfaction.
Using these profiles as your criteria, you will gather pertinent information about candidates and assess their qualifications and readiness for specific positions. Structured behavioral interviews by trained interviewers are an effective, low-cost way to collect and evaluate candidate data and make accurate decisions.
You could also consider combiningbehavioral interviews and tests or simulations. This introduces even more objectivity into the decision process. Use a simple online test to improve predictability and offer a quantitative, rationally constructed evaluation process. But be sure to have the test validated by job-content experts. You can apply appropriate weighting to various aspects of experience and knowledge to help make your hiring/promotion decision.
Appropriate simulations add value in situations where the candidate has not had an opportunity to demonstrate the competencies on the job. They offer a practical, objective measurement of candidates' current skills and potential. In a way, it gives you a glimpse of how a person's informal learning experience may be applied in the targeted job or role.
Now to the third issue. Attracting workers to isolated areas presents a significant hurdle, but it's not one you can't surmount. Advertise the jobcreatively, with an emphasis on the unique and desirable characteristics of your community. More young people today aspire to live outside urban areas, seeking a higher quality of life and lower cost of living. Take advantage of your geography; your location may appeal to people seeking a more serene, quiet lifestyle.
Don't forget about online job boards. These are a great way to cast a wide net to haul in qualified candidates, while at the same time promoting your region as a desirable place to live.
SOURCE: Debra Gaskin Gibson, senior consultant, Selection Solutions Group,Development Dimensions International (DDI), Pittsburgh, September 15, 2004.
LEARN MORE: A Worksheet for Measuring Competencies.
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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