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Training: Everyone Loves Tests… Right?

A question that I get frequently when it comes to training, is how do we know if our employees got anything out of the training? Shouldn’t there be a test at the end of the training? My response is that it depends on the content of the training.

Tests work great for fact-based information or rule-based expectations presented in a training session. For example, safety training would benefit from an assessment at end of the training. The results of the assessment would give you confidence that not only individuals, but the entire team know the rules in hopes that those rules will be followed to keep everyone safe. Tests could also be effective for security training, whether that’s cyber or physical security. The content is black and white facts.

The other type of training that is most common is skills training, whether that’s soft skills or job skills. Soft skills include communication skills, teamwork, problem solving, time management, etc. In the staffing industry, jobs skills may include recruiting skills, sales skills, management skills, etc. In my opinion, there are better ways than tests to assess application on the job after skills training. 

Before we get to my suggestion to encourage application of skills after training, let’s consider buy-in. Skills training is generally professional development provided to employees. The intention is to provide the opportunity for employees to grow their skills. You want this investment to be viewed positively. For your training to be a positive, growth experience, you need employee buy-in. There are many ways to get employee buy-in, which is a blog on its own, but I can tell you one obvious way not to get buy-in. Telling employees that they will be tested after each training session. Everyone loves tests. Right? No, no one likes tests!

The goal of skills training is for the employee to learn something new, apply it to their job, and ultimately improve the way they do their job.  My suggestion is for the employee to think about these basic questions and share the answers with their manager. “What are 1, 2, or 3+ things that you learned in this training that you plan to apply to your job? How would you do it? When would you do it?” This allows the employee and manager to create a goal based on the employee’s intent to apply what they learned and include it in their weekly/monthly coaching and performance plan.

Applying what you learned and holding yourself accountable to do it will actually lead to increased performance… not a test/assessment after the training session. A test is regurgitation of facts. A test feels like negative management oversight rather than positive development. Incorporating a few basic, thought-provoking questions will create an opportunity for employees and managers to reflect on the job skills, and for the employee to apply what they learned. And above all, you have employee buy-in and a positive skills development experience.

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