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L&D in the Age of AI: Six ways assessments help make L&D future-proofed

26 Oct 2023

How do you make learning and development future-proofed, or at least future-resistant?

With the AI revolution and other changes, adjustments that used to take decades can happen in months. This gives a twofold challenge to L&D. On the one hand, the skills and knowledge the workforce needs are changing quickly. On the other hand, AI brings innovation in how we create and deliver training. AI is already used to summarize material and create questions and learning content, and much more is on the horizon.

How should a L&D or training team react? It’s probably wise to follow the aphorism “The best preparation for the future is a well-spent today.” (attributed to past US president Eisenhower).

Here are six ways to help the future for your L&D program and your organization by using assessments (tests, exams and quizzes) to future-proof learning and development.

Learning and development L&D AI

1. Use assessments to support micro-learning or micro-credentialing

A large, monolithic learning course is time-consuming to adjust, and it’s typically not future-proofed.

A series of micro-learning or modular chunks of learning, however, is inherently more future-facing. Whereas some chunks may go out of date, some will stay, and it’s easier to update modules and short sections than to update a long course. Micro-learning can also be accessed at the point or time of need, which is likely more business valuable. 
Assessments are critical to micro-learning in order to work out what people already know or can do and where to go next. They can also support recognition of achievement with “micro” credentials like digital badges.

A good approach in the face of an uncertain future is to break down learning into individual reusable and updateable chunks and use assessments to direct learners to the right parts.

2. Use assessments to help support digital literacy, data literacy, critical thinking and other soft skills

For many organizations, improving the digital literacy of its workforce is critical to allow future innovation. For almost all organizations, given the huge increase in available data, it’s crucial to improve workforce data literacy, i.e. people’s ability to understand, work and communicate with data. And in a world where AI produces mostly good but some hallucinatory information, critical thinking is becoming key. 

Any organization that wants to thrive in the future needs its workforce to be digitally literate, data literate, and able to think critically. Assessments are the way to measure these and similar capabilities to understand progress and direct training and other interventions. 

We see in our customer base both testing of individuals in these soft skills but also anonymous testing of teams or the entire workforce. The advantage of testing teams without identifying individuals is that the response rate can be higher, there is no incentive to cheat, works councils are more content, and you still get the trend information on capability.

3. Use assessments to measure the effectiveness of learning

A key part of future-proofing is having good systems and processes in L&D so that whatever is needed to communicate and teach can be learned effectively.

Whatever learning interventions you do, now and in the future, you need to measure effectiveness. An ineffective L&D department is not valuable. An effective one still needs to train the right skills but has the opportunity to be valuable to the organization.

In recent years, there has been increasing understanding that learners are often not a good judge of how much they have learned, and so you need to be careful relying too much on post-learning employee surveys (aka “smile sheets” or “level 1s”). However, these still have a role to play. Also very valuable are knowledge tests after learning to measure understanding, as are behavior assessments, for example, by peers, managers, or by observation, sometime after learning to track long-term change after learning. 

Having a robust and effective way to measure L&D effectiveness is critical for any L&D department. Two good books in this space are Will Thalheimer’s “Performance Focused Learner Surveys” and James and Wendy Kirkpatrick’s “Four Levels of Training Evaluation”.

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4. Use assessments to support onboarding

Another area where the system and processes can be as important as the content is onboarding. Employee turnover rates are unlikely to reduce, so it’s a critical capability for organizations to have an onboarding process that works out what new employees know, fills them in on what they don’t, and can assess them to confirm they have the right knowledge and skills as they get into operational effectiveness. This is a very common use case for Questionmark customers.

5. Use assessments to support certification programs

Certification programs are a rare win/win for employers and employees. Employees love getting certifications as they like to have their skills and achievements recognized and feel that it will help them advance their careers. For organizations, having certified employees increases talent retention and productivity. 

A recent IDC report on the value of certifications commissioned by the ITCC has lots of evidence for the value of certifications in the IT sector, and this quote from a company manager stands out: “Employees with certification generally stay longer. They perform better, have more subject-matter expertise, and are more satisfied employees.” 

It’s worth encouraging employees to follow external certifications in their area of expertise but also for larger or more specialized organizations to set up their own internal certification programs. Encouraging certifications in areas that the organization needs in the future encourages employees to build skills in those areas, helps retain important employees, and better allows you to build for the future.

6. Use assessments to encourage a culture of learning

One of the few things we know about the future is that it will be different from today. There will be new technologies and skills to learn. The key to an organization’s success is unlikely to be specific skills known now but the ability of its workforce to be able to learn and adapt in the future. So, getting your organization to adopt a culture of learning may be the most future-proof thing you can do.

Good learning has assessment integrated within it. This process of building a continuous learning culture is powerful in helping people retain learning, to help direct them to new learning, and to demonstrate achievement of learning.

Of course, there are lots of other use cases for assessment. Tests to ensure regulatory compliance, to diagnose needs, to test out of training, and many more. But the above are six key areas where leading L&D teams can and do use assessments to help future-proof themselves and their organizations.

Please forgive us for ending in a sales pitch, but it also helps to have the right technology systems in place! Questionmark assessment software is widely used by forward-thinking organizations to help assess their workforce. Questionmark software works both standalone in and in a frictionless way with LMSs like Workday Learning, SAP SuccessFactors, Meridian, Cornerstone OnDemand, and many others.

We hope this article helps you plan for the future, and make the L&D department of your organization the key lever to help your organization innovate and thrive. As a last-century futurist (Eric Hoffer) said: “In a time of drastic change, it is the learners who inherit the future.”

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