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L&D: Why Assume When You Can Assess?

14 Sep 2022

The benefit of assessments to your L&D program

Assumption is often a dangerous thing; all too easy to do and often detrimental to base your decisions on.

Because—in the same way you can’t assume people won’t cheat on a test because you’ve got the latest tech, or that an email sent with high importance will be opened any sooner than average—nor can you assume that rolling out staff training will have the desired results.  

You see, the crunch with training is that unless you’re complementing it with assessments, you’re simply plowing ahead on a preset plan, blissfully under the assumption that everyone is up to speed and that the training is well worth the money spent.  

Alas, like the disappointment of your high-importance email being ignored until you chase on the phone, so too are L&D leaders often disappointed with training efforts that provide much less ROI than they could have expected.  

So what are the benefits of assessments for L&D training programs and can they really solve the corporate challenges that business leaders so often face?

L&D: the power and pitfalls of training programs

Before we write a love song for assessments (something totally deserved by the way,) let’s consider their counterpart; training programs.

L&D has experienced an explosion in recent years and even more so in a global climate of skills shortages and employee churn. For example, it was reported recently in the LinkedIn 2022 Workplace Learning Report that 79% of L&D leaders agree it’s less expensive to reskill a current employee than hire a new one. Interestingly, it’s not just employers who L&D programs:

“the 18 to 24 demographics consider upskilling a more important benefit than retirement, sick leave, parental leave, life insurance and vacation. Even among workers over the age of 55, more than half (53%) put upskilling as “very” or “extremely” important. Surveys and studies have frequently shown that a lack of career development and growth opportunities are one of the main reasons that people leave their jobs. The message is clear. Staff want to develop and will leave if their employers fail to offer the right growth, training and upskilling opportunities

Questionmark, Train to Retain, 2021

Not only is learning and development seen as a valuable way to repay employees by facilitating self-development, but it’s also a crucial method of filling talent gaps, tackling some DE&I challenges and increasing morale. Even more compelling for many is that it can place companies well ahead of their competitors:

“72% of companies become more competitive after adopting an LMS…Four out of five companies in the Fortune 500 employ the extensive use of an LMS to retain competitiveness” — Think Impact, 2022

Yet for all the value in training, so often it falls flat and at a serious cost.

When L&D goes wrong

“Only 12% of employees apply new skills learned in L&D programs to their jobs; and only 25% of respondents to a recent McKinsey survey believe that training measurably improved performance.”

Questionmark, Train to Retain, 2021

In order for money to be put into L&D efforts, business leaders, of course, want to see measurable ROI. With lackluster training often resulting in poor transference to on-the-job skills, however, it’s understandable why some are reluctant to take the plunge.

These situations often lead to a misinterpretation of the value in workplace training — to the point where, in the final months of 2022 with skills droughts at an all-time high, many learning leaders globally haven’t set up active programs:

“Only 15% of L&D pros say they have active upskilling and reskilling programs, and only 5% have made it to the stage where they’re measuring and assessing results.” — The LinkedIn 2022 Workplace Learning Report, 2022

So what does this mean? How can L&D be so clearly valuable to a business and yet so often fall short?

Well, it often comes back to our old friend assumption—and you know what they say about that.

L&D: Ensuring your training is a success with assessments


If staff have sat through a training program, are they trained?  

It’s an interesting question and one that many business leaders would answer ‘yes’ to. Yet, as with dropping a hint to a teenager or scolding the runaway dog upon its return, our assumptions on the methods needed for a desired result are often flat out wrong.  

Of course, it’s an easy trap to fall into. L&D programs take time and money to ensure they deliver training that’s thorough, relevant and clear—and this is, of course, one central side of the learning coin. 

 But how can you ensure this training is being retained? How can you know that this knowledge could be confidently applied in a real-world setting? And how can you be certain that the training is specific enough or that your employees’ competence is increasing over time? 

Easy. You don’t assume, you assess.

The benefit of assessment benchmarking

“a reaction survey immediately following training may show how engaging and relevant the training was. A few months later, a behavior survey may show if the training actually changed behavior…L&D professionals should use consistent benchmarks to track changes over time. It is the only way to know if new interventions are actually working. Everything depends, then, on asking the questions that truly matter.

Gallup, 2020

L&D efforts are too valuable, costly and time-sensitive to make assumptions about and it’s why assessments and tests are such a vital part of the corporate training puzzle. Poor workplace training doesn’t just demotivate individuals and pass up reskilling opportunities, but it also brings about compliance and regulatory—not to mention health and safety—problems too.   

Assessments are the closest thing L&D professionals have to a crystal ball, highlighting not only where staff are in terms of their competence, but where more training may be needed. What’s more, assessments are wonderful in allowing employees to practice and demonstrate what they’ve learned—a critical part of knowledge and skills retention.  

How assessments and training together create superior learning outcomes

When it comes to measuring the effectiveness of training and setting your business up for successful learning and development outcomes, assessments play an essential role before, during and after training. Not only can they help you benchmark progress, provide an avenue for employees to demonstrate skills (as with performance-based testing) but they also can help you intervene and fill knowledge gaps as and when they arise. This ability to tailor learning to address real knowledge and skills gaps is essential, removing assumption and instead providing priceless insights that can allow for actionable next steps.  

For anyone looking to shake up their L&D offerings, Questionmark recently had Wendy Kirkpatrick on the Questionmark podcast to discuss the value of the Kirkpatrick model for measuring training effectiveness.

Concluding thoughts

There’s an old adage that ‘training isn’t telling’, and the assumption that training alone is enough to consider a workforce trained, compliant, skilled, or knowledgeable is, in fact, flawed. 

At Questionmark, we’ve been working in harmony with L&D leaders and LMS systems for decades to provide companies with a complete learning ecosystem.  Our online assessment platform and services—including multiple test formats, translation features, reporting capabilities, and more—are designed to support successful learning outcomes for industry leaders and help mitigate compliance risks. 

But don’t just assume we’re telling the truth—after all, we’ve all seen how messy that can get—instead, why not take a look at the Questionmark Platform Overview and discover how we can help you deliver successful training today.  

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