How to assess employee skills and job competency
If you want to conduct a reliable employee skills assessment, you need the right data. Most skills assessment conversations focus on either inference (pulling skill data from resumes, job descriptions, certifications, etc. to infer what people can do) or self-assessments and 360 assessments (asking people what they or other people can do).
These methods are extremely limited because they don’t confirm what a person can do in a consistent, reliable way. Different evaluators may have different standards, and people are notoriously unreliable when it comes to reevaluating themselves.
Inference can work well when the stakes are lower (like if you’re hiring for PowerPoint or web design skills). No one gets hurt and the company is unlikely to lose a lot of money if you incorrectly infer a mid-level corporate employee’s presentation skills. But when we’re talking about high-stakes capabilities like safety or customer service (areas of the business where you need to make sure people are able to execute consistently), then validation is critical
So how do you know what your people can do instead of assuming based on insufficient data? You have to take the lead when assessing employee skills.
1. Evaluate employees during training
Once the hiring process is complete, your training program provides your first direct insights into a person’s actual skill level and some reassurance that the employee can execute the desired skills on the job. A new employee might claim to have a wealth of retail experience, but does the knowledge and performance data collected during training validate these claims?
Maybe they understand the principles of customer service but they’re clueless about how to stage merchandise because they’ve never been asked to do that before. The onboarding period is a great time to measure basic competency and identify skill gaps. These employee skill assessments will tell you a lot and can help you to establish a foundation for your continuous training.
2. Reinforce through practice activities
Practice activities and workplace simulations allow you to observe your employees in action. It also helps them to retain learned information more effectively. Just as an athlete would practice before the big game, it’s important for employees to sharpen their skills in a controlled environment—not just during the initial training phase but on an ongoing basis. Even the best athletes keep practicing to keep their skills up to date.
This type of practice is good for reinforcing technical skills and soft skills, but it can be especially important for safety-sensitive roles. For instance, if someone’s job involves moving inventory around with an electric pallet jack, it’s a good idea to set up some practice activities before the employee starts operating the machinery unsupervised.
3. Observe employees on the job
Dedicate time to studying real-world performance to ensure that the employee continues to execute to the desired standard. The real job is far more unpredictable and nuanced than any practice scenario, so you can identify additional skills gaps and training opportunities by conducting periodic in-person assessments.
With a modern learning management system like Axonify, you can log your in-person skills assessments and have the data incorporated into your training analytics. Then you’ll have a more complete picture of the employee’s skill level, all illustrated right on your digital training dashboard. Plus, this data can be applied to personalize and adapt ongoing training to make sure each employee is focused on their greatest areas of need. It’s like a dedicated employee skills assessment program that you can use to track knowledge growth and identify gaps at a glance.
4. Measure confidence
Confidence isn’t an automatic indicator of skill, but it’s an important variable to consider. While people may have the requisite knowledge and skill, they also need the confidence to apply them in the moment and feel prepared to do the job.
Axonify’s confidence assessment makes it easy to track confidence and knowledge side by side. As employees answer questions in the learning platform, they’re asked to rate their level of confidence in each response. If there’s a major disconnect between knowledge and confidence (such as if the employee’s confidence exceeds their skill or vice versa), this can present a valuable coaching opportunity.
5. Measure outcomes
Speaking of measurement, it’s important to measure not just observations but also outcomes. Ultimately, you want to ensure that the applied skills contribute to the desired result—whether that means fewer safety incidents, more sales or higher revenue.
This is another area where Axonify can help. Our training measurement capabilities allow you to set custom KPIs so you can measure how well your training contributes to the desired business outcomes. And if there are areas for improvement, the platform also provides actionable insights.
Take a proactive approach with your employee skills assessments
A full 87% of companies say that they have existing skills gaps or anticipate future skills gaps. It’s very important to ensure that your employees possess the skill sets necessary to excel in their roles, but you can’t rely on employee assessments, employment history or past education.
If you want to truly assess employee skills and job competency, you must have your own data to pull from. This means taking a proactive approach to measure the employee’s current skills during the onboarding phase and beyond, even after the employee has become acquainted with the role. Your own skills tests will tell you more than a LinkedIn profile ever could.