It’s time to stop evaluating knowledge in the heads of employees. It doesn’t measure or predict performance — good or bad — and it’s a waste of time. Performance is what needs to be measured, and really it’s not that much harder, once it’s in place, than to measure knowledge.


Why Performance Assessment is Best

Performance assessment has traditionally been an activity that business leaders conduct — which they should — but without the involvement or inclusion of the training department — which is not good. Some examples of performance assessments include:

  • Pre and post-learning simulations
  • Games and situational-based simulations with scoring rubrics
  • Knowledge application tasks
  • Post-training performance evaluation

Why Many Don’t Do Performance Evaluations

Many training groups release actual performance to business supervisors and managers and avoid involvement or even follow-up for a number of reasons:

  • It’s not traditional.
  • It takes more work.
  • They might find out what they’re training actually has nothing to do with what people are doing on the job. That’s complicated because either the training has missed the mark, or the business isn’t valuing or doing what it says it does. Both situations are political minefields.

Knowledge Assessments are Stupid.

Who cares if someone who is learning to use new software can quote the screen on which a particular task is performed, especially when you could instead observe them performing the same task? You? Well, you shouldn’t! Do you actually expect people to remember policy details they’ll need to find in the documentation anyway? Why would you? You’d be better off building assessments that test their ability to find answers in documentation.

“But what about compliance training?” you say. I’ve got three ideas for compliance training:

  1. Stop doing it. Hand employees the employee handbook and make them sign something that says “I understand that if I break any of these rules I’ll be fired.” And then give them a few hours of uninterrupted time during which they can either read the handbook or check snapchat.
  2. If your lawyers are too scared for option #1, give people a pre-test that checks their knowledge. Chances are, 90%ish of your employees will pass the exam and then you can let them skip the training content. That will save hours of their day (which is productive time for you). And you’ll know which employees are a liability.
  3. Present scenarios and ask questions. If employees are able to correctly navigate the scenarios, let them skip the content. If they can’t, punish them by making them sit through the content and then retest them until they can pass.

So let’s stop doing knowledge assessments and start truly evaluating learning with performance checks.