Employee training has the power to save money and time. But ais also can waste time and money. It’s an essential part of most successful organizations to increase employee knowledge, efficiency, productivity, satisfaction, and more while simultaneously reducing employee turnover.
Since training can either save time or waste time, there are strategies that must be taken into consideration when creating training. That’s where testing out comes in!
What is testing out you ask?
Okay, maybe you didn’t ask and maybe it’s obvious, but I just want to level-set before I assume everyone knows what it is.
Testing out in the education world means you take a test before actually taking any official course, content, etc. If you pass that test, you are deemed knowledgeable enough about the content to not have to take any official course, content, etc.
That means you can start by showing that you are already knowledgeable enough about the topic. That means you don’t need to waste your time taking the course for a test that you can already pass anyway.
Same thing in the corporate world. Sometimes training in an organization is required to gain access to something at the company (“how to use the executive bathrooms properly,” jk) such as software. I mean, you don’t want to let employees loose with high-level access to important software especially if mistakes can cost massive money or even kill people.
But, if they have already been trained by someone without having access or perhaps they’re just super tech-savvy then do they need to take training to get access?
Whether there’s a test to qualify them at the end or not, testing out can save employees time and organizations money. We used testing out at an organization to give employees the option to take a test and show they know how to use the software first. If they didn’t know or failed the test, they took the course to gain access to the software. It wasn’t vital enough software to make them test at the end after taking the course.
There are lots of reasons why testing out is a good thing and should be considered for required training when possible.
Why Testing Out Is A Good Thing
There are several reasons why allowing employees to test out is a good thing. It’s not just about saving time even though that’s a huge motivation. Even if it only saves one employee 10 or 15 minutes, that can add up spread across hundreds or thousands of employees.
Here are some of the ways testing out benefits your organization and employees.
It allows employees to get a more personalized learning experience that’s at their level. Instead of wasting their time taking content that’s not relevant to them, they can get right to what’s important to their job or skill level.
That means you’re not bothering employees with beginner or intermediate training content when they’re already pretty knowledgeable.
Save Time & Resources
I already covered this one a bit, but you can never emphasize how important this one is enough. That’s because testing out has the potential to save not just one employee, but many employees time and sanity.
Employees who do test out can do so and use their time elsewhere. Those who need to take the content can choose to do so. That means employee time and resources are freed up for more important work or learning.
Help Employees Achieve More
If there are a lot of things employees need to learn to achieve a promotion, testing out could help them do more. The IT world has a lot of certifications. There may be a lot of courses available to prepare for the certifications. Some employees might need to take the courses to learn what they need and pass the test. Others may just need to take the test.
Testing out gives the option for employees to choose how they achieve the ultimate goal and show they know their stuff. In the end, whether it’s a test or a course employees take, the end goal is neither of those. The ultimate goal is for employees to know how to do things they need in their job.
Therefore, testing out allows employees to achieve more rather than having to take training and also take a test. It lets them get what they need and only what they need to meet their goals without wasting time.
Happy Peppy Employees
If the learning & development department made the effort to save me some time, I’d be pretty happy! Who likes wasting their time learning about content they already know or isn’t relevant to their job?
Testing out saves employees from both as long as the part that’s not relevant isn’t going to trip them up on the test part. That means employees can get the recognition they need for their knowledge in the way that fits them.
Now training is no longer a one-size-fits-all and is tailored to employees’ specific needs. That’s pretty cool and will make employees happier and more engaged in training.
That makes me pretty happy and peppy!
But for testing out to work right, you have to use it effectively and when it makes sense. It’s not the end-all-be-all solution to personalize training.
Effectively Allow Employees To Test Out
Just plopping a test before each training isn’t the best solution. Testing out doesn’t work well for all training and it can even be done poorly. If it’s not done for the right kind of training content or done poorly, testing out could do more harm than good.
However you use testing out, it always has to be clear what the criteria is for testing out. Make sure employees know what the expectations are for the course and give them the option. We have done this previously by introducing employees to the goals of the training (learning/performance objectives) and then allowing them to choose exactly how they proceed in the course.
Employees could either choose to take the test and if they didn’t pass, they’d take the course or a portion of the course they didn’t know. If they passed the test then they were done and qualified to get access to the application. On the other hand, if they took the course, they didn’t need to pass the test too.
Making sure all of this information is clear is helpful to the employee so they can make the decision that fits their needs the best. Let’s take a look at when testing out works and also when it doesn’t work.
When Testing Out Works
As mentioned above, testing out works great when training content is required but some employees might already know the content. That might mean software skills, technical knowledge, or even soft skills.
It wouldn’t make sense to make a negotiating pro take a soft skills course on negotiating. But, for whatever reason, maybe all employees at your organization are required to take a course on negotiating. If you have a lot of high-level salespeople in your organization, there’s probably a fair number of them who are already pretty well-versed in negotiating.
In our case, it worked well because the audience was pretty tech-savvy computer technicians. That doesn’t mean they’re all comfortable immediately in the software, though. It’s never good to assume they know how to do something just like it’s never good to assume they need to take the course.
When you have a mixed audience where some may know more than others, testing out can be a good solution to help everyone without hindering anyone.
It may also work okay for compliance training where employees must take compliance training yearly. Compliance isn’t only confirmed legally when someone has seen content. Knowing how to comply is just as important. So, taking a test to document their knowledge of how to comply can be just as official as taking the training.
A good needs analysis should tell you who your audience is. Just be careful not to assume too much about your audience and don’t assume the needs analysis will tell you everything about your audience.
But, testing out doesn’t work for every situation. You may not even want to attempt it because it could have negative outcomes.
When Testing Out Might Not Work
Allowing employees to test out of training might just be a waste of time for you while not saving the organization or employees any time or money.
Why bother building a test-out process into a course when the content isn’t even required? A lot of training is optional and employees 100% opt into it. If that’s the case, there’s no reason to allow them to test out of taking it. If it’s not required in the first place, they don’t need to test out of it!
Unless they get recognition for accomplishing training content or it’s required, never take time building the option to test out. You’re wasting your time and nobody will use the option if they all want to learn the content.
Testing out will also never work if you don’t write good questions. For software, this likely doesn’t apply, though, because the test would likely be about performing a process rather than just questions.
When questions are required for testing out, the questions and answers need to be well written. No employee is proving anything if they can choose the one obvious answer in a group of poorly written test questions.
You know the type of question, right?
Here’s a good example of a horrible question on a compliance test that is obvious what the correct answer is. This isn’t telling anyone anything.
Which of the following is an acceptable method for disposing of sensitive customer information?
A) Leaving the documents in a public trash bin
B) Throwing the documents in a recycling bin
C) Shredding the documents and disposing of them in a secure container
D) Leaving the documents on your desk for someone else to dispose of
Hmmm, I wonder what the answer could possibly be.
Nobody is benefiting from questions like that. For testing out to work, the questions need to comprehensively cover all the content of the course and tell you whether employees know the content or not. It shouldn’t be possible to bluff your way through the test-out process.
Using Testing Out At Companies
There are lots of different ways to use testing out at companies. Then there are some examples of real-world applications.
We’ve briefly mentioned some of how we used testing out previously. We don’t use it every time and for much of the training we create, it doesn’t necessarily fit. We create a lot of custom corporate software training where employees likely have no experience in the content and employees need a baseline for a new tool being launched.
But, let’s look a little more in-depth at some theoretical uses of testing out. We tried to find other examples of real companies using testing out regularly but came up empty-handed. We even resorted to ChatGPT to see if it knew of anything. Instead, it just made up examples and cited them with bogus links (as usual). That doesn’t mean examples of testing out doesn’t exist on a small scale that’s not mentioned in public, though.
There are plenty of industries and skills where testing out can be used in training. Here are some ideas on how you can use testing out of company training.
We mentioned this above, but compliance training gets repetitive, boring, and old fast. The only point of it is typically to exonerate a company of liability from employees doing things illegal or harming the company. But, it’s also to educate employees on what not to do that will harm the company or customers. But, making employees take the same training makes employees bitter and bored.
I worked at an organization a while ago where some employees had a competition to see how fast they could complete their yearly compliance training. Yes, that was a thing. They’d time themselves and then brag to others that they completed it in 10 minutes.
Testing out lets them answer the questions that they know proper behavior and get it over with, no boring content required. As long as the questions are well written and show that employees do know what’s right, there shouldn’t be a problem.
Sales and Marketing
Sales and marketing professionals need to know a lot about the product they’re selling. That knowledge typically revolves around the features and how it will solve problems for customers.
They may have already been exposed to a lot of this knowledge. So, if your company has any required training for sales and marketing teams about your products, testing out might be a decent alternative to long training.
Management and Leadership Development
Some organizations have required training for managers and leadership positions. But, those aren’t necessarily different than other organizations even if they may be presented that way. Giving options for testing out of leadership training is helpful to allow stronger leaders to move ahead in content.
Allowing strong leaders to excel faster could mean having a stronger leadership foundation for the organization and therefore better overall results for the organization.
Customer service representatives have to handle some difficult conversations. A lot of organizations may require scenario-based training or other types of training for customer service topics. What if instead of learning about how to handle difficult conversations, strong employees in customer service were given the ability to test out with a scenario-based test?
That would allow them to show their strength and also focus on things they need to grow their skills rather than wasting their time on skills they’re already strong in.
Safety is essential to some organizations. It prevents mistakes, disasters, and death. But, some employees are more cognisant of safety requirements than others.
Wouldn’t it be nice to only have employees take full safety training if they needed to? If they already know the safety issues well, let them test out and continue to show you their safety track record. You only need to second-guess them if they have a safety incident.
There’s no denying that training can be a burden or a benefit for companies. If it’s wasting employees’ time who already know the content, it’s not helping anyone.
Testing out of training is a great way to combat that issue. Sometimes training is required, but testing out is a great way to save the more knowledgeable employees time while giving necessary support for those who need it.
Of course, testing out can be done wrong just like anything. Questions that don’t show knowledge of the topic, obvious answers, or noncomprehensive tests can derail the effort.
But, overall testing out is a great way to make company training more efficient. For every training project we work on, we always keep it in our toolbelt as an option to help make organization training more efficient and personalized.
If you need to train employees and are looking for the best way to accomplish it, talking with an expert in training is the best first step. We specialize in creating corporate IT training using some of the most effective digital training solutions.
We’d love to learn more about your project and how we can help your organization train employees more effectively, just schedule a free consultation.