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How to succeed in on-job assessment

Wyn Hughes from Skills Consulting Group talks on-job training and assessment – and how important these are for workplace success.

When browsing LinkedIn recently, it was easy to note how many job titles were there that did not exist five years ago. In fact, many of the job titles also didn’t seem to come from an obvious degree, such as finance for instance.

What this highlighted to me, was the importance of on-job training. Our roles are changing, organisations are becoming more global and technology dependent – and the reality is, we must adapt.

The biggest challenge for organisations is to bridge the gap between we what currently do and what the business needs. Many new graduates and employees join with good generic skills but lack the more specific skills the organisation actually needs. The way to solve this is training on-the-job. The most recent World Economic Forum ‘Future of Work’ report even stated that an estimated 54% of employees will need significant upskilling, and that approximately half of this upskilling will be run by internal departments.

Many organisations accept the 70-20-10 rule. That means that 70% of our learning comes from doing our job, 20% from observing others or from feedback and the final 10% comes from formal learning. If most of our learning comes from ‘doing’, then it makes sense that on-job assessment be considered a bigger part of the learning pie.

For Skills Consulting Group, many of the organisations we work with discover they already have the resources to begin on-job assessment because ultimately it assesses work that is already happening. There is no need to create an artificial scenario or find time to do the assessment, those elements are already in place.

Added to that, are the very clear benefits for everyone involved – the trainee gets assessed and upskilled in a way that is relevant to them; the company gets workers who are skilled, productive and capable; and the industry gets a workforce that is highly skilled and work-ready.

To be successful, there are some key drivers for on-job assessment. Organisations need the right people, they need the right support systems and processes, and they need the willingness to commit to the process.

On-job assessment is also authentic and cost-effective. It is authentic because it assesses the trainee’s real work in a natural environment, and it is cost-effective because many organisations already have the people and skills to do the work themselves. Having the right people is key to on-job assessment success.

We also find that most organisations have staff with a range of experience, which is a useful resource for setting up systems. Many of our clients can then use their experienced workforce as mentors for trainees, and in some instances, as verifiers. That means they can witness and confirm the trainee’s level of competence. Most of our clients also have the necessary senior staff to act as assessors, who can make the overall decision about a trainee’s competence. With all of this being in-house, organisations can then ensure they have quality staff and succession plans in place for various parts of the business.

Ultimately, an organisation’s people are the most suitable to mentor, verify, and assess trainees, and this is a critical factor for the success of on-job assessment. They understand the organisation, the industry, and the work that takes place. It is those individuals that make on-job assessment truly effective.

Another critical factor for success is getting the correct systems and processes in place. Skills Consulting Group works with clients to set up the frameworks, processes, systems, and tools that will sustain on-job assessment. We also design assessment processes, from the setting up of pre-assessment through to post-moderation and quality assurance activities.

Processes such as moderation are vital. They ensure assessment is consistent and the system reliable – and reliable systems build trust in the process which in turns encourages buy-in from everyone involved.

In some instances, a client may be unsure of their staff’s ability to be verifiers. In this situation, Skills Consulting Group is able to run workshops and train the verifiers on best practice, with real-life examples from their own workplace. This contextualisation helps the new verifiers understand their role and demonstrates the client’s commitment to training their staff and confidence in their staff’s ability to contribute to the new process. Another crucial factor is commitment. If an organisation wants to build an on-job assessment model, it needs to believe in the process and be willing to work around potential roadblocks.

Overall, on-job assessment is an excellent way of recognising and rewarding people for the skills they already have. It shows competence in a real-life environment and uses many of the resources an organisation already has. But, for it to be successful, it needs the right set up, processes, and commitment to see it through as it is this that will ensure the process has a long-life cycle.

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