360-degree competency assessment

How to build and deploy a 360-degree competency assessment with your LMS

Would you be prepared to throw away $1000 per employee? According to the 2020 Training Industry Report, that was the average training expenditure per employee during 2020. If your organization’s training is missing the mark, then multiply the number of employees you train annually by $1000 for a picture of how much of your budget is being burnt rather than used successfully.

Since the amount adds up quickly, it is fortunate that using 36-degree competency-based assessments will go a long way to fixing this situation.

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What is a competency-based assessment?

A human resources organization which specializes in competency-based management practices defines it as: “any tool which measures observable behaviors that successful performers show while performing a job”.

They add that these assessments need to be “based on clear job requirements and produce consistent and reliable results”.

Why do 360-degree competency-based assessments work?

  1. They are objective. That is, they are not based on personal factors such as the relationship between the learner and the trainer or whether or not the trainer had a fight with their partner earlier that day and is in a bad mood. There is simply a situation set up to evaluate the knowledge and/or skill of the learner. Within that situation, the learner is required to perform measurable actions. At the end, a calculation determines if sufficient knowledge/skill has been shown.
  2. They measure content relevant to the learner. Employees need these knowledge/skill combinations to further their careers. They are not being assessed on objectives that they consider “a waste of time”. As a result, trainees are more motivated to acquire the learning they need.
  3. They can save both time and money. The U.S. Department of Education explains that allowing trainees to achieve mastery at their own, individual paces optimizes the use of resources.

What about manager-trainee assessments, are these okay?

Perhaps, it depends on how subjective these assessments are.

A recent article in the Journal of Postgraduate Medicine asserted that the bias against subjective assessments was incorrect. The researchers said: “It has been proven time and again that a subjective assessment in expert hands gives comparable results as that of any objective assessment.”

However, let’s unpack that a moment. The researchers said: “…a subjective assessment in expert hands”. It is only when the assessor is highly experienced does a subjective assessment become valid. That is, the assessor is able to “objectively assess” the competency. In other words, the assessor is practiced at removing their opinion from the evaluation. Rather, they use a series of benchmarks to measure the competency being assessed.

Are your organization’s assessors able to be objective?

Chances are, no matter how objective they are, there is a measure of subjectivity. Before I began using objective, competency-based assessments in my teaching, I was also “guilty” of subconscious subjectivity. Once I moved to a competency-based assessment, I found that the student’s handwriting (neat vs messy) had been influencing my overall grading. Also, language issues (grammar, spelling) had been influencing my assessment of the content itself.

So, a more effective approach for your organization would be increased reliance on competency-based assessments.

A learning management system (LMS) is a great host for 360-degree competency-based assessments

As long as the job requirements do not change, competency-based assessments are evergreen. That is, once they are created, the assessments can be used over and over.

This type of spaced repetition is a perfect use of an LMS.

In addition, there is the aspect of a timetable. The competency-based assessments should be delivered at specific times in the training program, preferably automatically, to reduce the chances of human lateness or forgetfulness.

Again, LMS automaticity shines in this regard.

Rapid Refresh as an example of a 360-degree competency-based assessment tool

Rapid Refresh is a user-friendly, online quiz maker. Not only are quizzes quick and easy to create, they can be set up to be delivered at the intervals your training requires. Plus, Rapid Refresh includes the usual, great LMS features such as gamification examples, leaderboards, and notifications.

After each quiz, timely analytics report both individual learner results as well as overall employee performance. This helps you assess where your training is reaching its objectives and where it is missing its marks.

Tips for successful 360-degree competency-based assessments

  1. Make sure your measurable points/behaviors are S.M.A.R.T. : Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound and are aligned with your training objectives.
  2. Remember to measure any core competencies developed by your organization.
  3. Build in some items which help employees identify their unique skills and how their personal value contributes to the overall success of the organization.
  4. Be aware that technical skills are usually easier to assess, whereas soft skills (such as time management, customer interactions, analytical skills, etc.) are more difficult to measure. Nonetheless, these are equally important. So, put extra effort in developing assessment for soft skills also.
  5. Incorporate a future-forward component by giving your trainee information about where and how they can improve. This could be written feedback (text, email) or verbal feedback (audio/video file or F2F meeting).

The best 360-degree competency-based assessments can only measure the effectiveness of your training. The most professional LMS can only report the results. If there is no one looking at the data, nothing can be improved.

One thing we learn as educators and trainers is that things can almost always be made better. So, most likely, your training has room for improvement. Yet, this will only happen if someone is responsible for keeping themselves informed of how things are going and making the necessary changes.

Dedicating resources to this aspect of competency-based assessments is no less important than creating the assessments themselves.

Outside sources:

https://pubs.royle.com/publication/?m=20617&i=678873&p=24

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33037168/

https://resources.hrsg.ca/blog/everything-to-know-about-competency-based-assessments#definition

https://www.ed.gov/oii-news/competency-based-learning-or-personalized-learning