Skills and competency tests are becoming increasingly essential during the hiring process. But for many organizations, they also deliver value through the full employee life cycle. Assessments can help HR determine everything from role placement to skills gaps, while guiding personal and leadership development. In addition, assessments measure the efficacy of skills development, assist with building new teams, and can even aid employee placement as they leave the organization.

The employee life cycle consists of attraction, recruitment, onboarding, retention, career development, and separation. Employee skills tests can add significant value throughout these different stages. Here’s how.

Hire for competencies, not education

HR has moved away from qualification-based hiring over the last few decades and now more commonly relies on a competency-based process. That’s especially true in digital environments, where position-specific skills like niche marketing and tool usage aren’t taught in higher education, but rather are learned on the job.

That requires mapping roles to competencies and skills in the first place, which could mean reassessing your entire organization to identify what specific roles actually do. For example, many people work in what is essentially the same role, but with different names.

Moreover, crafting a competency framework can also be time-consuming and requires you to conduct interviews across the organization to establish people’s responsibilities and what they need to be effective in their positions. Once you know that, you can much more easily employ skills assessments to narrow candidate pools and select the right hire.

Ensure correct role placement

While it’s not a good idea to ask candidates to take too many assessments, you can always ask them to complete further assessments after they’re hired. Those assessments can give you insight into their personality, communication style, and other soft skills that influence team and role placement. For example, DISC assessments are a good choice at this stage, because you can determine if someone fits into existing team structures. You can also see if they communicate well with a team that has an opening, or if you should move them to a different group.

Identify opportunities for career advancement

Implementing assessments as part of annual performance reviews or normal work can help HR stay on top of how individuals develop and grow in the organization. They also let you see where people are working towards growth, the new skills they’re developing, and how the organization is progressing as a whole. At the same time, identifying people who constantly learn new skills, put effort into personal development, and actively pursue leadership skills can help you formulate shortlists for leadership pipelines and career advancement. Because DISC assessments involve creating and managing profiles, you can see long-term progress and how people grow over time.

Of course, this strategy entails you have internal development programs already in place. Those programs don’t have to be about leaving technical positions and moving into management ones though. Instead, horizontal development, movement into more senior technical roles, and transitioning to positions such as technical team lead can motivate employees to work towards career development and personal growth, thus increasing employee retention. Skills assessments also tell you when and why to make those promotions based on how people take advantage of personal development opportunities.

Use development to fill skills gaps

Roles change inside every organization, whether it’s moving from one version of an ERP to another, scrapping legacy tooling, switching to a new language for development, etc. These shifts can result in gaps as certain skills become obsolete or old roles become irrelevant.

Skills assessments can help you assess, track, and remedy those gaps. For example, if a new technology is introduced, you can deliver training for it so everyone is brought up to speed. Afterwards, you can follow up with an assessment to ensure the skills gaps are filled. Or, if technology changed in the past with no support offered, you can check to see if there are skills gaps as a result. That also applies if you’ve recently completed a merger or acquisition and are unsure what the “new” people can do. It’s important  to identify any skills gaps because they contribute to everything from productivity loss to higher turnover to inability to grow the business. Managing, tracking, and remediating them is crucial for an effective workforce.

Help employees move into new roles

Inevitably your organization will have to let people go. It could be due to a merger that results in duplicate teams, having to cut unprofitable branches or directions, downsizing, or outsourcing. Whatever the reason, terminating contracts can cause employee morale to crash. People are significantly more likely to quit and move on if they know you could fire them easily.

Investing in helping employees move into new roles at other companies can increase employee loyalty since they can see your support. Skills assessments ensure you know exactly what to look for, how to pitch your employee to another organization, and where that person will fit best. Most importantly, if you already have the assessments and employee profiles built into your organization, doing so is relatively affordable and you’ll be able to leverage data you already own.

Wrapping up — Use skills tests throughout your employee lifecycle

Understanding your organization’s skill sets and gaps is extremely valuable. By assessing where individual employees excel, where they fail, and what they’ve learned or not learned since the last assessment, you can gain valuable insight for your organization at every stage of the employee lifecycle.

About the Author: Jocelyn Pick