Performance, Assessments and OTJ Assignments

Jane Hart posted ABC: Keep it Simple Training a few days after my post on Business performance vs Certification requirements. The similarities between them strengthen my case and in her post Hart shares a link to Jane Bozart’s Nuts and Bolts: Design Assessments First that also makes an interesting case for starting with assessments instead of the content.

Lets start by looking at connecting performance goals with the assessment. With a blend of Kirkpatrick (the 4 levels) and Cathy Moore’s Action mapping we also get the idea of really starting with the business side of things, e.g. success indicators, business outcomes, critical behaviors and KPI’s etc. If you have all of these you should start asking yourself “what does the employee need to do?”. These should not be transformed into academic learning objectives but left as they are – as story questions.

“(…) poorly written or academic learning objectives drive assessment items. Objectives that use verbs such as “list,” “define,” and “describe” practically force the designer to load bulleted content onto slides, followed up with a multiple-choice test or Jeopardy!-style quiz. The content is easy to write, and bullet, and test … but the items aren’t testing performance.”

Jane Bozart


These examples are taken from Ray Jimenez’ “Story Impacts Learning and Performance” and show the common mistake of trying to overly design the learning objectives. Why don’t we just leave them as the story questions we started with? Here they are much more alive and does initiate self-questioning from the employee reading them. “How serious IS the risk to me if a burglar breaks into my store?”

Though emphasizing the need for really “spending time with the managers concerned in order to devise an appropriate, valid and relevant assessment” Jane Hart doesn’t really connect with performance and business goals in her Simple Training Model (see below). The two big things I really like with her model is that she makes the case for that the content should be flexible and not always converted into Training material. A PowerPoint would do just fine as long as it’s a discrete learning item that could be digested apart from all of the other.


Hart also leaves out the idea of a Learning Program and instead add ”Timely support” which is a interesting solution. If we take it one step further here, for assuring performance follow-up after Hart’s model, one could incorporate both an on-the-job assignment/accreditation program, as well as a clear Manager Support that enables the implementation of an accreditation program based on real world performance and accomplishments. With these enhancements the previous model of mine could be refreshed as follows:


  1. Analyze your business performance per product segment and specific products therein.
  2. Note Success indicators, business outcomes, critical behaviors and prepare clearly stated KPI’s, e.g.:
    1. Top 10 reasons to machine breakdowns
    2. Top 10 reasons to why we don’t reach First-Time-Fix
  3. Start building your assessments and assignments based on these “Top 10”-lists as to measure if your employees know what to do.
  4. If they pass the assessment – you’re done!
  5. If they fail some parts of the assessment – provide your employees with flexible remedial content and support specific for their needs. NB! This content must of course be available even after the assessment is passed. Checklists, refreshers etc. that are used for OTJ assignments.
  6. If they fail most or all parts of the assessment – provide a learning program built on the same analysis and KPI:s as you used for your assessment. Why not do it as a multi-layer learning program?
  7. In parallel to the assessments (the theory) you should get your managers start working with – and coaching – the On-The-Job assignments (the practical). An employee that has passed the certification assessment can then be accredited as well and an employee having trouble with the theory can maybe learn how to do it in real life first and retake the assessment afterwards.