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Know What Your Employees Know: The Importance of Assessments

by Rose Loisi and Brian McNamara | SAPinsider, Volume 15, Issue 3

July 1, 2014

Organizations are increasing investments in workforce education as a proven part of an effective overall talent management strategy. This article explores the need for workforce learning tools, in particular assessments, and how the SAP Assessment Management application by Questionmark helps companies create and deliver trusted and easily managed learning assessments.


An individual’s online profile is becoming as important as a résumé for hiring managers — and one indicator of the increasing value of talent management. Why would an employer leave any evaluation tool off the table, especially one that could shed light on the knowledge, skills, and attitudes of a potentially important asset? While scrutiny might begin in the hiring stage, it certainly doesn’t end there. Knowing what an employee knows is becoming a high-stakes venture. With regulatory requirements and certifications on the rise, the need to assess workforce learning is at an all-time high, and organizations are responding by upping their investment in workforce education.

But organizations aren’t investing in education and certification services only to check off a compliance box; they’re doing so because workforce education is an integral and proven part of an effective talent management strategy. Across the board, organizations investing in education and certification report positive results. In a recent survey by The Manufacturing Institute, in partnership with the Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network (MAGNET), 92% of employers surveyed believe certification decreases on-the-job training time or cost and 90% believe certification makes a difference in validating the knowledge and skills of a workforce.1 In fact, 90% also thought that certification improves company performance in general.

In our competitive global economy, having documented and defensible knowledge of what a workforce knows can significantly impact critical business decisions. Relying on self-assessment methods such as acknowledging receipt of a training manual is fraught with operational and financial risks. The use of online assessments such as quizzes, tests, surveys, and exams mitigates this risk by certifying actual comprehension and not just attendance. Without gauging actual knowledge, it is difficult to determine whether training resources were well spent. And ultimately, an organization can be held accountable for losses arising as a result of an improperly trained workforce.

Assessments Are the Answer

A medical devices company must be certain that its salespeople are knowledgeable about a potentially life-saving new product. A regional airline must have airtight assurances that its flight crews have all the required certifications. A utility organization wants to be confident that its field personnel understand how to work safely on a downed live wire. Assessments that ask the right questions and probe relevant domain knowledge provide organizations with the strategic and operational insight to efficiently and effectively address these kinds of challenges. 

The SAP Assessment Management application by Questionmark makes it easy to create and deliver learning assessments that organizations can trust and expertly manage in a secure platform. It starts with the author environment, which includes a best-in-class job task analysis feature that can be configured to capture insights from top performers, and can be used to develop valid content for high-stakes assessments. The collaborative platform invites global input from subject matter experts, enabling cost-effective input and guidance from geographically dispersed workforces. This secure, controlled, and collaborative process gives organizations the confidence that assessments are asking the right questions. And, because it consolidates the assessments on a single platform, there is little worry about rogue tests being administered or answer sheets floating around multiple offices.

Importantly, the test development process creates an audit trail that can offer valuable supporting documentation for regulating agencies. A powerful analytical engine allows organizations to quickly collect and report on results, and also enables companies to use this learning data to make future assessments more effective.

The news is full of examples of how non-compliance can cost organizations. When life, limb, and livelihood are on the line, checking knowledge is a better practice than simply checking a box.

Attendance Does Not Equal Comprehension

Mandatory training is often a fact of life for organizations in highly regulated industries. Assessments, however, can provide more than a simple knowledge check. Some organizations are discovering that tests aimed at enabling employees to “test out” of mandatory, compliance-related training can yield substantial cost savings and benefits. 

Simply put, “testing out” means that employees up for required training instead take a test to see if they know the material. A passing grade demonstrates their mastery of the subject matter, which in many cases is sufficient to satisfy the regulatory agency that mandates it. 

With SAP Assessment Management, an organization can create and administer these tests either independently or when integrated with SAP Learning Solution or SuccessFactors Learning. One customer that had about 1,000 employees faced with a two-hour, mandatory training session estimated that it saved at least $18,000 when it allowed employees to test out in place of the full two-hour session. The assessment initiative yielded substantial savings in terms of both training  delivery costs and employee time away from the job — even with only 25% of employees testing out.

While this is a fairly clear-cut example of proven return on investment, there is no shortage of examples of the risk an organization takes by not having defensible internal training methods in place. In one case, the US Department of Justice fined a financial organization $28 million for violating anti-bribery laws. In the settlement agreement, the organization acknowledged that having employees sign an anti-bribery policy in lieu of policy enforcement wasn’t a valid defense. In another example involving serious injury in an excavation, a federal court ruled against a company’s defense of “unpreventable employee misconduct” after reviewing the employee’s training log, which only noted that the employee signed off on having read a safety manual.

The news is full of examples of how non-compliance can cost organizations both financially and in terms of reputation. When life, limb, and livelihood are on the line, checking knowledge is a better practice than simply checking a box.

Customer First, Partner Second

Before entering into a global reseller agreement with Questionmark, SAP was a Questionmark customer, using its certification testing since 2008 for roughly 60,000 candidates per year who sat for an exam. One of the key attractions for SAP that helped forge a lasting partnership was the ability within the Questionmark platform to author and administer assessments on a global scale. Some of the SAP certification exams are provided in as many as 20 languages. The ability to deliver multilingual assessments helps ensure consistent measurement of candidates’ knowledge regardless of language preference — and provides reporting and analytics benefits as well.

Overall, the fact that the platform delivers trusted and verifiable results is what led SAP to partner with Questionmark as the official global reseller of SAP Assessment Management. Effective organizations are increasingly turning to an integrated assessment platform to answer two pressing questions that cannot be taken for granted:

  • Did your employees learn what they were supposed to learn?
  • Can they do what they are supposed to do? 

SAP Assessment Management provides the answers to these questions. For more information, visit


1 The Manufacturing Institute in partnership with MAGNET, “National Survey on the Value of a Credentialed Workforce,” (November 2013; [back]

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Rose Loisi
Rose Loisi

Rose Loisi ( is Director of SAP Learning Portfolio at SAP. Rose oversees the SAP Learning Solution suite, supports the SAP Field Sales team, and works with customers on learning initiatives.


Brian McNamara
Brian McNamara

Brian McNamara ( is Marketing Director at Questionmark. Brian manages Questionmark’s global marketing and communications, and has spent the past 15 years working with organizations on training, HR, and assessment.

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