Should You Invest in Employee Assessments?

If nearly a quarter of your staff was underperforming, what impact would that have on your bottom line? Could poor performance be exposing your company to other risks?

According to our research, on average, 23 percent of employees do not understand at least one crucial aspect of their job. This has massive implications across an organization, including decreased productivity, health and safety breaches, and ultimately loss of business. The implications of these risks are perhaps most keenly felt in the utility industry, where health and safety regulations are paramount.

Employees make mistakes because they actually misunderstand their roles and responsibilities, incorrectly applying what they think they know and need to do to get the job done right. Consider a finance manager who does not understand the products he or she is selling, an EMT not mastering emergency medical procedures, or a sales manager incorrectly explaining the terms of a service agreement to a key customer. Companies need to know who these employees are and where the risks exist.

Corporate employee training programs, though important, do not ensure that employees completely understand their jobs. It is one thing for employees to go on a training course and pass a test, but quite another to prove they understand what they have learned and can handle the consequences of their actions at the workplace. Assessments can provide companies with detailed recommendations for tailoring training programs to improve performance as needed.

Employee understanding and competence are increasingly being recognized as mission-critical operational issues, rather than purely areas for HR directors to consider. In the post-Enron era of Sarbanes-Oxley corporate compliance regulations, where responsibilities for employee actions fall at the door of senior management, it is time for all to consider the strengths and weaknesses within the organization. A comprehensive employee assessment program can map your employees’ actual skills and knowledge against the landscape of skills needed for a particular job.

Utility companies are under increasing pressure to be more competitive in the market place and yet they have more government compliance costs and regulatory burdens than most other types of businesses. That makes it critical to optimize employee performance. In our experience, employees in this sector receive good marks for understanding what their job performance should look like but a significant number of employees still do not align with what the company expects of them.

“- One of our large utility clients had measurable success using assessments to help improve call center operations. We helped craft questions for an online pilot assessment that was rolled out to a few hundred employees and later to the entire call center staff of 600. The assessment program included specific training packages, removing the need for blanket staff training and reducing overall training costs. The assessment program ultimately has improved employee performance, decreased complaints and increased customer retention rates.

“- A leading power company in the U.S. engaged us to assess field management staff relative to a competency model put in place by its change management group. The goal is to determine if the current team has the proper knowledge and skill set required to transition from an office centric environment to a field centric environment.

The greatest asset any business can have is a competent and skilled workforce, but even the most able senior level staff can make mistakes, however well trained they may be. Introducing a regular and thorough employee assessment program focused on the individual can help companies ensure that their staff develop the skills and confidence necessary to provide the best possible service to their customers.


Mary Clarke has served as chief executive of Cognisco since January 2004. Under her leadership, the company developed a more customer- and market-driven culture. Before joining Cognisco, Clarke spent more than 20 years in the IT and telecommunications industry, including serving as vice president for Lucent Technologies (formerly AT&T Network Systems) and director of Network Services, Digital Equipment Company Limited.

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