HUMAN RESOURCES

Want Smarter Employees? Quiz Them

The act of taking a test actually helps you learn. It's one more tool to help your employees be the best they can be.
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Your teachers who used to torment you with pop quizzes and complex final exams weren't just trying to torture you. (Okay, maybe some were.) They wanted to see what you had learned, in order to know what help you needed in order to master the material. (I may be overly optimistic when it comes to teachers.) But, we've known for years that the act of actually taking the test--recalling information--actually helps you learn. It's not just the studying for the test that helps you, the test-taking itself cements the information.

Turns out that this is just as valid for adults in the office as it is for children in school, according to a new study published by the American Psychological Association. People in the study performed better on a final exam when they had taken a test previously, when compared with those people who just studied the material.

So, what does this mean for your business? Well, you probably don't want to break out the No. 2 pencils quite yet. Your employees may not be thrilled to have to take tests. And giving them frequent tests may just result in a super high level of turnover. But when new information needs to be learned by your staff, a test may be just the way to cement their knowledge--not just proof that they were listening in the first place.

For instance, if there are regulations that are critical for your employees to know, give them the material to study and then give them a test on it. The test needs to be difficult enough that their brain actually has to work to pull up the new information. Tests that people can pass without actually learning anything new are a waste of time for everyone.

Or, if you are running your whole company through sexual harassment training, consider giving them a real test three or four days after the presentation. Not only will you see what they learned in the training, they'll remember the information better for the future.

You can also do self-testing as you learn new skills. Things change constantly, and if you want to be on top of things, learning about a new topic and then taking a test on it may just well help you master that information.

Testing may increase the knowledge base of your employees. And that is something that can help you succeed.

IMAGE: jackhynes/Flickr
Last updated: Mar 15, 2013

SUZANNE LUCAS | Columnist

Suzanne Lucas spent 10 years in corporate human resources, where she hired, fired, managed the numbers, and double-checked with the lawyers.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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