Posted by Joan Phaup
It’s always a pleasure to talk with customers about the ways in which they use assessment to meet their business needs. My recent conversation with Dr. Steve Torkel, Director of Evaluation and Assessment at PwC, was no exception.
I asked Steve about the case study he and his colleagues, Sean Farrell, and John LoBianco, will present at the Questionmark 2013 Users Conference in Baltimore March 3 – 6. It’s called The Half-Time Strategy: Saving Your Organization Time and Money with Diagnostic Testing – and I wanted to get the story behind that intriguing title.
Could you tell me about your job role at PwC and your involvement with assessments?
I am the U.S. evaluation and assessment leader. I lead a team that is responsible for creating assessments for a variety of programs across the U.S. firm and evaluating the impact of training courses throughout the firm.
Your session will focus on how diagnostic assessments play an important role at PwC. Why is that topic important to you?
Diagnostic assessments help us run training like a business. It helps us put the right people in the right program at the right time, which is very different from saying, “We have these training programs; go to them.” It’s being respectful of our staff’s valuable time. When I say diagnostic assessments, I mean before someone participates in a training program — a face to face or e-learning program — we give them the opportunity to in essence “test out” of it. If they know the information already, why should they take the time to participate in the program?
Your session title talks about a “half-time strategy.” Can you elaborate on that?
Imagine a football game, just before the end of the first half. The score is 42 nothing. Knowing that the team with no touchdowns is not going to come back from 42 nothing and win the game, wouldn’t you just as soon end the game right then?
We call our approach to diagnostic assessments a half-time strategy because) we split the assessment into two halves. If someone performs poorly on the first half, we end it and don’t give them the opportunity to take the second half. They would be wasting their time and perhaps getting more frustrated. It benefits them to stop: It saves them time and frustration. It also has benefits for the firm: We are looking at the time people spend. If we can drive down the time people send on an initiative and still maintain quality, it’s good for everyone.
What do you expect your listeners to take away from your session?
I expect them to take a way a couple of things. One is to learn how to use this approach to help to run training like a business. Another is for them to realize that they can still deliver a quality assessment if they go through the right procedures. Half the time does not equal half the quality! We are saying that if you go through a very structured procedure, you can deliver a high level of quality and save time for your learners.
We’ve created a spread sheet that helps us estimate various factors, for example how many questions we are going to use on an assessment, how long it will to take people to complete it or how much time it will save. We use this information to determine if a diagnostic approach is going to make sense. If it’s only going to save a little time, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. So we’ll be sharing this interactive way to help people figure out if a diagnostic test makes sense in a particular situation.
What are you looking forward to at the conference?
Networking with other assessment leaders at organizations, to see how they are running their assessments – and to find out if anybody has any other business-oriented approaches to assessments. For me, that’s really the key! I’m looking for how people are using assessments to run their businesses more efficiently.