Learning & Development

Strategies for Using Knowledge Tests in the Promotion Process

In a previous post, we discussed the challenge many companies face when it comes to employees’ retaining information conveyed in training sessions.


We noted that research on the “forgetting curve” shows within 1 hour, people will have forgotten an average of 50% of the information they learned in a training session. Within 1 week, that goes up to 90%.

We also raised the possibility of incorporating tests of relevant knowledge and skills as part of the promotion process. Such tests ensure employees can see the direct relevance of training information to their own compensation and career growth.

Here, we discuss two key considerations for implementing such tests: transparency and relevance.

Be Transparent in the Process

Including knowledge and/or skills evaluations as part of the promotion process not only helps ensure the best candidates are selected for advancement but also incentivizes retention of information presented in training sessions. But, in order for that incentive to be effective, the link between the retention of knowledge and promotion must be transparent.

In other words, companies need to be upfront early and often about the presented information being essential for advancement and that demonstration of such knowledge is a prerequisite.

This ensures staff interested in promotions go into training sessions eager to learn and retain relevant information. It also helps to avoid claims of unfair treatment by staff who do poorly on a test and are later passed over for promotion.

Make It Relevant

Training should, of course, always be relevant to the needs of the organization and the responsibilities of specific positions. But when examinations of employees based on their knowledge of that material are a prerequisite for promotion, the necessity is even more acute.

Again, companies want to avoid accusations of arbitrary or unfair treatment. But they also want to ensure the skills being tested are actually related to and important for the role.

Incorporating knowledge and/or skills tests as a prerequisite for promotion can help incentivize knowledge retention, as well as ensure the best candidates are selected for advancement. But those tests need to be well thought out and implemented to be effective.

While there are many considerations to keep in mind, transparency and relevance are two of the top priorities.