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How to carry out an employee skills assessment

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Published: 29 May 2024 | by Natasha K. A. Wiebusch, Brightmine Marketing Content Manager

Today’s workforce is in constant need of new skills, and skills gaps are now more common than ever. In fact, executives today believe that just under half of their workforce is not ready for the future of work, according to the 2023 edX AI Survey.

To prepare employees for the work of tomorrow, employers first need to know what skills their employees have…and what skills they need. They can learn through an employee skills assessment.

With a skills assessment, employers can identify employee strengths and the skills gaps that may be holding them back. In this guide, we show you how to carry out an effective skills assessment that will support your people and business strategy.

What is an employee skills assessment?

An employee skills assessment is a formal assessment process used to evaluate an employee’s proficiency in specific skills. An important talent management tool, skills assessments identify strengths, weaknesses and skills gaps.

What are the benefits of employee skills assessments?

Employee skills assessments are an essential piece of any employee skills strategy, and they have many benefits for both employers and employees. When done well, you can analyse assessment results to gain highly valuable insight into people strengths and needs. You can leverage this insight in many ways, including the following:

Learning and development programmes

Skills assessments guide employee learning by, first, helping employers and employees understand the employee’s initial skill level. Further assessments measure an employee’s progress, and more specifically, learning progress.

Today, many learning experience platforms will automate skills assessment by evaluating the employee throughout employee training. They can then either give recommendations for further learning or adjust the material in real time.

Employee engagement and retention

Employees want to work for organisations that value employee skill development and have an effective development programme in place. An essential element of a skills development programme is an accurate method of evaluating employee skills. This ensures employees have the best opportunities to pursue their own career development and achieve their professional goals.

Candidate evaluation

Objective, accessible and role-appropriate skills tests help recruitment leaders evaluate candidates. They provide insights on what skill sets candidates have and provide an objective method of ranking them against their peers.

Succession planning

Assessments are a key component of any successful succession planning strategy. First, regular skills assessments identify upskilling or re-skilling needs. They also help the organisation identify high performers and other employees with high potential. Employers can use this information to further guide their succession planning efforts.

Performance reviews

You can also take a skills-focused approach to performance reviews. This can help employees understand how their skill levels may impact their work product or outcomes.

Employee assessments that focus on skills can also inspire better development conversations. That is, managers can highlight an employee’s strengths and capabilities, allowing the employee to envision what they are capable of. This pushes performance reviews beyond simply measuring what the employee has already done.

Assessing employee skills

Carrying out a skills assessment can be a daunting task. The assessment needs to be accurate, effective and aligned your business goals. And with so much disruption in workplace skills needs, assessments also need to be frequent and up to date.

When carrying out a skills assessment, consider the following steps:

Step 1: Determine the scope and purpose of the assessment

The first step to carrying out an employee skills assessment is to determine the scope and purpose. This involves deciding which employees you’d like to assess, the types of insights you’d like to gain from the assessment and what you plan to do with those insights.

When determining the purpose and scope, first, decide whether you’d like to evaluate an individual employee, a team or the entire organisation. This will help inform what types of skills information you’re looking for. Also consider whether you’re more focused on identifying essential skills gaps, high performers or future needs.

Step 2: Set goals

Once you’ve determined the scope and purpose of the assessment, you can set goals to help align the assessment with the greater business strategy. For example, the goal may be to enhance your succession planning strategy or shape the training and development programme. Or, it may be to identify upskilling or reskilling needs for future growth in the business.

When considering the skills assessment goals, be sure to consider individual employee needs. Through additional communications or an employee opinion survey, you may discover employees with useful and unexpected career plans.

Step 3: Choose which skills to measure

Next, you need to select which employee skills to measure. Hundreds of employee skills are available to choose from. Generally, which ones you choose depends on the goals of the assessment, your workforce, and the company and industry.

Keep in mind that successful skills-based organisations are evaluating skills needs for now and the future. So, when choosing skills, review what skills employees need to do their current jobs successfully and what new skills they’ll need down the road. Thinking ahead will support your workforce’s job security and promote organisational agility.

Also, consider skills that matter to current career paths and individual interests. In today’s talent market, it’s extremely important that employers know what development opportunities employees are looking for. And, employees today are much more likely to move “sideways” in their company rather than “up the latter.” So, their career development interests may not be as obvious as you think.

The following table provides some ideas to help you start selecting skills:

Employee skillExamples
Cognitive skillsLogic and problem solving, attention, information retention, memory, sense processing (visual, auditory)
Soft skillsCommunication, relationship building, teamwork, persuasion, speaking, conflict resolution, advocacy, training and instruction, social and cultural awareness, emotional intelligence
Technical (hard) skillsSoftware proficiency, coding and programming, testing, project management, data and information analysis, technical writing
Creative skillsDesign, conceptualisation, brainstorming, synthesising information, writing, composition
Leadership skillsCoaching and motivation, organisation, coordinating and planning, decision-making, implementing, vision

Step 4: Select appropriate methods

Skills assessment methods range from traditional paper tests to virtual reality role playing. Which method you choose will be guided by the type of skill you’re assessing, the purpose and your skills strategy.

Regardless of which methods you choose, it’s especially important to try, whenever possible, to recreate real world work situations. For example, you likely won’t use the same decision-making assessments for lawyers and police officers. Even though their roles are sometimes similar, the circumstances under which they make decisions are different.

On a similar note, it’s also important to understand the difference between a skill and knowledge. Knowledge is a person’s awareness of factual information. A skill, on the other hand, is a person’s ability to apply their knowledge to a specific situation.

The following are a few examples of assessment methods you can use:

Tests and surveys

Tests and surveys are a traditional method of assessing employee knowledge and skills. They can include short answer questions, essays (e.g., writing samples), multiple choice questions, likert scale questions and among other formats.


In interviews, a peer, manager or expert asks the employee or candidate questions and assesses their answers. Interviews can also involve role-play, allowing the employee to test certain skills (e.g., the employee’s interviewing skills). Interviewers may also review body language and other cues, depending on the skill they’re assessing.

Performance appraisals (or performance reviews)

Performance appraisals review an employee’s body of work, usually over a fixed period. Appraisals often focus on work product and results. However, you can also structure them to focus more on employee skills and skill development.


In an observation, an observer watches an employee carry out a task that showcases certain skills. You can carry out an observation in a test environment (e.g., virtual reality) or in the real world.

Learning experience platform (LXP)

An LXP is AI-powered learning software that assesses employee skills in real time. It then customises learning content based on those assessments.

Step 5: Deploy the assessment

Once you’ve selected the appropriate methods of assessing employee skills, it’s time to deploy the assessment to your employees. This may take days, or weeks.

When evaluating employee skills, ensure that you deploy the assessment fairly and objectively. So, before launching your assessment, consider the following safeguards:

  • Allow multiple people to assess an employee.
  • Include self-evaluations to compare against peer and manager evaluations.
  • Create an assessment schedule that meets individual employee needs and promotes accurate results (e.g., assessing everyone on their first shift of their week).
  • Ensure ADA and other accommodations are available to employees who need them.

Step 6: Measure and analyse the results

Measuring and analysing the results of an employee skills assessment is crucial to supporting employee development and future assessments. Keep the following guidance in mind when acting on your assessment data:

  • Identify patterns or trends that emerge across different skill categories or departments. This may provide insight into what’s helping or harming employee skill development.
  • Compare the assessment results with job requirements and performance expectations for each role. Prioritise addressing the skills gaps that employees need to meet the job requirements and achieve business goals.
  • Use the data from the assessment to inform future decisions. These decisions should align with the goals you set out for the assessment.
  • Promote a growth mindset with constructive feedback, coaching and psychological safety. The organisation will benefit the most from the assessment if employees feel safe and believe they can improve.
  • Consider employee feedback on the assessment. Beyond typos and process improvements, employees can help you identify issues with the assessments’ user experience, relevance or effectiveness.


Employee skills assessments are no longer just a valuable practice. They’re absolutely necessary for the future of work. And not only are they necessary, but they’re also ongoing. By following the above approach, you can gather meaningful data that informs decision-making processes, optimises future assessments and keeps the company ready for skill disruption.