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12 Questions to Test Your Employees’ Knowledge Like the Pros

12 Ways to Test Employee Knowledge

As a business owner, it’s important that your employees have a strong baseline knowledge of their areas of expertise. But do you know ways to test employee knowledge? If you want to discover how well a worker actually understands a subject, you need to know the right kinds of questions to ask, and what can be learned from them. To find out more, we asked members of Young Entrepreneur Council the following:

“What is the most productive question to ask an employee when you want to discover how well they understand a subject?”

Ways to Test Employee Knowledge

Here’s what YEC community members had to say on ways to test employee knowledge:

1. “How Confident Are You on This Topic?”

“Ask them an honest question about how confident they are on the topic. They could rank their subject matter knowledge out of 10 and you can think about where you want to go with them after that. Obviously, if they give you a low number, then discuss it with someone else.” ~ Nicole MunozNicole Munoz Consulting, Inc.

2. “Why Are We Doing Things This Way?”

“The most important part of understanding a subject is to clearly comprehend the why behind it. For this reason, I ask my employees why we are doing something and why it’s being done in a certain way. If they have a full understanding of the bigger picture, they are better able to think critically about improvements and ultimately contribute to the company’s growth.” ~ Stephen BeachCraft Impact Marketing

3. “How Can We Improve?”

“There’s always room for improvement no matter how well the business is doing or how employees are performing. If you ask an employee how something can be improved, you’re essentially finding out how much they know about it as well as gaining feedback. You can’t go wrong with getting opinions on how things could run smoother and more efficiently, so asking this often is important.” ~ Jared AtchisonWPForms

4. “Can You List Five Facts About This?”

“I like to have an employee list five things they understand about a project or subject. This tells me what they focus on, what they remember, and what they value related to that subject. It also tells me what they might be missing so I can help fill those in.” ~ Angela RuthCalendar

5. “What Are Your Thoughts?”

“If you ask the basic question ‘What are your thoughts?’ you’re going to get a long-drawn, detailed response based on how well the employee understands the subject. You can drive the conversation by asking further questions based on their response.” ~ Syed BalkhiWPBeginner

6. “What Bugs You the Most About This?”

“A great way to hear how informed someone is on a given subject is to ask them to criticize it. If you ask an employee what bothers them about something and they tell you it’s too confusing or difficult, chances are that they aren’t very informed. On the other hand, an employee that goes into great detail about specific nitpicks is clearly very familiar with the subject in question.” ~ Bryce WelkerCrush The CPA Exam

7. “Can You Send Me an Email Explaining This?”

“At the risk of infantilizing your employees, having them explain a subject back to you (or to other coworkers) is the best litmus test. Ask them to send an overview email to you or to the parties involved. Not only does it double check everyone’s understanding, but it’s a helpful way to capture the content on the table.” ~ Jessica GonzalezInCharged

8. “How Would You Bounce Back From a Failure Here?”

“Find something relating to the subject and put them in a scenario that includes how they would bounce back from failure. Failure is inevitable and in my opinion a very positive step. If they truly understand a subject they will be able to analyze how to succeed from something going wrong. Anyone can analyze a subject by success, but only the best employees can progress in failure.” ~ Anthony Russo, #bethechange

9. “Is There Another Way to Do This?”

“When trying to discover how well an employee understands a subject, ask them if there’s another, better or easier way to do it. If the employee comes up with a strategy that’s more effective, you’ll know that they have a strong understanding of the subject, have listened intently and thought about what you’ve said.” ~ Stephanie WellsFormidable Forms

10. Give them a Real World Problem

“I used to ask a lot of advertising-related questions from our agency applicants — what is this, how do you call that, and so on and so forth. As soon as I started using real-world scenarios instead, it became very clear who actually knows their stuff and who has read a textbook. The client is X and they’re trying to do Y with Z amount of money — what’s your plan?” ~ Karl KangurMRR Media

11. Prepare a Small Verbal or Written Test

“A small test can help you determine whether or not employees understand a subject. After giving them the information they need to know, give them a verbal or written test going over the topics you covered. The test will let you know whether or not your teaching method is effective, and can help you identify topics that may need additional coverage.” ~ Blair WilliamsMemberPress

12. Ask Open-Ended Questions About Their Process

“Simply asking, ‘Do you understand?’ will not get the job done. Instead, ask the person how long it will take for the person to complete a task, how and where they will obtain the information to complete it, if they foresee any challenges, and where there is anyone they can go to if they need support. Also, circle back at a midpoint before a deadline to ensure that everything is on track.” ~ Blair ThomaseMerchantBroker


This article, “12 Questions to Test Your Employees’ Knowledge Like the Pros” was first published on Small Business Trends

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