Skill and Knowledge Levels

Skill and Knowledge Levels

We have been using assessments in all of our training and learning products for over thirty-five years. The primary purpose of our assessments was to help us to adapt and adjust our teaching in order that our students learn. We first had a “Pretest” to measure what the students know when they start our class. Then we had a “Final Assessment” to determine what the difference was in knowledge before and after. This allows us to change how we teach.

We also used these assessments to challenge our approach to teaching. If the same question was received with the same wrong answer, obviously how we were teaching it was the issue not the learning potential of the student.

Let’s turn to our Job Function Assessments at Learning Without Scars (LWS). By now I hope you have looked at our job function comprehensive skill assessments. We believe we have broken new ground with these assessments for the Industries we serve. There are no other common job function assessments out there. With that position of leadership, we have been cautious on how we have approached this. We have had over 3,500 of our class assessments completed in the past two years. This has allowed us to established a hierarchy based on actual employee skills and their results on the assessments.

Upon completion of a specific Job Function Skills Assessment the student will receive their score (0-100). This score will rank their skills based on the results we have seen from the thousands of assessments taken. We have established these skill categories based on our experiences with our class assessments and the skill levels of the people taking these classes. For Learning Without Scars these skill categories are Basic (0-30), Intermediate (31-50), Advanced (51-70) and Expert (71-100). This category level will identify the specific class progressions to allow them to improve their skill level. These category levels have allowed us to design individualized class structures for the student to follow to improve their individual skill level. More on this next week.

We want each individual to be able to achieve their potential. Potential is a wonderful word. It is one that I was introduced to by an Elder in our Church when I was a little boy. He spent a lot of time mentoring a young boy. He passed several messages to me to consider.

  • Always assume the other person is twice as smart as you are and work twice as hard to prove that they are not.
  • Be Happy in your Work or Work and be Happy. You have no choice you have to Work.

If someone tells you that you have a lot of potential and you are sixteen years old that is a very good thing. If someone tells you that you have a lot of potential and you are sixty-six what have you been doing for the last fifty years.

The time is now.

For more information on our assessments and classes, please visit our website at

How to Use Assessments

How to Use Assessments

Yesterday we addressed the Foundation of Learning. Today I want to talk about how we envisioned businesses using our Job Function Skills Assessment. Let’s quickly review what we say on the Landing Page for Assessments.

We point out four areas in which to use our Skill Assessments

  1. Recruiting: The assessments can be used in recruiting employees. In conjunction with background checks and interviews, the assessment gives you much more information on the applicants before they are hired. Hiring the “right” someone is extremely difficult to do. The assessment provides the Company hiring the individual an objective view of the skills of the prospective employee.


  1. Performance Reviews: The assessments should also be used in the annual performance review with each employee. Other than the reviews I give myself I have never received a formal performance review as an employee. I believe that performance reviews are a terrific opportunity to discuss with the employee what is necessary for the employee to do to become better at what they do and open up more opportunities for them in the Company.


  1. Wages and Salaries: The assessments can even be used as an objective foundation related to the establishment of the wages and salaries paid to the employees. We have had several thousand people take our assessments since the beginning of 2017 and we have a high degree of confidence that our skill levels are in line with the actual performance of the employees. This provides a foundation for the proper wage and salary scales and progressions through the scales to be objectively managed.


  1. Employee Development: The assessments have been developed to be used to create individualized employee development programs for each employee in the parts and service business teams. A career path for each employee in the Parts, Service, Selling or Marketing groups allows talented people to be motivated to achieve their potential. With the Skill Levels from the assessments and the Learning Paths tied to them this becomes a real possibility within these teams of people.


Attracting, Hiring, Developing and Retaining talented, motivated employees is the MOST critical of all aspects of your business. With the right people you will prevail. Without them you will FAIL.


The choice is yours.


The time is now.

The Foundation of Learning

The Foundation of Learning

Too often in the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, work and family and friends, we have our head down and we are trying to get through the day without being killed. Everything is such a rush. For most of 2020, a year which we hope to get through, we have been stuck. Too much to worry about, we don’t know what is going on, we are getting bombarded by conflicting messages on all the media, social media fan the fire further with well-meaning (for the most part) people sharing their opinions. We no longer feel as if we are in control of our lives, if ever we were.

The school age people are in flux as well. Virtual learning has become commonplace without having education re-imagined and redesigned. Most teaching is in front of a computer screen talking as if the teacher were in the classroom with the students. The students are sitting in front of their computer screen, which many students had never had before, over inconsistent networks bored to tears. We are social animals we need to interact with people in real time live.

Some learning platforms were ahead of their time. The Khan Academy, founded in 2008 has 100 million registered users. Sal Khan, the founder, states that virtual learning cannot replace classroom learning. In the “virtual class the students are missing out on the social and emotional benefits from in person classes.”

But the Khan Academy provides significant guidance on their learning platform in how to learn.

  • Students practice at their own pace, first filling in gaps in their understanding and then accelerating their learning.
  • Teachers can identify gaps in their students’ understanding, tailor instruction, and meet the needs of every student.

I believe that is the very foundation of learning.

Teachers and students able to identify “gaps” in the students understanding of a specific subject and then tailoring the instruction to meet the needs of each individual student.

At Learning Without Scars the foundation of our employee development platform is what we call “Job Function Skills Assessments.” We call these our Comprehensive Skills Assessments.

We offer a range of assessments for the Parts business, the Service Business and the Selling and Marketing aspects of the Parts and Service businesses.

You select your Department by scrolling down on that landing page. Then, all that is required is that you select your current job function and you will land on a brief write-up telling you what the assessment is about.

Each assessment, other than our technician assessments, consists of 90 multiple choice questions. These questions have been selected from the internet based subject specific classes that we offer. The student is given a time limit of an hour to complete the assessment. The time restriction is another indicator of the knowledge and level of skills that the student has on their specific job function. Upon completion of the assessment the “student” is given a score.

From that score, and the thousands of skills assessments already completed by our clients, we are able to identify the “Gaps” in the “students’” knowledge and create a specific “Learning Path” for each “student.” (more on that in the days to come)

Our Learning Platform follows the same logic as is employed by the Khan Academy. We determine the gaps in the individual employee’s skills and then create a customized learning path for each of them.

This is how we have established “Our Foundation of Learning.”

We have 32 of these job function assessments and the results we have seen to date are extremely exciting.

Next blog we will talk about the specific ways that a business can use our Skill Assessments. The choice you make on “Individual Employee Skills Development” is of critical importance to your business, your customers and most importantly to your employees.

The time is now.

Why Do We Need to Change?

Why Do We Need to Change?

Robert Quinn says “One key to successful leadership is continuous personal change. Personal change is a reflection of our inner growth and empowerment.”

It’s important to evolve and to adjust as we grow deeper in the knowledge of ourselves and those around us too.

But why are people afraid to change? Why is change so difficult when we all know it’s inevitable?

James Belasco and Ralph Stayer, authors of the book “The Flight of the Buffalo,” couldn’t have said it any better “Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up.”

This week let’s think about the changes we’re afraid of making in our own lives. Are we overestimating the value of the very things we hold near and dear to us? Are we underestimating what the future may hold? Something to think about. Let’s be more aware of the need for change.

Today we finished an upgrade to our Learning Without Scars website.

We would like to invite everyone to come take a look at our new layout here.

Brian Shanahan, of Shanahan Strategy, with whom we have been working on our websites for ten plus years, has done a terrific job for us.

This change allows our clients to utilize e-commerce to purchase any of our Learning Without Scars products. It also shows a different focus on learning by utilizing our Skill Assessment Tools. From the scores achieved on the Job Function Skills Assessment we now offer a “Learning Path” recommendation of classes to take in order to improve their Skills Level. Those classes have been reorganized and the layout of their presentation has also been re-imagined here.

With the change to the website we have focused on getting in place many of the things that our clients have requested of us so far:

  1. Simplicity
  2. Ease of Navigation
  3. The ability to complete transactions online
  4. Excitement on the site

You will ultimately be the judge. But we are pleased. You will be hearing a lot more about this each day. We hope you take some time and look at the new site and give us any feedback you wish. We would welcome your help in keeping us as the most comprehensive and current employee development platform in the Industry.

The time is now.

All offerings are available at Contact if you would like to plan for a custom program.

Leaders with Skills and Knowledge – the PLP

Leaders With Skills and Knowledge – the PLP.

We started our journey of assisting in employee development in the early 1990s with the management training programs we developed for the Parts and Service Teams. We created two-day classroom programs for executives, management, supervision and first line team leaders. These classes focused on operations, finance, selling and management supplemented with a manual of roughly 200 pages in length.

What we didn’t do was offer a test for each program and progress testing to plant the knowledge more deeply into the student’s mind. You will find another blog post later this week from the wonderful book “Make It Stick” which is aimed at “The Science of Successful Learning.”

The Quest, Learning Centers, classroom courses were developed and then tested with executives who sat through the programs as they were being developed to assist us in how these programs were created.

Since the inception of these leadership classes we have had the opportunity to teach more than 4,000 dealer employees.

This film will define and describe how the PLP – Planned Learning Programs, classes work. Each one covers ten classes and provides twenty hours of training. The PLP programs are three years and covers thirty classes with sixty hours of knowledge transfer.

With the PLP’s we have a twenty question, multiple choice exam at the conclusion and also put forward “quizzes” three or four times through the learning experience. These “tests” are aimed, as indicated above, at implanting the knowledge more completely into the students’ mind. The science of learning tells us that testing stops almost completely forgetting the content of the class.   

The film you are about to see, which is the final program in the troika of learning and will give you an explanation of the PLP Program. I hope you enjoy it.

The Time is Now.

Focusing on the Job – the PSP Program

Focusing on the Job – the PSP program.

Continuing to define and describe what we do at Learning Without Scars takes us to our position of providing a pathway for employee development at their individual job functions.

Most Industry and Wholesaler Learning Programs are focused on parts product training and department management. At the AED where for twenty-five years we conducted all of the Parts and Service training the focus was on management. We operated classroom programs lasting two days. The Executives and Managers who attended these classes learned the ins and outs of Parts Management or Service Management and we took them through a three-year development structure starting with “What it Looks Like When it is Right” and moving to “Performance Excellence” and finishing with “Reaching Market Potential.” They were all good programs and we did this training from 1994 through 2015.

However, as was pointed out to me by a very successful executive in our Industry, “you need to create job function training not management training.”

That resonated with me and as a result we have created specific job function training programs. That is what we call Planned Specific Programs – PSP’s. Our PSP’s are aimed at the specific job functions within the Parts and Service businesses. Instore Selling, which covers the telephone and counter job functions, Parts Office and Warehousing, Inventory Management for the Parts business. Foremen/Lead-hand, Service Writer, Inspector, and Service Office for the Service business. And more.

The film you are about to see will give you an explanation of the PSP Program. I hope you enjoy it.

The Time is Now.

The Parts Business Going Forward

The Parts Business Going Forward.

Let me ask a few questions, of you, if I might:

  • What does your future in the parts business look like?
  • Is it a continuation of what you are doing now?
  • Are the results you are experiencing satisfying for you personally?
  • Is that the best you can do?
  • If you can do more what is holding you back?

By now you’re probably thinking, “WOW. That isn’t fair. You ask tough questions.”

Here is something to consider. If you continue to do what you have been doing you are facing extinction. That is a fact. I am 100% in agreement with that statement. Are you?

Let’s have a look at what goes on today. The phone rings or someone walks into your store, what many of you call your branch. An employee, in your parts department, if they aren’t already busy, will greet the customer. They will then proceed to determine what the customer needs. What is the customer doing? Rarely is that question asked. Would that question be helpful? Of course, it would be helpful. Then the parts employee will open up his computer system, if the parts employee knows who the customer is they can proceed to open a parts sales order. If they don’t know the customer they have to ask. And then they find the customer on their business system and then proceed to open a parts sales order.

How about processing parts orders for the service group? Does your technician walk to a back counter? Then a parts employee and the technician determine what parts are required for the work? Or perhaps the technician calls into the parts department and the process is similar to a customer parts sales order. Does the technician order their own parts using an electronic catalogue of the parts and service manuals and enter their parts orders to your business system themselves?

How about an instore display area? Do you have one? How do you operate the instore area? What is the number of customers coming in to your store on a daily/weekly basis to place parts orders? How many parts are sold from the instore displays on a daily/weekly basis?

Finally, we come to the internet. Do you have a facility that will allow your customers to place their orders online? How often are customers looking at your web site? How many customers check on your parts inventory availability? How many customers check your prices online? Do you allow your customers to have access to an electronic catalogue? Do you allow your customers to have access to service manual information online? How many customers place orders online through your website on a daily/weekly basis? Does your business system provide statistics on the number of customers visiting daily/weekly? How about price checks on the same frequency? How about availability checks for the same frequency? If a customer checks prices and availability but does not place an order does your business system notify the parts department daily on which customers were involved? Does a parts employee call the customer when that happens and determine what the customer was looking for and if they in fact found what they needed?

I guess the real question is “Are you working in the business or on the business?”

Perhaps even more directly are you in the order processing business or the selling business?

Or finally, are you in the parts business or the part number business?

The answer to these many questions should provoke some serious thinking.

As Jack Welsh used to say “when the world around you are changing at a rate faster than you are …. The end is near.”

The decisions you make will be with you for a long, long time.

The Time is NOW.

Talents and Skills

Learning Without Scars was created to fill a void in the Capital Goods Industries, specifically the light and heavy equipment space.

With technical schools closing at an alarming rate the markets we serve were becoming unable to find the talents and skills they required in the operational areas of the business, parts and service specifically. I have written extensively on the German trade school structures and the benefits it provides German employers. We no longer have a viable trade school preparation for the parts business.

To that end, here at LWS we have developed training programs for the parts counter job functions. We have the same for the parts office and the service office. We also have programs for the parts warehouse, for service writers and service foreman and lead hands. All of these programs were created after dealer customers had expressed a need and a desire to help employee development.

The report from Edward Gordon, a colleague, is a clear affirmation of why we are doing what we do in training.

I would like to pose a question to everyone. What are you doing to attract new employees, to retain the ones you have and to develop all of your employees to meet the needs of future job?

There is a critical need on our Industry. Without the proper number of talented and skilled employees your business is at risk.   

The Time is NOW.


Please read this Edward Gordon article.

Knowledge Shock Part V: Job Evolution Causes Skill Shortages and A Search for Solutions

Job Evolution 1970-2010

In 1970 John, whose father was a plumber, graduated from high school. He began working in a Midwestern automotive-parts factory. It had an entry-level job training program and paid him a good wage. At that time, about 66 percent of entry-level jobs in manufacturing and other employment sectors required only a high school diploma. Business management and professional positions required a college education. Also, apprenticeship completion or specific skill-training certificates were needed to qualify for some mid-skilled occupations.

 Fast forward to 1990 when John’s daughter Linda became an office file clerk after graduating from high school. She found out technologies had changed occupational skill requirements in both offices and factories. High school graduation was no longer a passport to the middle class. By 1990, 55 percent of jobs required education or training beyond high school. However, many employers offered workers on-the-job training.

John’s grandson, George, was always interested in cars. After high school graduation in 2010, George decided to seek employment in an auto-production plant. But he was surprised to discover that a largely unrecognized Fourth Industrial Revolution had radically changed entry-level jobs requirements. Robots now performed many repetitive tasks on car assembly lines. George also learned that this local auto factory only sought workers who could operated computer-controlled equipment. Working on teams, they also need needed to have the technical skills required to assemble many different auto models in smaller runs as sales orders came in from the manufacturer’s dealer network. The plant had no entry-level job training. Applicants were expected to be job ready from day one!

By 2010, low-skill jobs had declined to only 33 percent of the U.S. labor market. They were also low paying jobs. The majority of even mid-level occupations now required special career training beyond high school.

Talent Shortages by the Numbers

In 2010 there were about 97 million mid-level and higher skilled jobs across the United States. Yet only 43 million American workers met the general education and career training requisites to fill them.  U.S. businesses made up a national gap of 54 million skilled workers through increasing automation, importing skilled foreign workers, poaching workers from competitors, or exporting higher skilled jobs to overseas locations with the requisite talent pool. Only about 20 percent of U.S. businesses offered job training programs. This talent shortfall resulted in 4 million vacant jobs across the U.S. economy.

Over the next decade the skills-jobs disconnect continued to expand. By 2017 two-thirds of jobs in the U.S. labor market required workers with post-secondary specialized career training. International talent shortages had also increased, making it much more difficult for U.S. businesses to either import talent or find an off-shore location with the needed skilled workers. A global talent showdown had begun in earnest. In 2017 nine million jobs remained unfilled across the United States. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates a loss of $26,000 per vacant job in profit or productivity for a business. This represents an over $230 billion loss to the U.S. economy.

The U.S. talent shortfall is a significant part of a much broader global talent train wreck. The worldwide estimate of 2022 job vacancies range from 45 to 95 million skilled positions. Many recent surveys of American executives place this talent crisis at the top or near the top of management concerns. For example, a 2018 survey conducted by the Associated General Contractors of America indicated that this industry will be short two million skilled craft professionals by 2020. A recent National Association of Manufacturers survey for the first time reported  “attracting and retaining a quality workforce” as the respondents’ top business challenge.This was also the case in the February survey of the National Federation of Independent Businesses. Ninety percent of businesses seeking workers reported “few or no qualified applicants” for open positions.

Two Major Skills Initiatives

Two significant approaches for confronting the escalating shortages of skilled workers are gaining momentum. The “2017 Training Industry Report” (Training, November 2017) showed that U.S. businesses made an unprecedented $23 billion increase in worker training in the past year. Total expenditures rose from $70.6 billion to $93.6 billion or 32.5 percent. The majority of these funds were invested in specific job raining programs for workers rather than in management education programs as in years past. Over the past few months there has been some increase in the labor participation rate. It is an indication that more companies are again beginning to offer job training to new hires. This is opening the possibility of employment to so called “discouraged workers” who until recently have been sitting on the U.S. labor-market sidelines because their skills were not up-to-date.

A second more comprehensive approach to tacking the current skills crisis are regional public-private partnerships focused on economic development and reforming the education-to-employment system. These Regional Talent Innovation Networks (RETAINs) offer a process for reinventing their local talent-delivery systems. In the short term, these cross-sector initiatives composed of businesses, educational institutions, unions, government agencies, and non-profit community groups focus on retraining workers and the unemployed with the skills currently needed to fill the vacant jobs of regional employers. RETAINs are of particular value to small businesses as they offer a viable way of pooling their resources to inform, attract, and prepare skilled workers to fill jobs.

In the long term, RETAINs seek to rebuild the workforce pipeline through raising K-12 educational standards and implementing career-skills preparation programs. Beginning in elementary school students need to be well grounded in reading, writing, mathematics, and verbal communication skills. To accommodate the wide diversity of students’ aptitudes and interests, a wider diversity of high school programs are needed such as STEM academies, career education programs, and pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship options. This means more students will leave high school with solid educational foundations that prepare them to successfully complete the post-secondary career education and training needed to fill today’s and tomorrow’s ever-rising job requirements. It is notable that the High School Inc. Foundation (previously profiled in  Gordon Report) has received the 2018 Citation for Career Education and Excellence from the American Association for Career Education for its leadership role in the development of six career academies at the Valley High School in Santa Ana, California. The High School Inc. Foundation is a good example of the over 1,000 RETAINs now operating across America.

More information on many local RETAIN “brands” across the United states is now available in an updated paperback edition of Future Jobs: Solving the Employment and Skills Crisis published by Praeger in March 2018. It offers many case studies of the the accomplishments of these cross-sector partnerships in updating regional training and education programs and thus reviving local economies.

The Urgent Need for Action Addressing the Skills Crisis

Unless business investments in job training are drastically increased and the RETAIN movement grows exponentially, by 2022 the skills-jobs disconnect will have a dire impact on the U.S. economy. America is facing a demographic tsunami of 30 million baby boomers retiring from the workforce. In the cohort of millennials entering the workforce, only about thirty percent have the education and skills needed for advanced technology workplaces, but at least sixty percent need to be at this level for the high tech, knowledge-based economy of 2022.

The Gordon Report “Knowledge Shook Series” has spotlighted some of the most crucial forces behind the jobs-skills crisis. We have examined how American culture across the business community, schools, unions, and parents has failed to keep pace with the significant knowledge expansion required by technology change. We have also seen how popular culture can promote addiction to social media and other internet venues that reduce cognitive development and interpersonal skill growth. Over the past decade Knowledge Shock has morphed into Job Shock as many American workers now fear that escalating technology changes have placed their jobs at great risk. Inventing technology has proved to be the easy part; changing society’s cultural willingness to place education and workforce training on steroids remains very difficult. 

As technology has continued to expand job requirements, simplistic populist solutions for protecting jobs and industries are being advanced by the extreme right and left of the U.S. political spectrum. Populists offer a new form of tribalism. By dividing society into many warring factions, they seek to attack and eliminate the “enemy” opposition rather than pursue consensus through negotiation. This tribalism is in direct opposition to the democratic beliefs and traditions upon which our great American Republic was founded and has developed over the past 242 years. We remain fundamentally opposed to this attempt to undermine U.S. society.

As we contend with this social divisiveness, the American general public needs to be made aware of the urgent need to answer the two great questions of Job Shock.     

  1. Why has technology growth clearly outpaced the knowledge development of the U.S. workforce?
  2. How can we develop a new consensus that will lead to the overall growth of a well-educated American workforce?

The answers to these social issues will define how well we make the historic employment transition that America now faces. Failure is not an option.

Edward E. Gordon is president and founder of Imperial Consulting Corporation ( His book, Future Jobs: Solving the Employment and Skills Crisis, a winner of an Independent Publishers award, is now available in an updated 2018 paperback edition. 

Your Stakeholders – Back to Basics

This is our second installment in our Back to Basics theme, covering the topic of your stakeholders.  Last week, we began with the Balanced Scorecard and the customers.

The next piece of Back to Basics is the value that we deliver to the stakeholders.

When we talk about your stakeholders, who de we mean?

Simply put, your stakeholders means the employees, the company leadership, the owners, the shareholders, and the suppliers of your business.  Since you have all learned that I like to begin with definitions in order to have clarity in each topic, your stakeholders are the individuals and groups who invest in your business with their time, their money, their ideas, and their resources.  The customers benefit from the commitment of your stakeholders, and your stakeholders benefit from the growth and development of your company and your customer loyalty.

Here we go back to metrics and standards of performance, also known as Key Performance Indicators.  These Key Performance Indicators are Revenue, Profitability, Expense Control, Asset Management and how the department and business performs.

One of these metrics is Return on Assets (ROA). That leads us to next step in the Back to Basics – investments. The owners of the business have to continue to reinvest in the Company if they want growth. The effectiveness of the business to steward the company assets will allow the owners to determine the level of risk they want to take on relative to the future growth opportunities. If the management does not deliver performance then owners will not have much interest in reinvestment.

So how does this tie in to everything we do here at LWS?

Employee Development is a straightforward investment into the business, its stakeholders, and its vision for the future.  Employee Development correlates to employee satisfaction, which has a demonstrated impact on customer satisfaction.  Satisfied employees = satisfied customers.

As you can see, getting Back to the Basics comprises many aspects of your business.  But you will find that the results are well worth the work.

The time is now.