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Training Results You Can Measure: Why Conducting Secretarial Skills Assessments Is Worth Your Effort. March 13th, 2009 Corby Guenther Senior Technology Training and Development Manager Bingham McCutchen LLP [email protected] Bay Area Legal Trainers Organization

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Training Results You Can Measure: Why Conducting Secretarial Skills Assessments Is Worth Your Effort

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Training Results You Can Measure:Why Conducting Secretarial Skills Assessments Is Worth Your Effort

March 13th, 2009

Corby GuentherSenior Technology Training and Development ManagerBingham McCutchen LLP

[email protected] Area Legal Trainers Organization

Training Results You Can Measure

Things I learned and heard during a secretarial skills assessment project

Why Are You Doing This To Us?

Some quotes from secretaries:

  • No, honestly, how is this going to affect my job/bonus/review?

  • We’ll form a union, and then you’ll be sorry!

  • We’re friends, you can give me a copy of the test!

  • I just want you to know that we hold you responsible for anyone who jumps off the bridge

Skills assessment really is a worthwhile project

  • Assessments help you take some of the “gooshiness” out of training

  • Bingham was forced to come up with standards for document production for the first time

  • Secretaries have taken more responsibility for their training

  • We now have hard data that we can use to design our training programs

  • We have been able to show our follow-up training is effective

Score Improvement Post-Training

But it’s far and away the hardest project I’ve ever had in this job

  • You have to get your firm’s administration interested in the idea of skills assessment

  • You need to make sure that the right group has ownership of the project

  • The skills you want to measure need to be decided on by a group that is fair and credible

  • The firm has to have a communication plan that speaks to the secretaries honestly and with one voice

  • You must be prepared to deal with the emotional fallout

A brief(ish) history of our long project

  • Bingham McCutchen has approximately 1000 lawyers and has been formed through a series of mergers

  • Secretaries in various offices had widely different levels of experience with our document production tools (Office, MacPac, iManage)

  • Our goal was to standardize document production across our diverse offices (11 US offices and London)

  • Our New York office had previously done an in-house assessment

A brief(ish) history of our long project

  • We started talking about using an outside resource to conduct a firmwide assessment more than four years ago

  • It took us almost a year to get administration on board and the project off the ground

  • We conducted two rounds of training and delivered a second round of assessments

  • Did anyone lose their job?

A brief(ish) history of our long project

  • We hired Theresa Lundquist (then at Perfect Access/Speer now Profisciencē Partners) to help us with this project

  • We chose to focus on Word and MacPac for this assessment (no Excel or PowerPoint)

  • Theresa helped us put together a list of “Core Competencies” we expected of our secretaries

  • Our NY document production department participated up to this point, but much of the work fell on trainers because of our “technical” expertise

  • Our assessment required secretaries to edit and format an actual Word document based on written instructions (not a simulation)

A brief(ish) history of our long project

  • D-Oh! While we were in the planning stages we announced a merger and needed to roll out Office 2003

  • Assessments were put on hold and we developed Office 2003 training that also incorporated all our core competencies

  • Our plan to conduct assessments wasn’t announced to the secretaries until the week before training started in the first office

  • We had several meetings to talk to the secretaries about what the assessments would be like

  • Our timing wasn’t ideal

A brief(ish) history of our long project

  • Theresa Lundquist and I worked to create the actual document we would use in the assessment so it included all the skills we wanted to measure

  • We decided that we wanted to use one document across the firm for consistency– we chose to use a business agreement

  • Our trainers took the assessment as a pilot and we revised it accordingly

  • We started the “live” rollout in our small Walnut Creek office


  • Secretaries were given Office 2003 training office by office

  • We conducted assessments about four weeks after the secretaries were trained

  • In the meantime we offered refreshers and drop in sessions

  • We also gave the assessment to Help Desk staff

  • Eventually we were training, rolling out and assessing in several offices at once

  • Secretaries were told to expect their results in about three weeks


  • Assessments were held in the controlled environment of our training rooms

  • Trainers proctored, sometimes with help from HR

  • Secretaries were given a set of instructions, a partially formatted document, and an example of how their final product should look

  • We limited the assessment time to 90 minutes

  • Trainers were there to answer questions about the instructions, check computers afterward.

  • In some offices we tried to have an HR person around in case emotions got out of hand

After the First Assessment

  • Theresa evaluated assessments emailed to her by the secretaries

  • She sent us back detailed results for individuals, offices and the firm overall

  • We chose not to give the secretaries scores, just put them in courses they needed to attend

  • Tasks were divided into seven categories

  • We set a “passing” threshold at 85% for each category, so secretaries had to take between zero and 7 classes

  • Theresa and I met with HR people from each office to explain and discuss the results

After the First Assessment

  • HR people handed out confidential results by hand and let secretaries know they were available to discuss them if desired

  • I took Theresa’s results and imported them into UniversitySite as learning plans

  • We scheduled follow-up training for each office

  • Secretaries could go into UniversitySite, see their learning plans and sign up for class

  • Anyone who receive more than 85% in every category did not have to take the second assessment

  • We could track the progress of individuals and the firm overall

Learning Plans in UniversitySite

Learning Plan Graduates

Status of “Learners” in UniversitySite

User’s View of a Learning Plan

Signing Up for a Class

The Second Round

  • Secretaries completed Learning Plans

  • We revised “refresher” training to make it more focused

  • Trainers taught with a document similar to assessment

  • There were lots of “Ah-ha!” moments where you could see people finally understanding a concept

  • Assessment instructions were simplified for second round

  • Attitudes were much improved the second time

Second Round Results

Second Round Results- Individual Tasks

What’s Next

  • No further plans for Word assessments

  • We did not require new learning plans for secretaries

  • We need to come up with a plan for assessing new hires and people brought in through mergers

  • We’re considering what applications we might do next

  • Our next assessment will probably be a simulation

  • Hopefully the secretaries will get used to the idea of needing to keep their skills up to date

  • ...and we’ll get used to the idea of using assessments to evaluate our training programs


  • Having an outside consultant is a huge advantage so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel

  • Decide what kind of assessment you want to do early in the process-- budget time and money accordingly

  • Make sure the project has a strong and actively involved sponsor

  • Involve other groups at each stage of the project

    • Secretarial representatives in defining core competencies

    • Local office representatives so they understand the entire process and have a stake in it

  • Keep attorneys informed about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it

  • Be clear about why you’re doing assessments


  • Do whatever you can to overcome differences between offices and between other groups

  • Don’t link your assessments to a new rollout unless that’s specifically what you want to assess

  • Think hard about how you want to assess people who perform different functions

    • Admin secretaries vs. document producers

    • Litigation vs. Business secretaries

    • Help Desk vs. “Real” users

    • Do you want to use one document type for everyone?

  • Don’t let this be a “secret” project. It just makes secretaries suspicious of your intentions

  • Try to set a casual, everyday tone whenever possible

  • Don’t shoot the messenger…


    • Understand that– despite your best intentions– much of your communication effort will be lost because people won’t hear or believe what you tell them

    • Make it clear that you’re assessing skills that you expect everyone to possess

    • Keep the instructions for the assessment as simple as possible

      • Use language everyone will understand

      • Get as much input from others as possible

    • Make the space you use for the assessment as comfortable as you can and plan for complications


    • Keep assessment documents out of the hands of secretaries. Someone will try to get them

    • Give secretaries as much information as you can so rumors don’t get started. Squash them when they do

    • Deal with troublemakers immediately

    • Help your team to be as well informed as possible so you aren’t giving out different answers to questions

    • Make sure that the link between assessments and training is obvious

    • Have a plan for your next steps so that assessment becomes a regular part of training and development

    What Can Assessments Bring to Your Training Programs?

    • A model for further training efforts

      • Makes training an ongoing process rather than a one-time event

      • Gets your users to accept responsibility for their training

      • Gives you the potential for assessing other groups

    • Credibility- you now have numbers to impress people with

    • A chance to work on a common goal with several groups

    • The opportunity to define best practices and create consistency

    • A sense of accomplishment for users and trainers


    Training Results You Can Measure:Why Conducting Secretarial Skills Assessments Is Worth Your Effort

    March 13th, 2009

    Corby GuentherSenior Technology Training and Development ManagerBingham McCutchen LLP

    [email protected] Area Legal Trainers Organization

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