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Bitesize No. 16 – Learning Probability


Much of this series has been built around the use of evaluation and return on investment (ROI) for the business partner to put a very clear business case for learning solutions.

Many training and development specialists, however, ignore or try to avoid using evaluation because they take the view that it is impossible to prove that any specific piece of development achieved a specific, measurable result.

They also argue that it is impossible to separate out the effects of training from all other variables (e.g. marketing, advertising, brand etc.).

So how does a business partner respond to this view?

Well, they adopt a very different perspective: they do not set out to prove anything.

After all, a sales director cannot prove that sales are due solely to the efforts of the sales team.

A finance director cannot prove that the business is making profits because of its sound financial management.

All anyone can hope is that there is as high a probability as possible that their efforts will produce results.

What does this mean in practice?

Well, business partners need to fully understand the theory and practice of probability.

The theory of probability tells us that if you toss a coin there is an equal probability or equal, 50:50 chance it will turn up either heads or tails.

The main question the business partner needs to ask is ‘what are the chances of a piece of training or development being successful?’ Another way of looking at this is to seek to avoid all of the possible causes of failure.

So, if you are running a diversity awareness training programme you have to ask yourself what is the probability that this will change deeply held and intractable attitudes?

If the staff on the programme have unshakeable prejudices then the probability would be nearer to zero.

But what other considerations does probability force us to take into account? Such as the: -
* Clarity of the business objective (need) behind the training.
* Ability of the trainee to influence that objective.
* Motivation and commitment of the trainee.
* Motivation, commitment and ownership of the manager.
* Accuracy of the TNA.
* Method of design.
* Mode of delivery.

Business partners do not need to prove anything they just need to increase the chances of training spend providing the best possible return on investment.


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