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CIPD Tells Trainers to Move Away from Traditional Evaluation


Training professionals need to move away from traditional evaluation methods, such as return on investment, and towards measuring the value learning and development contributes to strategic business objectives, according to study from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

The report argues for a shift away from hat it terrms trainer-centred and return on investment models of evaluation, towards "return on expectation" models.

Martyn Sloman, CIPD Learning, Training and Development adviser, said: "There seems to be too much focus on measuring what matters to us as trainers, or on how satisfied people are after a training course and not enough on what really matters to our organisational masters.

"The development of a new approach to valuing learning is long overdue. For 30 years we have regarded a hierarchical approach based on return on investment as the only way to approach
the problem - it has become a holy grail for the profession. The world of learning has changed and new models are required."

The study, Value and Evaluation: From return on investment to return on expectation produced in conjunction with the University of Portsmouth Business School is based on individual
interviews with chief executives or other senior managers in 12 different organisations, and separate interviews with the most senior learning and development professionals in each of those organisations.

The research highlights how organisations are developing a range of different methods to assess and report on the value of learning.

One of the key conclusions of the report is that effective value and evaluation processes require practitioners to develop and use measures that are relevant to organisational stakeholders and the needs of the business. It says that measures of "return on expectation", rather than return on investment are more likely to meet these needs.

Sloman said: "What our research has shown is that operational managers and learning and development professionals will gain most by focusing on measuring return on expectations. And the crucial first stage is to focus on establishing "up front" the anticipated benefits of learning interventions. Through focused dialogue, real understanding and trust can be built up, allowing a clearer assessment after the event of whether expectations have been met. Learning and development professionals may be pleasantly surprised at the extent to which senior managers will embrace 'softer' more qualitative data alongside 'hard' numerical data when looking for an assessment of return on expectations.

"Trying to measure learning by figures and financial results is a bit like driving with your eyes fixed on the rear view mirror. Return on investment can be a valuable measure in some circumstances but it is not the answer on its own."

* Read Donald H Taylor's review of this CIPD report here.


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