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Trainer’s Diary: Evaluation – And So What?


Byron KaliesWhen it comes to evaluation, Byron Kalies says it all comes down to three little words "and so what?"

There's been a great deal written here and elsewhere on training evaluation, value for money and the attempts to measure the benefit of training. The latest term is, of course ROI - Return on Investment. Over the past 10 years or so I've been coached and coach other trainers to use a different three words "and so what?"

This is the thought in my mind during and after any training event when evaluation is discussed. The participants need to consider this very small sentence. OK they may have had a great time, been entertained for five days, been bombarded with the latest theories and examples but the question needs to be discussed.

My particular favourite time for this is each morning of a training event - apart from the first morning, of course. Start the day reflecting on the previous day serves a number of purposes - it eases people into the day, it helps focus them on learning and encourages them to think about the previous day. Some nice open questions about yesterday's training or anything they've learnt provides a good opening but you need to follow up with the question "and so what?" Maybe you phrase it differently but the intention is the same: "OK. You've learnt that you were a INTP on the Myer's Brigg Type Indicator so how are you going to use this?"; "You say the Tuckman model was very interesting so how can you use it when you go back to the workplace?"; "You say you liked the Egan Shadowside session, and so what?"

I also feel there is a great deal about training that just can't be measured. There are occasions in a training room when you've just got to trust that it will be worthwhile. For instance, some of the softer skills can be extremely difficult if not impossible to measure.
How do you put a value on changing someone with a chauvinistic attitude to showing more respectful? You've just got to trust that instinct. Trust that people will be different and happier given more choices.

At a week long residential course looking at management skills I held, one individual was really unhappy coming into the event and we talked a fair amount throughout the five days. The following Monday I had a phone call saying that he'd been to see his manager and was leaving in three weeks to start a job diving with sharks in Egypt. He was going on a career break. It was something he'd always wanted to do and realised that he was desperately unhappy in work. A year later he returned and by all accounts is incredibly happy at work. I'm not sure there's anyway of calculating the ROI of that training course for him.


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