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Why evaluate your training and development?


Do you evaluate your training and development? Now before you try to answer this question just let us consider for a moment what your immediate reaction might be: -

- maybe you have never been interested in evaluation and do not see the need for it (although if you have read this far that is unlikely)

- or maybe you have always felt that you should be doing a bit of evaluation but you only ever go as far as ‘happy’ or ‘smile’ sheets because after that it seems to get too difficult

- or you actually already regard yourself as very good at evaluation and do not see the need for any more effort in this area

All of these reactions could be seen as rather negative and that is the first hurdle to overcome. If you are negative it is probably because of bad experiences in evaluation. The chances are that any experiences you have had so far in this subject are based on using the traditional 4 level evaluation model. This basically states that evaluation of training can take place on 4 levels of: -

1. Reaction
2. Learning (or testing)
3. Transfer to the workplace (or behaviour change)
4. Organisational benefit

If you have been using this model no wonder you do not like the subject. So the first hurdle to overcome is to introduce you to a model that looks deceptively similar but will prove to influence significantly your entire approach to training and development. The model used by Evaluation Zone is the Baseline Model - this inserts an extra level (the Baseline) before levels 1 to 4. It encourages you to ask 2 very important questions before you design any training: -

- how are the trainees currently performing in their jobs before we offer them further training?
- if this training works how much will it be worth (in £££’s)

So, for example, in sales training we need to know how much the salespeople are already selling - x (e.g. £100,000 per head) before the training starts. This can then be compared with sales figures after the sales training event - y (eg. £110,000 per head) to make a simple level 4 evaluation (y-x = £10,000).
So the Baseline Model is: -

Baseline level - what measures of performance already exist for the trainees (X)?

Level 1 - how did they react to the training?

Level 2 - did they learn anything?

Level 3 - are they using what they learned back at work?

Level 4 - did the training improve the bottom line (y-x)?

This might appear only a small alteration to the old 4 level model but in practice it is amazing what difference it makes. For a start it means the business sponsors of your training have to become more involved and take greater ownership. It means trainees know exactly what the training is meant to achieve and tests their commitment and buy-in to their own development. Many other things also happen but, in short, it makes your training and development more focused and more effective.

You may now say that this is all right in sales training but what about soft skills or management development - these are not so amenable to evaluation. Up to a point you are right, it applies very well to sales figures but, if the principle of pre-training measurement is sound, it should be equally applicable to any other type of training or development. So what, for example, would be the baseline measures for a leadership development programme? Some development professionals would immediately argue that this type of programme cannot be evaluated in this way. Does this mean the new baseline model does not work or, more worryingly, does it mean that we need to completely re-think our rather simplistic, course-based approach to developing such high-level skills?

Consider, for a moment, how the need for leadership skills was originally identified. Did anyone identify a true connection between better leadership skills and business improvement? Even if there is a genuine development need, can we assume that the programme will satisfy that skills need? Without a rigorous evaluation methodology many important questions are left unanswered.

Consider now applying the new evaluation model. Here the first question is what measures do we have of the participants' performance? If these are senior managers then there will be plenty of business plan metrics to refer to. Would they, themselves, accept that some of these measures should be focused on during the leadership programme? How committed would they then be to their own development?

It may now appear that the Baseline level will make your life even more difficult. Many trainers, traditionally, have not been involved in looking at operational and strategic business measures of performance. But then again, line managers have often been quite happy attending training courses without having to worry too much about committing themselves to improving their own performance. If this happens whose credibility is at stake - the managers or the person who designed the training?

The Baseline Model encourages trainers to get more closely involved with line managers and business needs, searching for baseline performance measures. It provides a much more focused basis for training needs analysis so tends to steer managers away from simplistic training solutions. Also, because expected improvements are made more explicit at the beginning, in cost or profit terms (using ROI techniques), this starts to influence training design.

At Evaluation Zone you will be able to explore how the Baseline approach can be applied to a wide range of training and development interventions and simultaneously learn from the experiences from your fellow subscribers. I guarantee that you will face a steep learning curve but you will be supported throughout by subscribing to Evaluation Zone.


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