Training Consultant

Author Bio ▼

Nicole runs Worthwhile Training and has over 20 years experience assisting organisations with practical advice to manage the risks associated employee’s personal safety, security and wellbeing.  She works with organisations to design, implement and embed control measures and training solutions to achieve measurable results.
February 24, 2015

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Simple steps to effective training evaluation

Nicole Vazquez concludes her series on getting the most out of training. Her fourth article can be found here.

Training evaluation goes well beyond ‘happy sheets’. If you are at all interested in finding out whether the time, money and resources committed to training have had any value, then implementing effective training evaluation is vital.

With experience, the most effective evaluation is achieved when you have feedback from all stakeholders: the team that procured the training (H&S, HR, etc.), senior and line managers, the trainer and the learner combined. They will all have their own objectives and a view on whether these were met.

There are many experts in the field who have devised systems and written numerous books on the subject of training evaluation. In a blog I don’t have time to go into any great depth, so here are just a few points and questions you may not have considered:

  • The learner will have a view as to how much they enjoyed the training and how useful it was to them. This can be measured immediately after the training, but we also need to gain data on how the training has impacted on their knowledge, behaviour and competency long term.

    A second evaluation process a couple of months later will help you to measure knowledge retention and changes in the workplace. Occasionally training will enlighten staff as to what they don’t know and this can feed into future training needs analysis – how will your evaluation capture gaps in knowledge or skills that have been discovered?

  • The trainer will be interested in whether they have met the desired learning outcomes (from both the learners’ and the organisation’s perspective), whether people enjoyed the course and whether the learners went away able and keen to make positive changes. In seeking to improve, the trainer should also be asking, “What worked well for the learners?” “What didn’t work?” and “What can I do better next time?”
  • The organisation (or managers within it) will have defined the desired outcomes, and then invested time, money and resources providing the training. Therefore they are frequently most interested in their Return On Investment (ROI) so they might ask the question “Did the training do what we wanted it to do?” but remember, this question assumes the right outcome was set in the first place and that this can be the only positive output from the training.

    We frequently find organisations measure success with a knowledge check; the challenge with this is that measuring raised awareness or understanding of theory may not be an appropriate gauge. We should consider the changes that have been prompted by the training and ask about how people apply the knowledge in the real world and how this makes a difference. “Do my staff now act differently?” For health and safety topics it is often more appropriate to use physical demonstration of skills or competency, which is relevant to the job, rather than written tests based purely on theory – it’s all about actions!

  • It is important for organisations to make the scope of any evaluation wide enough to capture additional benefits from training. To give you an example, we recently ran courses for a group of managers on how to carry out incident investigations. It could be measured that they all left better equipped and better able to do this (so met the SMART objective) but many managers also self-assessed that the training had given them the added benefit of requiring them to challenge and change the way they managed their people overall. This was never in the brief, but still a distinctive positive outcome. One that is only measured if you broaden the question, “What business benefits have been achieved?”
  • To really measure the business benefits of the training the organisation needs to commit to longer-term evaluation. We can test learning (and even level of commitment to the messages) at the end of a session, however the real impact can only be measured when learners return to the workplace and when you look at the longer-term changes. “Are changes being made to working practices/attitudes and are they having a positive impact on safety or other targets of the business?”

    To assess this, it is easy to start with incident reports and trends, but they potentially won’t tell the whole story. Reports from senior and line managers assessing post-training actions and practices against previous behaviours can help give you a greater insight. If you encourage managers to hold post-course conversations with their staff and support the key training messages, any training is more likely to be effective and you are more likely to hear about the results. “What changes have managers witnessed?”

Remember no matter how much learners ‘enjoy’ the training, without structured evaluation you will never understand the effectiveness or the impact of your investment.

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