Is training evaluation overrated?
Let’s be clear on that. Emphatically not – but it is being given disproportionate importance and academic coverage.
So why even pose the question? Well, it’s just this bloggers way of highlighting that the analysis of individual and organisational learning requirements, the highest quality of design and piloting and the robust delivery of learning solutions are all just as important in getting the job done.
Let’s deal with evaluation first. It’s vital that every organisation understands the impact of the learning they provide for employees is having – is it making them better at their jobs or not? If not, why not? You and your training provider (internal or external) need to be accountable and demonstrate that they are having a measureable impact on behaviour, attitude, skills and knowledge. You and your training provider must also be able to make a coherent assessment of the return on investment achieved from the activity. So evaluation is essential and must be a consideration from the beginning not just once the training has been delivered – if it’s an afterthought you’ll probably be wasting your time. The really good providers will talk about evaluation with their clients from the get-go because it is integral to objective setting.
However, examination of academic literature on the subject and anecdotal evidence from our own clients suggest that evaluation is edging out analysis, design and delivery as equally important aspects of the learning cycle. It’s just getting a bit more coverage and air time over its stable-mates. But why?
Well, often our clients will say they “just know” what the needs of an individual, group or organisation needs are because they are L&D or HR professionals, because they know the people well and they know what the business requires in terms of operational capability or strategic development. Indeed, they are often proven right and in this case, much like when a ‘consultant’ tells you what you already know, they are pretty pleased with themselves. But a thorough analysis of development needs almost always throws up nuances, alternate areas or development, political or cultural issues and barriers that can all then be taken into account when it comes to design. In short, in our experience, time spent analysing the training need is almost never wasted and usually results in more pointed, shorter and impactful solutions. So, even if you think you know what you need, spend some time checking – the worst that can happen is you will have evidence to back up why you were right in the first place. More likely is that you will save time and money in the end as a result of good analysis.
This leads to much more effective design of the training solution and to better selection of the right methodology. For example, large scale compliance training is often dealt with on-line and en-mass. In contrast, small team’s improvement activities need face-to-face coaching and training in most instances. The data from the analysis will really drive this process. It is also vital at this stage to allow some trial-and-error and experimentation – usually called pilot programmes which give us the opportunity to road-test solutions to get valuable feedback on the solution. Appropriate adaptations can then be made.
With effective analysis and robust design the delivery stage of a solution ought to be smooth running, and usually is. This is the high-profile bit of the process – it’s the bit people experience and engage in and where the difference is made. Choosing the right methodology, right internal or external partner, and matching the delivery personnel with the solution objectives are all significant factors in getting this right. External partners with experience and a proven track record rarely fail at this stage. But it can happen. That is why Maguire Training take every possible care to understand and engage with their clients from pre-delivery through to evaluation.
Finally, you get to evaluate your solution. Did it work? What next? And as I said at the beginning there is already lots of literature out there to help you on this subject and it will also be the focus of a subsequent Maguire blog, so watch out for that one.
In the meantime you can have a look at these videos on line in the general areas of training analysis, design, delivery and evaluation…
Identifying development training for your team:
Identifying areas to coach:
Identifying learning styles:
Train the Trainer: