One wet Friday I delivered an interpersonal skills training course. The manager who hired me popped into the training room at 5pm whilst I was clearing down and said: “Bryan, good job done. I’ve just had a quick word with some of the participants and they were over the moon about the training. They really enjoyed it and loved the sweets too. Jane, who was on the training, really got where you were coming from. I’ve got some more training coming up later this year and we’ll definitely be in touch”.
As I weaved my way slowly back to the West Midlands, I reflected on that conversation and weighed up the benefits of the day.
As a freelancer, I felt happy. Repeat business was coming my way as a result of the comments (everybody likes to be stroked even low maintenance people like me). The fact that I liked the audience (not always a done-deal) was also a bonus benefit. The previous night’s disturbed sleep in a budget hotel (I only like my own) was a distant memory.
But, of course, my perceived benefits are all good and dandy. But what of the benefits to the company and the manager that hired me, and the attendees? Isn’t that why I came into training in the first place? To make a difference in improving skills to enhance job performance. How confident can I feel that the enjoyment of the course (and the sweets) will translate to a measurable business benefit for the client’s investment?
A glance at the happy sheets showed I had scored mostly 8 or 9 out of 10 for effectiveness. This was the best evidence I could muster for the client. I’ve used this sort of information many times in justifying my performance. But it’s a tenuous link. My happy go lucky mentality wants to think I made a difference to job performance, but did I? As a member of the freelance army, very often we never find out (or don’t want to enquire the answer 3 months down the line for fear of no perceived improvement).
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In an age of recession and austerity, value for money and effectiveness should be rigorously measured and squeezed to infinite degree. Yet incredibly in training we can get away with positive judgement of value for money and effectiveness based on the participants having a good time and enjoying the fun sized choccies. I’m don’t think there are many other aspects of that hiring manager’s job which can escape with such crude evaluation, particularly when accounting for the training spend (and loss of a day’s task productivity from participants) to the monthly senior manager’s meeting.
Bryan Edwards is the Managing Director of ABC Training Solutions Ltd (www.abctrainingsolutions.biz), a training consultancy based in West Midlands, delivering training across the U.K. and marketing course materials.