Training is just one step on the development road, says Jan Hills. So how can you ensure that development continues back at the workplace?
There are a number of techniques that can be implemented to help learning to continue after an event, but an important way of motivating yourself and your clients to continue their development is to measure its success. So, from the very beginning, ask yourself how you will measure the effectiveness of training?
Assess the success
Firstly, work out what data you can collect which will help you to assess the success of the event and gauge how easy it will be to gather. Ensure that you design in a practical method of data collection at the planning stage and make one person responsible for ensuring it happens. Practicality is key: it's no good if it costs more to measure the success of the event that the actual event itself.
In order to collect the right information, you'll need to think about the objectives of the stakeholders in the development and what outcomes they will want to know about. In addition to participants in the event, this might include event sponsors, or your internal client. So be mindful of what they will consider to be relevant and make sure your measurement fits with those aims.
There are many techniques for collecting data, both qualitative and quantitative, so work out what data would be most relevant to the goals of the development. For example, if the aim of your event was to make HR business partners more strategic, you could carry out 360º feedback to gather information about how strategic they were before, and repeat the exercise six months later, noting any differences in the response.
Alternatively, if your event was aimed at developing customer relations skills among your sales associates, you might have quantitative data that is already routinely gathered that you can use.
For example, you can compare sales figures over a period of time and measure any increase in the number of sales to customers, or the frequency of customer visits, or if there is a change in the size of the average sale made since the event. You might also want to track this by sales associate to analyse if the development has been more successful with some than with others.
A popular way of measuring the success of development events is to use 'happy sheets' - feedback sheets handed out at the end of training, which ask for the participants' views on what they have learnt. The problem with using this kind of data on its own is that it only allows us to look at the event itself, rather than whether the new skills and insights from the training have been implemented and also whether they are having any impact on the job and the business results. Besides it being good practice, measuring the outcome of your development is important as it offers a physical reward for both the event organisers and participants.
Encouraging participants to engage with ongoing learning is important for the transfer and embedding of new skills into their day-to-day job and involves them in holistic learning. If you engage the participants as stakeholders in ongoing development, for example follow-up lunch and learn sessions or action learning, then you are more likely to see long-term change.
If the learning is all being led by the L&D department it is likely to run out of steam more quickly, as participants who see the benefit of the ongoing learning will also provide the energy to keep it going.
Measurement is one important way of providing pay back for people who get more involved. But the techniques you use to maintain ongoing learning will change as the needs of the group develop.
These needs won't be the same after six months as they were on day one, so your strategy needs to develop with them along with the ways you measure them. If you have incorporated this from the planning stage, you should be able to adapt.
Finally, any development event needs to have a finite lifespan. It can't continue indefinitely as the dynamics and needs of any group involved will change over time as people move on to new jobs, their learning needs change, or company objectives change. So whilst it is important to make sure your development is more than just an event, give it a finite life – it is unrealistic to think that it will go on forever.
Jan Hills's previous feature: How do you make development stick?
Jan Hills is from HR With Guts.