Training has to earn its keep and stand up and be evaluated, says Steve Miller. Here he gives some practical tips on how to reach evaluation nirvana.
'It's a recession when your neighbour loses his job; it's a depression when you lose your own.' Harry S. Truman.
A depressingly familiar quote that may send shivers down your spine, but as the reality of an economic slowdown starts to bite, and training budgets feel the squeeze, then any investment in training has to deliver a tangible and beneficial return. In other words you not only have to be very good at what you do, you have to prove it all the way.
One part of the training and personal development cycle that is often neglected is evaluation. CEOs and managing directors need to see added value from their training spend and its contribution to helping to reduce costs and maximise revenue.
I have developed a series of practical steps that I think will support you in developing your approach to make evaluation simple, effective and meaningful.
Be at the heart of the business
It's important to plan and deliver your training so that it links to the business plan. Spend time with the directors of the business and ask them what are the core people development requirements to meet their strategic business objectives? I always go one step further and ask them what training methodologies will suit each department or team the best.
You need to have the board on your side and make sure they understand the training and what you want to achieve. Take the time to gain commitment and understanding from each director as well as the CEO. Training has to be strategically placed and supported throughout an organisation so start at the top.
Try to please all and please no-one
When planning your training think about the top three priorities and remember, 'those who try to please all please no-one'. Agree the three priorities with the board and make sure the priorities are linked to the business plan. As an example, three core areas could include: driving customer excellence, increasing sales revenue and developing leadership capability. If budgets are tight, and I'm sure they are getting tighter, go one step further by prioritising the priorities.
Fact over fiction
When your training is being evaluated you need to show that all the training content deals with the real needs of the business. Bringing in a 'one size fits all approach' will appear fictitious. Instead develop your training after analysing the goals and priorities of the business and build in checks that show you, and your employer, that you have delivered above expectations.
This should include training course material such as business simulations, computer-based learning and post-programme workbooks.
Before and after
The pre-programme briefing for delegates is important for managing expectations and measuring what you have delivered.
You will have approval from the board that prior to any programme of people development delegates will be fully briefed, have agreed personal and professional objectives for undertaking development and have agreed with their manager a date and time to carry out a post-programme debrief.
Try and be as specific as possible when agreeing the objectives. For example, if a sales manager is to undertake a management development programme you may agree that the post-programme objective is to decrease annual labour turnover by 10%, reduce sickness absence by 2% and increase sales revenues through coaching by 10%. Agreeing such business specifics is rare in many training departments and offers a clear guide for evaluating the effectiveness of training.
Following training, debrief the delegate and from this carry out a coaching session on how the learning will be transferred to the workplace to support the business objectives agreed at the pre-programme briefing. Agree at this stage any additional development to support the delegate in meeting the business objectives from the training such as ongoing one-on-one coaching, guided reading or specialist support.
Three steps to evaluation heaven
As the year progresses you will have absorbed a lot of feedback and data from delegates and senior management so make sure you collate the results and present them to the board.
Split the evaluation measurement into three core areas. The first step is to list the training activity undertaken and what organisational business objective each activity links to. Secondly, provide details of business measurements agreed at the pre-briefing meetings with delegates. Finally you are in a position to report with accuracy and confidence on the actual results of the training you delivered. Not only can you lay claim to being a great trainer, but your evaluation processes can prove it.
Steve Miller is principal consultant at Steve Miller Training Limited www.stevemillertraining.com