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Best Training Practices
Will Kenny
3927 York Ave N
Robbinsdale, MN 55422

The Right Time, the Right Questions, the Right People

a lot of "feedback" from "evaluation forms" doesn't tell you much

(reprinted from The Training Tipsheet)

It is the end of another year, and a great time to plan your follow up on training and employee communications from the first half of this year. That's right, find some time in January to take a look at the results you got from your activities of six months ago, or more.

The right time to truly evaluate your efforts to influence employee behavior is after those efforts have had a chance to take effect, after employees have had time to apply the best practices you have shared. You want past participants to report the results they achieved for themselves as individuals, and for the company, due to your efforts.

In many organizations, "evaluation" of training and accountability means giving out feedback forms at the end of a class or event, whether on paper or as an online questionnaire. But if the purpose of your employee communications is to change the way work is done, to truly implement best practices, you can only measure that after employees have been back at their jobs for a while after your event. Results you can document months after an event or course are much more powerful support for training and employee communication than are "high satisfaction" scores collected right at the end of your class or conference.

In addition to timing, you want to ask the right kinds of questions. I frequently see "evaluations" that mainly ask questions like, "Do you strongly disagree, slightly disagree . . . strong agree with the following statement: the training was clear and easy to understand," or even, " Was the training poor, fair, . . . good, excellent?"

Probing for "feel-good" responses of that kind doesn't tell you much. Ask some open-ended questions when you survey participants six months later: "Describe something specific you learned in this training that has helped you in your work." And ask some specific questions yourself: "Has the XYZ process we described in training made your work easier, harder, or had little effect?"

Finally, ask the right people. Depending only on participants to determine the success of your training and communication efforts is, frankly, rather like asking the fox if the henhouse is secure. Survey managers of employees who have attended training.

And survey other people in the process that you are trying to optimize. For instance, in many businesses, there is a process that runs

  1. Get the Order ->
  2. Process It ->
  3. Service the Customer.

If, for example, you invest in training and communications designed to bring new best practices to the middle step, Processing, survey the employees who perform the steps that come before and after Processing to see if they have noticed any changes in the efficiency or effectiveness of the handoffs and interactions between the various players.

Bottom line: look at what it costs -- in employee time, your time, direct costs, and company resources -- to put on a major training or employee communications event. If you can't detect more than "feel-good" effects six months later, and if the results aren't evident to anyone beyond the participants, maybe you aren't getting the return on your investment you expected.

You can only find out -- and maximize your ROI -- by following up at the right time with the right questions, asked of the right people.

© 2007 Best Training Practices -- Will Kenny

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