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

Training Evaluation, Enhanced Impact, and a Hint from
my Dental Hygienist

really simple evaluation can be really powerful, in multiple ways

(reprinted from The Training Tipsheet)

"Evaluation" of training events often means a "did you like it" questionnaire at the end of a course. But you may find that an even simpler format:

  • can give you information that's as good or better than the "did you like it" approach;
  • is extremely efficient and easy to implement, and, most importantly,
  • brings other benefits to your training efforts.

At the end of the course, ask your participants to contribute to a sort of "dust-jacket blurb" about the course, a short paragraph that a future participant might use to decide whether or not to enroll in this training. Create a simple one-page form with nothing but the following questions, and space for answers:

  1. "If you could rename the course, what would you call it?"
  2. "Who should take this course?"
  3. "Having completed the course, what do you think you will do better, as a result?"
  4. "Briefly tell us what changes would make the course more valuable to you:"

These little blurbs can be quite revealing, and you should examine them carefully. But the very act of creating them has benefits.

One immediate benefit of this approach is that it engages participants more fully than a "fill in the circle" questionnaire. And by leading participants to create a neat little capsule capturing their personal experience, you make it easier for them to share that experience with their colleagues. They will be more effective ambassadors for your training efforts.

And there are even more benefits to be had, if you listen to my dental hygienist . . .

The Check-up Postcard

When I go to the dentist (which, I confess, I personally regard as a deed of exceptional courage), the dental hygienist has me self-address a standard reminder postcard. Six months later, it comes up in their tickler file and some clerical person mails that off to me.

A similar approach can powerfully magnify both the impact of your training and the evaluation information you gather about it:

  • After they answer the above questions, at the end of the course, give them a second form with the same questions, except that Question #3 should read, "What have you been able to do better?" Again, just one side of one sheet of paper, with space for people to quickly handwrite their answers.
  • Have participants write their mailing addresses on the backs of the forms (e.g., name and internal mail station), and collect them.
  • Three months later, send them their forms, making sure it is ridiculously easy for them to return the forms to you.
  • Follow up, with a call or e-mail, just to remind people to turn in their answers.

It takes very little effort to add this step, but it has these powerful effects:

  1. The very act of writing their addresses on these forms tells them that you will follow up. It tells them that you care whether or not the training makes any difference to them a few months down the road.
  2. You get feedback about how the training impacts their work months later, which is a much stronger indicator of effectiveness than "did you like it" reactions immediately after the training. (See "The Right Time, the Right Questions, the Right People.")
  3. And the form arriving months later reminds them that the training was meant to be applied on the job. It helps participants who meant to use what they learned, but just got overwhelmed by their in-baskets, etc.

All of this can be set up and executed in about the time it took you to read this article. But that miniscule investment of time and resources can provide surprisingly useful information about your success in the classroom.

And when you add the effects of strengthening your connection with participants through guaranteed follow up, and of helping them to talk about your training more effectively, how can you fail to enjoy a reasonable return from this simple exercise?

© 2008 Best Training Practices -- Will Kenny

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