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Wednesday, December 04, 2013

The Strategy Side of Applying Four-Level Training Evaluation

This article is for HR Practitioners and Managers who cannot be bothered with detailed and nose-bleed-worthy analysis of training evaluation data. This is for those who just want to see if training works as a means to bring change in practices and performance.

The first time I read Kirkpatrick's book, I felt both awed and intimidated. What with all the number crunching required and my un-explainable fear of numbers, I wondered how I can do the important task of tracking down training impact without having to deal with so much numbers. Here's what I did: I came up with a set of hypotheses;
  1. For organizational strategies to work, employees must learn to do their work a certain way
  2.  In order for that to happen, they need to be equipped with needed skills through learning interventions
  3. The training program must be effective enough for them to appreciate it, learn the skills and be compelled to apply it in the workplace.
  4. The program must be designed in such a manner that it is more than a training intervention but a change intervention.
Reverse what I just said, put some details to it and you got yourself a strategy. Here are a few tips:
  1. Start with an outcome objective. Let's say you want your performance management system to work in actually improving performance. Let's make it the objective.
  2.  Identify what your target learners should be able to do to achieve your objective. Let's say these are the things you want them to do:
  • Communicate performance targets and behavioral expectations clearly
  •  Monitor employee performance and provide timely feedback 
  • Coach or train employees who are lagging behind in performance
  •  Appraise performance objectively
  • Reward, recognize or correct performance accordingly
  1. Design a corresponding training program that will provide them with sufficient knowledge to apply learning in the workplace.
  2. Incorporate level 1 evaluation by allowing the participants to reflect on each session objectives, check what they learned and tag items that are not yet clear to them. By asking the participants to write in a piece of paper the items that need more clarification, the trainer will be able to make adjustments in the delivery strategy to address the issue. At the end of the program, conduct the usual smiley sheet evaluation to find out what can be improved in terms of delivery strategy. When I look at the evaluation reports, I don't look at averages, I look at how the majority rate each aspect of the training and then reflect on how they can be appreciated better.
  3. Incorporate Level 2 Evaluation in the program by allowing several skill practice on key skills that need to be acquired. I favor this over the pre and post test approach because it's timely and allows for the facilitator to address learning gaps immediately.
  4. Incorporate Level 3 evaluation by requiring the learners to create and implement a re-entry action plan. Involve their bosses by having them submit their action plan for boss approval and support. Provide a time frame. A follow-up session three or six months later will compel learners to implement on time.
  5. Do Level 4 evaluation by monitoring progress of learners in the implementation of their action plans. Establish performance indicators that help you determine if the learning strategy worked in bringing about the necessary changes. We cannot really totally avoid numbers, so here you will need to look at statistics to see how the learners changed behaviors lead to performance changes.
I firmly believe that measurements are important to give credibility to our training interventions. However, I think it shouldn't be so complicated that we lose sight of what really needs to be done - help learners demonstrate the needed performance for the achievement of organizational goals.

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