Evaluating the impact of training – another failure

On one forum I regularly visit was the question:

  • I am currently trying to answer a question for my course, but have hit a slight problem.
    The question I need to answer for my written project is:-
    Conduct an analysis to determine the effects that training has had on the success of your organisation.
    I was planning on writing about Customer Service training we have been running on going for the last 18 months, but all the recent reports I have read have shown our customer satisfaction has actually gone down.
    I thought I could use another topic but it has come to light that my organisation is very poor at evaluating the impact of training so could not produce me with any hard proof that our training is helping.
    Has anyone got any ideas on how else I could answer this question?

This is a common challenge

From the little information the individual have provided it does appear that there is strong anecdotal evidence that training is having a negative impact – this is helpful and a an effect on the success of the organisation.

If I were the L&D or Training manager I would be looking at the training we are doing, the customer satisfaction results and looking for correlation – unfortunately this impact is common but because it is negative people tend to dismiss it – it is information plain and simple.

Was it Einstein that said “the definition of insanity is doing the same things and expecting different results”?

The fact that the initial results have show that training is NOT helping, is a legitimate evaluation result – just not what many have been expected to obtain.

Evaluation in the marketing world requires a number of different attempts and to progress with the strategy which is the most successful – they trial – in many training interventions it is the first solution that is deployed. This is a side effect of training becoming a commodity – the reality is that training is and never will be a commodity – but for as long as it is treated this way organisations will not get the best of returns.

As an L&D or training function we need to look at what we can learn from other parts of the business world, and in the case of evaluation from the world of marketing. When rolling out a programme for a significant number of people that needs to have a substantial business impact we need to make sure we understand the needs and the audience, then we need to run a number of controlled pilots (not just one) and then to evaluate which method delivers the best business benefit – or indeed to go back to the drawing board.

This is a reason why L&D must be strategically aligned to the business and its objectives, otherwise we just will not have the time to research and develop effective solutions and run the ‘first solution’ off the starting blocks – and then wonder why as a function we are often not seen as strategic in many organisations – time to stop the catch-22 situation and educate our managers.

Mike Morrison is director of RapidBI, an organizational effectiveness consultancy. He has been involved in HR, OD and strategic development for over 20 years. He can be contacted via www.rapidbi.com/

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