Evaluating the training effort

With today’s emphasis on measuring human resource management’s impact, it is crucial that the manager evaluate the training program. There are basically three things you can measure: participants reactions to the program; what (if anything) the trainees learned form the programs; and to what extent their on the job behavior changed as a result of the program. In a survey of about 500 US organizations, 77% evaluated their training programs by eliciting reactions, 36% evaluated learning, and about 10% to 15% assessed the program’s behavior and / or results.

There are actually two basic issues to address when evaluating training programs. The first is the design of the evaluation study and, in particular, whether to use controlled experimentation. The second issue is: What should we measure?

Designing the Study:

In evaluating the training program the first question should be how to design the evaluations study. The time series design is one option. Here, you take a series of measures before and after the training program. This can provide at least an initial reading on the program’s effectiveness.

Controlled experimentation: Formal methods for testing the effectiveness of a training program, preferably with before and after tests and a control group

This approach is feasible but, in terms of current practice few firms use it. Most simply measure trainees’ reactions to the program; some also measure the trainees’ job performance before and after training. The human resources manager should at least use an evaluation form to evaluate training program.

Training effects to measure:

You can measure four basic categories of training outcome:

1) Reaction: Evaluate trainees’ reactions to the programs. Did they like the program? Did they think it is worth while?
2) Learning: test the trainees to determine whether they learned the principles, skills, and facts they were supposed to learn.
3) Behavior: Ask whether the trainees on the job behavior changed because of the training program. For example are employees in the store’s complaint department more courteous toward disgruntled customers?
4) Results Probably most important to ask: What final results were achieved in terms of the training objectives previously set? For example, did the number of customer complaints about employees drop? Did the percentage of calls answered with the required greeting rise? Reactions, learning, and behavior are important. But if the training program doesn’t produce measurable results, then it probably hasn’t achieved its goals. But remember that the results may be poor because the problem could not be solved by training in the first place.

Evaluating any of these four is fairly straight forward. Similarly, you might assess trainees learning by testing their new knowledge. The employer can asses the trainees’ behavioral change directly or indirectly. Indirectly you might assess the effectiveness of, say, a supervisory performance appraisal training program by asking that person’s subordinates questions like, Did your supervisor take the time to provide you with examples of good and bad performance when he or she appraised your performance most recently? Or, you can directly assess a training program’s results, for instance, by measuring, say, the percentage of phone calls answered correctly.

Suggestions: Reactions measures aren’t good substitutes for measuring learning or results. Unfortunately only about 10% to 35% of trainees are transferring what they learned to their jobs in during training. Managers can improve this. Prior to training, get trainee and supervisor input in designing the program, institute a training attendance policy and encourage employees to participate. During training, trainees with training experience and conditions, surroundings, equipment that resemble the actual work environment. After training reinforce what trainees leaned, for instance, by appraising and rewarding employees for using new skills and by ensuring they have the tools and materials they need to use their new skills.

Computerization facilitates evaluation: For example Bovis Lend Lease uses learning management software to monitor which employees are taking which courses, and the extent to which they are improving their skills.

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