There are a number of models that can be followed when it comes to training program evaluation. But “who should evaluate a training program” is a question that not all models answer. Think Kirkpatrick’s 4 Levels model, for instance, which assesses training through reaction, learning, behavior and results. The focus here is on analyzing:
- how learners react to the programs
- what they actually learned
- how it changed their behavior
- whether or not it had beneficial results for the organization
However, who else, apart from learners to be involved in training evaluation still remains a question. And truth be told, there actually isn’t a right or wrong answer. Factors to consider in your evaluation include the kinds of evaluations you’ll be performing, the kind of data your learning management system (LMS) captures, and the depth of your training analysis, which depends on that data.
Who Should Evaluate a Training Program?
If you’re looking for a 360° analysis of your training program, there are five groups of people involved in evaluation:
- Senior management
- Training managers
- Line managers
Each of these people, or classes of people, bring a different perspective to the table. Let’s take a look at why each should have a hand in evaluation, and what that role ought to be.
1. Senior Management
Senior management holds the view from the top, and as such relates training activities to ROI. Therefore, they would want to evaluate a training initiative for the purpose of determining whether or not the money the organization spends on training is translating into real, measurable change.
Consider, by way of example, customer satisfaction. Many companies pour untold amounts of money into training employees on customer service for the sole purpose of bringing customers satisfaction up. However, it may not be of any use if they don’t take into account the bottom line, which is noticeable change in customer satisfaction.
What should be done, then?
The smart move, in an example like this, is for senior management to ensure that the training program is producing employees that can meet the standards of customer satisfaction. But they should also ensure that it’s not taking so much of their time or energy that their pursuit of it comes at the expense of other job functions. They are looking for positive change in customer satisfaction as well as the performance of all job duties, and rate that against money spent.
This illustrates an important point.
There is such a thing as giving too much credit to training, and failing to balance it with other company duties. Naturally, training is very important, but it is the role of senior management to ensure that it meshes smoothly with the rest of the operational requirements at the organization.
2. Training Managers
Training manager evaluate the strategy to ensure that training is effectively carried out and the resources are optimally used. When it comes to evaluating training, their role is to ensure that the managers within their purview are executing that training well, providing leadership to trainees, and using the LMS in the most efficient, effective way possible.
Training managers play an important role in evaluation by identifying if:
- the LMS is user-friendly or not
- a training program is achieving the learning objectives of company
- the skills or knowledge employees need in their roles at the organization are taught or not
- the training program take learners backgrounds, preexisting skill sets and knowledge, and ability into account? Is it too challenging for them, or too simple?
- training program compliant with any state or federal standards or laws that must be taken into account? Does it present any risk to the company in any way
- the training program of reasonable length
- it sectioned appropriately into modules, units, lessons and so on?
- it falls within the time span allotted for training by senior management
- the instructors selected to train employees possess the appropriate backgrounds to be successful at the job
As Donald and James Kirkpatrick explain in their book Evaluating Training Programs, someone also needs to make decisions regarding where, when, how and under whose direction this training will take place. Depending on the company, these decisions might be made by consensus between training managers and senior management.
The important point, though, when it comes to evaluating the program itself, is whether or not that program can meet those specifications. Training managers should be able to supply the bulk of the feedback to such questions.
Trainers are the people actually responsible for interfacing with learners and ensuring they are able to absorb information and put it to use. It might be easy to assume that trainers are are facilitators of learning. And they are in the best position to determine whether the learners are able to engage with the program or not.
In other words, the trainers evaluate the learning delivered and consumed. If not enough learning is happening within a particular program, the trainer can note that, as well as offer hypotheses about why that might be happening. These could include:
- Learners having technical difficulties: logging on, submitting assignments, taking tests, receiving results, or just accessing material
- Learners feeling overly challenged or under-motivated by the material
- Material not aligning with learners’ previous knowledge base, and therefore possibly being unsuitable
- Material presented in a hard to access way, e.g. not flowing well, being too dense, not using enough examples or images, etc.
As the facilitators of learning, trainers have the privilege of asking learners directly why the material does or does not work for them, and can therefore offer valuable insight regarding how to update it in future iterations.
4. Line Managers
It can be easy to forget, with so much emphasis on learning, that the whole point of training is so that employees can learn a new skill or enhance their knowledge.
In order to properly evaluate a training program, it’s important to check whether employees are utilizing the learning at work or not. Line managers can offer insight here, because they are responsible for ensuring these functions get carried out every single day.
Line managers can
- look over the material in general and make suggestions
- suggest the kinds of evaluation activities to be performed for a batch of trainees
- comment on whether or not training is effective on the job day-to-day
One might assume that trainers, not learners, are in the best position to identify whether or not the training materials is effective. It is not true. They are still an excellent source of information about what is and isn’t working as regards to the learning that is being delivered to them.
- provide feedback on training and any changes they feel post-training
- offer insights into how to make material more accessible, more interesting, briefer or in any other way more effective.
When evaluating programs, don’t forget to ask the opinion of the people who will actually be engaging in it.
To carefully evaluate a training program is required feedback from many different levels.
- Senior management must ensure that training is worth the cost, and doesn’t measurably change performance in other areas.
- Training managers help ensure that training is using the resources allotted to it appropriately, is taking learner backgrounds, needs and skill sets into account, and is accomplishing the goals put before it.
- On a more granular level, each trainer can ask learners why programs do or do not work for them.
- Line managers can help offer guidance on appropriate assessment strategies to ensure that the training programs actually align with the skills necessary to succeed in the workplace.
- Lastly, learners themselves can provide valuable insight as to what does and does not work, what they might like to see in future iterations, and how best to access their learning potential.
While some of these opinions may differ, and you can’t please everyone, it is absolutely worthwhile to take account of the opinions of such different groups of stakeholders. The end result will be an effective, efficient and successful training program.