Creating and delivering a training program without evaluating it would be like designing a new car and releasing it to market without finding out how it performs, or whether the drivers enjoy the ride. Training evaluation is fundamental to any training effort. It is, after all, the final “E” in the ADDIE model. With such importance, why then do some organizations spend so little time and effort on evaluation? Mainly expense, and perhaps also lack of expertise. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
The simplest form of training evaluation is learner feedback. Sometimes called “smile sheets,” most programs end with a brief survey on learner satisfaction. While this is a great start, it should not be the only form of evaluation used in a training program. Also, there needs to be a planned effort to use the data from learner assessments as a means of improving future programs. This includes elements of design, as well as delivery. With so many online survey programs out there, there really is no excuse to skip this step.
Skills and Knowledge Gained
Also fundamental to training evaluation is some measurement of what was gained from attending the training program. This can be done simply with an assessment (i.e., quiz, performance test, etc.) at the end of the program. Of course, this evaluation could be meaningless without a baseline assessment to go with it. For example, if your learners already possess a certain skill before they attend the training class, claiming successful learning of that skill after the class would be worthless. So, if you plan to conduct this type of assessment, it is equally important to start with a pre-class measurement for comparison purposes.
Application in the Workplace
This level of evaluation is somewhat more difficult to pull off. To successfully measure the impact of your training back in the “real world,” you will need the assistance and cooperation of line supervisors and managers. If you’re serious about doing this, set this step up in advance. Sending out an email with the planned learning objectives and what knowledge, skills, and abilities are being addressed by training before the class takes place will allow local management an opportunity to observe employees in a meaningful way. Then it’s just a matter of collecting data from them a few months after the class is over.
Return on Expectations
By far the most difficult form of evaluation is determining in the impact of the training on the bottom line. It’s sometimes nearly impossible to quantify changes in behavior that resulted from training programs. For this reason, an alternative approach is to measure whether or not management feels the training met their expectations. This can be accomplished by an online survey. Although it doesn’t take much time, it can be an extremely powerful step in proving the worth of your training efforts.