Should training effectiveness be measured? If yes, should it be limited to a test after training session, or should it go beyond that? How can one actually measure training effectiveness keeping practical constraints in mind? These were the questions we asked to G-Cubians last month and the answers were very thought provoking. Here is an excerpt of some of the responses received.
The ways of conducting training evaluation are aplenty and each has its benefits – for the organization as well at an individual level, for the learner. Manish Khanna cites certification (external or internal) as an effective means of evaluating the effectiveness of a training program. The benefit of such a route is that in addition to a clear indication of assimilated knowledge, it also provides a moral boost and a sense of achievement for the learner. And since the learner now has something to show for his or her time spent learning, it is a useful addition to their CVs as well. Arun Rao gives due relevance to tests as a tool of evaluation. But he insists that tests might not have to wait till the end of the entire course. Training courses might be long and conducted through multiple sessions. At the end of each session, tests might be conducted to evaluate learner understanding. Also, frequent CYUs (Check Your Understanding) tests might also be an eye-opener for evaluating the learner’s grip on the course material. Making tests mandatory, however, is a practice that should be enforced because it encourages the learners to take the trainings seriously.
Sandeep Gupta adds to the list of innovative and effective means of evaluation. In addition to written tests, during the training as well as at the end of it, tasks should be built which require implementation of knowledge attained and skills learnt. These tasks should incorporate everyday challenges and situations that the employees face along the course of work. If the learner is able to use the knowledge gathered to conduct a task, it would indicate that the training has been successful. Sayantani Kundu affirms the importance of pre-testing. Sometimes under-valued and ignored, pre-testing can set a strong ground for evaluation. Though the learner might not know a lot about the subject, but to establish the extent of existing knowledge is necessary to create a benchmark. This is the benchmark against which the final assessment of the learner (post training) will be marked.
‘Feedback’ and ‘Evaluation’ is not the same thing and certainly not inter-changeable – says Vivek Pandey. At the end of a session, a set of questions might provide insights into the effectiveness of the curriculum, the way of teaching or the facilitator. It will also provide the indictors of knowledge gathered. But to measure the skills gathered at the end of a training session, we need to observe and evaluate the learner over time. The learner needs to be assessed through organizational benchmarks or job related indictors of increased or better performance. Ways to accomplish this can be through ongoing questionnaires and short interviews. Abhishek Shukla also believes that incorporating skills or knowledge gained in actual work practices is a culture which should be encouraged at an organizational level. This can be achieved, he suggests, by incorporating it in the KRA section of an employee’s performance appraisal. Specific points could be added for the employee if he or she indicates a practical example of how the skills/knowledge attained was implemented during course of work. Akanksha Solanki also merits the route of sustained evaluation – after the training through tests and frequent assessments of how the employee implements the learning in work.
Of the real life ways of innovative ways of evaluation, there were many examples which were given. Pradeep Sharma’s suggestion stood out on account of how evaluation should be conducted keeping the courseware in mind. He gives the example of a language course in English – stressing on the usage of tenses in communication. The course can be conducted in a total of 2 hours. The question to be asked when evaluating, is at the end of the said 2 hours, is the learner equipped to apply the knowledge gathered into practical usage? Yes, he or she understands the intricacies of the language but we cannot be sure if the understanding will permeate into the learners’ usage of the language. For this, the learner group should be encouraged to interact within themselves for at least 2 weeks, for 15 minutes or so. This gives them an opportunity to hone their skills and practice with their peers. At the end of the practice time, the learner should be ready for evaluation, and positive scores would now indicate that the learner has started implementing the knowledge gained. This would be the true evaluation of the training as well.
So, while all views converge on the importance of training evaluation, we sum up with the ever important aspect of it – the business aspect put forth very succulently by Ankit Jain. Effectiveness of training needs to be clearly measured to calculate ROI and it is what every organization looks for, at the end of the day. In absence of a clear framework to assess training effectiveness, many T&D departments fail to convince key decision-making stakeholders. This affects profits as well in the long run. So, creating avenues for training evaluation is definitely a business imperative. But while creating this framework, some points that need to be kept in mind
- The process of evaluation cannot be long drawn or tedious. Short tests e.g. CYU can be utilized for this. DIY practice sessions can provide an opportunity for the learner to apply the acquired skills. They can also be a quick evaluation tool.
- It should not burden learners or administrators with extra tasks, outside the scope of the course. Evaluation parameters can be built into existing organizational frameworks – like Performance Evaluations through KRAs.
Training is an ongoing process and the evaluation of training should also follow suit. Continued evaluation, at separate instances – before, during and after the completion of a training session – is the way to ascertain that the training has been effective and will have continued benefits for the learner as well as the organization.