Magazine article Talent Development

Evaluation Blunders & Missteps to Avoid: Effectively Demonstrate the Value of Your Training by Steering Clear of These Evaluation Mistakes

Magazine article Talent Development

Evaluation Blunders & Missteps to Avoid: Effectively Demonstrate the Value of Your Training by Steering Clear of These Evaluation Mistakes

Article excerpt

The four levels is the most common training evaluation approach, but that doesn't mean it has been implemented correctly over time. On the contrary, misconceptions and misapplication have reduced the simple effectiveness of the model. Here is a summary of the most common training evaluation mistakes.

Are you making them?

Mistake #1: Addressing evaluation requirements after program launch

Many training professionals mistakenly design, develop, and deliver a training program, and only then start to think about how they will evaluate its effectiveness. Using this approach nearly guarantees that there will be little or no value to report.

We received a phone call from a consultant a few years back. He was quite proud to tell us about the multimillion-dollar leadership development program he had created for a large corporation. He worked with the company to define its needs before developing the three-year program, which was nearing the end of the first year. He was contacting us to find out if we wished to join the project as evaluation consultants, because they had data from the first year of program participation.

We asked just a few questions to verify our suspicion; they had not pinpointed the specific company metrics they hoped this large investment would positively impact. Of even more concern, they had not identified exactly what the managers involved in the program should be doing to influence those metrics, nor had they prepped senior managers to coach and monitor performance. Ultimately, they had created a "nice-to-have" program containing a laundry list of development activities targeted to nothing in particular.

We had no choice but to tell this well-meaning consultant that there was little we could do to help them other than recommend that, as quickly as possible, they create an effective program plan that includes metrics and performance standards, and see if there is anything they can salvage from the current misguided program.

To avoid this pitfall, programs should begin with a focus on the Level 4 results you need to accomplish. This automatically focuses efforts on what is most important. Conversely, if you follow the common, old-school approach to planning and implementing your training program, by first thinking about how you will evaluate Level 1 (reaction), then Level 2 (learning), then Level 3 (behavior), it's easy to see why few people get to Level 4 in this fashion.

Set yourself apart from and ahead of the crowd by using the four levels upside down; start every project by first considering the key company metrics you plan to influence and articulate how this will contribute to the Level 4 result of your organization. Then think about what really needs to occur on the job to produce good results (Level 3). Consider next what training or other support is required for workers to perform well on the job (Level 2). And finally, consider what type of training will be conducive to imparting the required skills successfully (Level 1).

Mistake #2: Spending the majority of evaluation resources on Levels 1 and 2

The 2016 ATD report Evaluating Learning: Getting to Measurements That Matter polled 199 learning professionals who revealed that they invest nearly 70 percent of their training evaluation resources in Levels 1 and 2. Sadly, this statistic did not improve from ATD's previous report in 2009. This old-school approach of spending heavily on effective training leaves few resources for the more important job of ensuring training effectiveness at Levels 3 and 4.

Generally speaking, Level 3 is the most important level to not only evaluate, but also invest in for any important program. Without on-the-job application, training has no hope of contributing to organizational results and, therefore, is of little value to the organization. If your program is important enough to have a Level 3 plan, then it is also important enough to have evaluation of Level 4 results. …

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