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Evaluating the effectiveness of training

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When organisations invest in training, there is need to know to what extent it was a success. Most of the time, the feeling might be that skills and practices have improved.

However the question that remains is: In what ways and by how much has it improved, and did the organisation get value for the money invested in the training? The answer to these questions lies in carrying out an evaluation of the training.

The evaluation of training forms the remaining part of the training cycle which starts with the identification of training needs, establishing objectives and continues through to the design and delivery of the training course itself.

It is the function of evaluation to assess whether the learning objectives originally identified have been satisfied and any deficiency rectified.

Evaluation then is the analysis and comparison of actual progress versus prior plans, oriented toward improving plans for future implementation.

It is part of a continuing management process consisting of planning, implementation and evaluation; ideally with each following the other in a continuous cycle until successful completion of the activity.

The evaluation process must start before training has begun and continue throughout the whole learning process.

What then are the functions of evaluation? There are basically two functions of evaluation which are:

Qualitative evaluation which is an assessment process looking at how well we did during the training programme.

Quantitative evaluation which is an assessment process that answers the question: How much did we do?

Why evaluation of training —
Training cost can be significant in any business. Most organiswations are prepared to incur this cost because they expect their business to benefit from employees development and progress. Whether business has benefited can be assessed by evaluation of training.

There are basically four parties involved in evaluating the result of any training. These are the trainer, the trainee, training and development department and the line manager.

The trainee wants to confirm that the course has met personal expectations and satisfied any learning objectives set by the training and development department at the beginning of the programme.

So from the perspective of the learner, learning is meaning full only if it is able to satisfy the learning objective set out at the beginning of the course as well as meeting their personal expectations.

The trainer’s concern is to ensure that the training that has been provided is effective or not. When they look back at the training, they need to realise the impact of the course on the immediate behaviour of their trainees which could be in the form of discussions pertaining to the course in a positive manner or otherwise.

Training and development want to know whether the course has made the best use of the resources available. The training officer is interested in ensuring that the necessary resources made available for the training have been used to the maximum for the benefit of the participants or there is more that can be done.

The line manager will be seeking reassurance that the time that the trainee has spent in attending training results in value and how deficiency in knowledge and skill is redressed.

This is critical since the training and development department requires the full support of the line manager if training is to be successful.

How should evaluation of training be done for it to be effective?

Donald Kirkpatrick developed four level models to assess training effectiveness. According to him evaluation always begins with the first level and should move through other levels in sequence. The following are the four levels of evaluation according to Kirkpatrick:

Reaction level — The purpose is to measure the individual’s reaction to the training activity. The benefit of Reaction level evaluation is to improve training and development activity efficiency and effectiveness.

Learning level — The basic purpose is to measure the learning transfer achieved by the training and development activity. Another purpose is to determine to what extent the individual increased their knowledge, skills and changed their attitudes by applying quantitative or qualitative assessment methods.

Behaviour level — The basic purpose is to measure changes in behaviour of the individual as a result of the training and development activity and how well the enhancement of knowledge, skill, attitudes has prepared then for their role.

Result level — The purpose is to measure the contribution of training and development to the achievement of the business/operational goals.

It is therefore imperative that the training and development department carries a systematic and regular evaluation of the effectiveness of all training initiatives within the organization with the view improving the quality of the training programmes.

Paul Nyausaru is a training and development practitioner. Views contained in this article are personal.

Contact him on email pnyausaru@yahoo.co.uk or pnyausaru@gmail.com

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