How To Assess Real Results From Your Corporate Training

The four levels of corporate training evaluation (and the futility of most training evaluation)  was discussed in this earlier blog post; but in this post we will discuss the types of training evaluation that allow you to assess real results.

Level three evaluations are the most logical evaluations to deploy because they get at the purpose of the training – to change people’s behavior on the job.  A Level three evaluation then determines if people have actually changed their behavior by either observing them in action, asking them for their own assessment, or asking for a third-party’s assessment.

Level three evaluations incorporate Level two evaluations because the evaluator is able to determine if the trainee is utilizing the knowledge that they acquired during the training and applying it to their work.

Level Three Evaluations

Observation – by a manager, quality control or even a training person

An observation form must be utilized so that the evaluation is not subjective (Did the trainee acquire the customer information, using the five prescribed questions, in the correct order? vs. Did the trainee begin the customer interaction correctly?)

Personal Assessment

Personal assessment is frequently used for Level three evaluations because many organizations find observation to be cumbersome (it requires asking a third-party to conduct it, it requires disseminating and retrieving information, and other administrative tasks which are all subject to not being completed). In a personal assessment the trainee, once they are back on the job for a period of tame (three weeks, three months) reports on their own changed behavior. Questions utilized include: Have you applied the ___ process in  your day-to-day work? How many times a day would you say you utilize the process? Have you seen positive results from utilize the process? Can you provide an example of when you used the process and what the outcome was?  These types of questions not only help the training department to understand how the training is being utilized on the job, they also cause the employee to realize how they have changed their behavior as a result of training, and further, if the individual has not changed their behavior, these types of assessments help to reinforce the fact the training is an investment the organization has made in that individual and it is an investment the organization intends to follow up on.

Level Four Evaluations

Level four evaluations then tell us whether the investment in the training was worth it. For example: if the intention was to increase sales, did sales numbers go up? These types of evaluation require a lot of number crunching AND require a baseline of data to compare against, which many organizations simply don’t possess.

Factors and Nuances

One nuance which makes Level four evaluations difficult to conduct is determining how long it will take for the training to become “the way we work.”  When can the training department be confident that what was taught is truly ingrained in to the trainee’s everyday work responsibilities?  In other words – when should the measurement take place? If a goal was set prior to the training process – say, increasing sales by 50%, and sales increase by only 20% in the first three months following training – would that be considered a failure? What if, instead, the trainees were able to increase their sales by 20% every quarter following the training? Then that outcome would far exceed the 50% goal.  So when is the “line in the sand” drawn and success or failure determined?

Another nuance is that the long-term effects of training can be quite difficult to factor. For instance, if the intent was to increase sales, the training department might evaluate the sales numbers three-months or six-months after the training; but rarely will they evaluate it again a year after the training. And in some cases, where sales results are residual, the on-going effect of the training is never quantified; for instance, in insurance sales, teaching salespeople to cross-sell (e.g. selling an umbrella policy to a current homeowner’ policy owner) not only results in an immediate uptick in sales, but also, when the policy is renewed, that sales training results in an ongoing increase in sales.

Sadly, most companies don’t take the time to extrapolate their training outcomes to Level three and Level four. It is acknowledged that evaluation at these levels can be time consuming and cumbersome, but these results are crucial for training departments to measure and communicate their worth to the organization as a whole.