How Do You Assess Training?

How Do You Assess Training?
Michelle Yungblut — December 17, 2019

In a past article, I mentioned the Yungblut family has a new puppy and we are in the midst of puppy training.  This intensive program includes potty training, nojumping training, sleep training, nobiting training, nochokingyourselfwhilewalking training, and the nobarking training.  Phew!  

How my husband and I evaluate if the puppy training program is working is pretty simple – how is Baxter behaving? Is he no longer acting like a wild beast? Evaluating the success of the training program is simple because we know what our expectations are.  

Training in the work place is not so easily evaluated. I recently had a conversation with some colleagues about training we hosted and they were asking me how I thought it went.  My response – “It depends” – was not what they were expecting. One person suggested I just look at the student feedback surveys and that would tell me how it went.  Oh, if it were just that easy. 

Assessing the success of a training class is actually a hotly debated subject in the world of learning and development. There are several variables and expectations to be considered.  

It is widely accepted that to discover the success of a training program you should look at the following factors: how many people attended, were they satisfied, did they learn something, did their behavior change at some point after the training and is their changed behavior what their supervisors expected? Educators debate how much emphasis should be placed on each of these variables and it can get very complicated.  

In my opinion, instructors and executives put too much weight in student feedback surveys. I am certainly not advocating with doing away with student feedback surveys, but I do want to emphasize that they shouldn’t be the only indicator you use to evaluate training.  There are a lot of factors that can cause someone to give a training course a bad review and other times the feedback received is statistically insignificant.  This means that less than 10% of students actually took the time to provide feedback and that means this small sampling does not represent the majority of the attendees.    

The other training assessment methods, listed above, should be given much more weight then trainee feedback surveys.  In particular, trainers and executives should be trying to assess if the employee’s behavior changed as they expected because of the training.  Some companies want a test or quiz given after training and they use those results to decide if the training was effective.  In my opinion, that data is much less important than behavioral changes.  

For example, if a company invests in NTS’s Certified Alarm Technician Level I course for their new hires, there are expectations the company management has that after the training those new hires should have the ability to ‘do’ something that they were not able to do prior to the training.  Sure they may ‘know’ things and their test results show they know them, but can they actually do something new or improved on the job?  

The bottom line is, managers and executives should work with their training teams (or person, in many cases) to be sure it is clear what they expect the behavioral change to be. What do you expect the trainee to be able to do once the training is complete? Be very specific and that will help the trainer develop the training program to ensure those items are covered.  

It is also critical that the trainer explicitly tell the trainee what they are expected to be able to do once the training is complete. Tell them in the beginning and then confirm with them at the end that they should now be able to do specific behaviors.  If they don’t have that confidence, then remediation is needed.  It is also advised that you check in with the trainee a week or so later and see how they are progressing and if they encountered any challenges with the learning material.  

In order for training to succeed and be properly measured, expectations need to be clearly outlined and communicated to all involved.