If you want to ensure your training evaluation is effective, you should follow these four steps.
A recent study by TAFE NSW revealed that a staggering 48 per cent of Australian businesses prefer to hire new talent rather than training their existing employees. At the same time, those businesses acknowledge that training is the second most-effective staff retention tool after pay and incentives. We can attribute this partly to the ‘shrouded time’ aspect of training evaluation, which HR managers often underestimate.
Time is a strategic aspect of training evaluation. The financial and non-financial individual and organisational returns from training within certain time frames reveal both the effectiveness and impact of training.
When do certain training effects become visible?
Often, organisational training evaluation methods only provide a few point-in-time accounts of training outcomes to determine effectiveness. For training evaluation to be effective for individuals and organisations, measured against a range of expectations, HR managers must ask themselves – when do we begin to notice the effects of training in our employees? And when do those changes begin to impact the organisation?
Managers should consider four time periods – appraisal, adaptation, application and achievement – then map a process of what outcomes are to be expected at those levels.
How does this work? Imagine an organisation is evaluating the outcomes of a formal training course dealing with conflict management. Using this scenario as an example, HR managers should consider the following points:
Training evaluations allow HR managers to immediately assess, redesign and improve training modules to their chosen objectives. Any misalignments can be revealed early and improved immediately.
HR needs to appraise whether conflict training has met required objectives such as: conflict identification, mediation and conflict handling techniques and whether soft skills to approach, reduce or manage conflict were conveyed.
Employees exhibiting and applying acquired knowledge and skills to their daily tasks within a given time frame allow managers to evaluate the transition of conscious processes into subconscious processes. Agreeing on a time frame is imperative because a lengthy period of adaptation may render the training ineffective.
Managers should now evaluate whether employees exhibit learnt conflict skills in the organisation within an agreed time frame and evaluation pointers. Evaluation pointers include:
- Identification, reduction and harnessing the positive effects of conflict among employees;
- Abandonment of working habits and methods that have led to employee conflicts in the past;
- Dissemination and integration of conflict handling techniques when working with different teams in different departments.
This is important for building organisational culture and bridging critical communication gaps that challenge, for example, millennial integration into organisations.
HR managers evaluate the use of improved habits and methods of employees towards pre-agreed organisational changes. At the same time, application also evaluates improvements of other organisational functions, behaviours and changes, which further validates the training initiative.
Supervisors should evaluate the use of improved conflict-reducing habits by contributing cost, time and other resource factors. We suggest a few indicators:
- Reduction in conflict-related meetings and emails;
- Reduction in waste-of-time and waste-of-resources factors;
- Team and department cohesiveness;
- Closure of identified conflict-related performance gaps.
Managers evaluate pre-determined financial and non-financial factors within a time frame to isolate the effects of the contribution of training. This evaluation period can be repeated at different time spans, but should be against the same KPIs that were used initially.
Finally, managers evaluate employee engagement components, organisational financial performance components, and individual growth.
Achievement indicators and resulting effects include:
- Increase in market share, resource output, production targets, customer satisfaction;
- Employee commitment and loyalty;
- Communication, conducive working relationships, know-how, customer relationships;
- Changes in the number of sick days, employee turnover rates, employee retention rates and error rates of processes can be assessed and linked back to the departments where conflicts have occurred;
- Employee promotions, cooperation rates and teamwork rates.
Our time level evaluations resound with Peter F. Drucker, who once said that “time is the scarcest resource and unless it is managed nothing else can be managed”.
Sten Langmann is a lecturer at Edith Cowan University’s School of Business and Law, and Stefan Thomas is a lecturer at Curtin University.
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