Using the Right Training Metrics

Posted: March 26, 2012 in Uncategorized
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Two weeks ago I delivered some training on decision-making and interagency cooperation in emergencies in a small town. The training is part of a community college program, so they have evaluation sheets and seem to put a lot of stock in them. The overall evaluation was quite good, but I got some comments one to the effect that the course had too much theory, others that there’s not enough theory, and still others that the mix is just right. In other words, you can’t please everyone. Some people need more discussion and theory, others more practice, and some (most?) are satisfied with a happy medium.

Also, evaluating training at the end of the day, based on how the participants feel at that time, is about the most ineffective means of validating training. The participants can evaluate the training environment and the quality of instruction to a certain extent, but if you are not already an expert in the domain being taught, how can you validate whether that is the training that is needed? Only the people designing the training can do that by needs analysis beforehand and a qualitative validation on the job after the trainees have fully assimilated the material and have been using it on the job.

As a case in point, just this past Friday, I conducted a workshop on strategic planning for a municipality. The buyer (the city manager) went through the whole workshop, did all the exercises, participated in the discussions, gave additional direction because we were introducing new methods and skills that he wanted his senior executives to have. At the end of the day, most people were jazzed but a few stated they found the training very challenging and would have preferred a more gradual approach. This was done in plenary, no smile sheets.

After two people made this comment, my buyer told them that is exactly what he expected and how he wanted them to feel. He told them it was normal because we intentionally pushed them out of their comfort zones. Although he didn’t point this out, it was evident that some of the people in the room had more of the basics to do this than others, so they were in a better position to absorb the material quickly. Interestingly, one of the women who complained that it was too hard I found had actually seemed to get a lot out of the training.

This goes to show that the right metric for training success isn’t getting all 5’s on the smile sheets. It may even require some discomfort on the part of the participants.

© 2012 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes permitted with full and proper attribution.

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