Assessing the Effectiveness of Business Training

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Whether you are the department head paying for it, or the consultant delivering it, justifying the expense of training is more important now than ever.  While it might not be easy to quantify the long term financial benefits of a trained workforce, it is possible to demonstrate knowledge, skill, and practical application gained from a specific training workshop. 

While there is no SAT or any other standardized test to administer in most business training, we’re so programmed to take (and give) tests, every business training course seems to end in one.  Typically, everyone passes with flying colors.  Does this mean the training was effective?  No.  It doesn’t even mean that any knowledge was transferred.  What we really want to know is if this training changed the way people do their jobs, which is the whole point of business training!  This is rarely measured or tracked, but it can (and should) be.

During the workshop, test knowledge and the ability to apply it, in a variety of ways: 

  • Administer well-written tests, not just tests.  These tests should be developed by people who know how to write valid tests; being a great trainer does not always lead to being a good test writer.  Knowing the subject upside down and sideways is no guarantee of test expertise.
  • Scatter quick quizzes (written or verbal) throughout the workshop.
  • Conduct group activities with a skilled observer who can assess whatever qualities you’re interested in; leadership, ability to work together, problem solving, time management, etc.
  • Include written assignments, to be graded for content as well as writing ability, if writing is an important skill in using the workshop knowledge.  If writing isn’t important, don’t make the students write!
  • Include a speaking assignment (such as a project presentation) if it’s important to be able to use this new knowledge.  If it is important, grade it.  If it’s not important, leave it out!

The most valuable assessment comes after the workshop.  This is where the knowledge is applied to the job, which is where the benefits lie. 

  • Coaching (usually by the trainer) to guide the participants through the first-time application of their new-found knowledge is not only a valuable assessment tool, but it generally improves the effectiveness of the training.
  • Outside of class assignments – graded by the trainer/coach – are a great way to assess the ability of the participant to apply what was taught in the workshop
  • Follow-up surveys (to obtain self-perception) in conjunction with project/work audits can be used to measure actual implementation of the workshop knowledge.

Stay tuned for future posts to include examples of good tests and surveys and how to improve the effectiveness of training (once you’ve measured it, you can make it better!).


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