Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Value of Training - Perception is Reality

One of the most popular models of training evaluation has been proposed by Donald Kirkpatrick. In simplified terms, as per this model, training can be evaluated at four levels - 1-Reaction, 2- Learning, 3- Behaviour, and 4-Results. Many training evaluation forms and feedback surveys have been designed based on this model. While levels - 1-Reaction and 2- Learning are relatively easier to measure, as we move along the higher levels of evaluation, things do get difficult. Recently, a fifth level is being suggested: 5-ROI (Return on Investment). ROI expects measurable results - dollar value, volumes, percentages, growth etc. All of this is good.

However, increasingly, I see the focus of measurement and evaluation of training from the organizational perspective alienating the training and its evaluation from the learner's point of view. So, as a learner, how do I evaluate whether the training worked for me? Yes, sure I can give good feedback, pass the post-assessment with A's but does that mean I learnt and found the training useful enough to be applied on the job?

The way I look at it, as a learner, I need to perceive the training as a valuable input towards my professional/career growth. A way to evaluate the training intervention is to evaluate how far do I think the training can help me - my own perception of the value of training. For example, by what percentage do I think I can improve my performance after applying the training on the job? Another way to look at this could be a before/after perception of value. In a scenario, where an organization is bringing in new processes/changes, learners can be asked to evaluate the perceived value of the new process. After a suitable training intervention about the new processes, learners can be asked to re-evaluate the perceived value of the new processes to evaluate the training. If the organization is able to establish the value of the training and therefore, a higher perceived value of the new processes, half the job of applying the new processes by the learner community is done.

The ROI for me as a learner is whether the time spent on the training was a worthwhile investment in my career. It is the return of my own investment of time and energy spent on the training.

Yes, all this is not as measurable as the dollar value of reduced costs of operation after a successful training. However, identifying and evaluating the value of training from the learner's perspective will probably go a long way in establishing the real value of training.

Perception may be more subtle than a figure with multiple zeros, but its power is far greater. After all, perception is reality, they say!

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