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Evaluation - What's In It For Me?

It's a cold and wet Monday morning and I'm on my way to meet Dr. Jim Kirkpatrick at a hotel near Heathrow.  As I climbed in to my car my thoughts reflected back to a conversation I had with Jim during the recent Kirkpatrick Partners Bronze level programme that I attended..

I was thinking about how, when I worked for a worldwide organisation back in the 80s they used to send us to the 'training school' every three or four months to attend a course of some sort.  "So what's the problem" I hear you say, "what a great employer", "they looked after you", "developed you", "spent money on you" etc, and yes of course I would agree with almost all of those points except what a great employer!  Why? Well they were wasting their money in the worst way possible, in the belief that I would become a better employee with all these new skills.  I learnt to solder well enough to assemble a satellite so it would not fall apart on take-off! I learnt how to compile a business report and a whole host of new skills that I did not need!! 

The training school were fantastic, the courses received great reactions from the trainees and we always passed the end of course assessments, but somehow things were not changing back in the business units, so often we were sent on other courses or refreshers!! Unfortunately some years ago this organisation closed its training school as they just could not see the value in it and weren't getting results. Was sending us to a training school away from the job really the right approach when most learning is done on the job anyway, is it time for new thinking and new approaches?

As I arrived at the hotel my thoughts turned to the day ahead. I was here to learn more about how Jim delivers his two day Kirkpatrick Partners Bronze programme, as I have the great honor of co-delivering with him in April 2013. We spent the day looking at why our profession, learning and development or as Jim prefers learning and performance, have come to rely on and in many cases mis-use the original Kirkpatrick evaluation model. And how the 'New World' kirkpatrick approach puts things straight.

For many learning professionals the Kirkpatrick four levels is a tool that is used towards the end of training to demonstrate the value of the event or programme, some never even get past level two.  In a survey carried out by the ASTD  "The  value of evaluation: Making Training evaluation more effective (2009) their research suggests that 91% of respondents use level 1 and 80% go as far as level 2, for levels 3 and 4 it drops significantly to 54% and 37% respectively.  This is in line with Jim's comments that the training profession can often see evaluation as a way of patting its self on the back or in other words "Look we did a great job, the delegates loved us and answered all our questions correctly, the organisation is going to be so happy with us, don't you think"?  And there-in lies the problem, there can be a big disconnect between the training department and the rest of the business!  Does the rest of the business really have much more than a passing interest in how well we deliver the training or how good lunch was or even whether our delegates got 100% in a test? No, the rest of the business wants results, and improved performance, they want things to change as a result of the training. Today, stakeholders are asking "So What?" and more importantly, "What's in it for me?"

This is where the "New World" Kirkpatrick model comes into its own, no longer should it be used towards the end of the training it should be used as a tool to help shape business thinking, to design learning solutions that matter most and along the way provide opportunities to generate evaluation data. The 'New World' approach is much more than a bolt on after training, it is a fresh up front approach to robust consultancy and training design.  For mission critical programmes it allows the learning professional, people like you and me to cross the metaphorical bridge to the business. Starting the conversations off with questions that echo Dr. Steven Covey's "Start with the end in mind" such as  "what are the business results you are looking for"? and "what behavioural change will give you this"?  These are the starting points for business focused conversations. Conversations that will help you and your organisation answer their what's in it for me question and provide data to demonstrate impact and results.

So the starting point is loud and clear from Jim it is Level Four, what results do you want to see, then we can work back through the levels identifying the behaviours and importantly what the business needs to do to support and encourage them, finally we can think about levels one and two.

On the way home I returned to thinking about that organisation I worked for and the training school, if only they had said to the business "so what results do you want to see from training" and reacted by helping the business define clear goals that could then be used to define some smaller measures of success and the behavours needed to get there, they may even be there today.  Some questions to leave you with:

How are you currently looking at evaluation in your business?

What conversations do you have with your stakeholders to identify what the desired change and end result is going to be?

When your stakeholder's ask you "what's in it for me? How do you respond?

If you are looking to get a fresh perspective on evaluation and take your approach to the next level, join Howard Rose, Phil Wilcox and Dr Jim Kirkpatrick at the next UK Kirkpatrick Certification Programme in London on April 22nd/23rd 2013. For more information on this exclusive event then please email service@dpgplc.co.ukor alternatively all the details can be found here

Kirkpatrick Four Levels Programme London 22nd/23rd April

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Comments

  • Some great thoughts to get me thinking Howard - so many organisation do not "begin with the end in mind" and wonder why evaluation is so hard!

  • This is a great article Howard and you've simplified what is often seen as a complex subject. 

    Having had the pleasure of seeing just after your initial session with Dr Jim Kirkpatrick I know this is a topic you are passionate about so your sessions in April will be awesome!  

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