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Where is the value in evaluation?
Where is the value in evaluation?
Hedda Bird The ROI Academy.
At a basic level, training evaluation should capture the value and impact a training programme is having in the organisation. For many organisations, the evaluation process is a post-training event focussing on collecting and analysing quality data (from variations on the ubiquitous happy sheet). They then hope that these data will show that the training is having some effect somewhere in the business.
By planning and structuring the evaluation system before training takes place, the process of designing the evaluation will ensure that challenges of value and impact, and costs and associated risks to the business are addressed during the planning stage. Designing the evaluation process before training takes place inevitably leads to questions, including:
Why are we doing this?
How is it expected to help?
If the activity is useful and successful what will that look like?
Where will the benefit appear in the organisation?
Answering these critical questions will ensure that the implementation is designed to deliver maximum value and impact with minimum cost and risk. So how do we, as human resources (HR) professionals, develop a process that will maximise the value and impact of our training activity? Here are some practical tips:
1. Start with the organisational goals and not the activity
Work from the top down, and ask yourself:
How does the activity contribute to the goals?
Does it add any other value outside the stated goals?
Does the bulk of the value come from the benefits outside the organisational goals or is it directly in line with them?
If the benefits are largely outside the stated goals you might re-consider the activity. While it might seem locally important, it is diverting resources from delivering the main goals. Using resources on projects and activities that seem valuable in themselves but do not deliver the overall target, is one of the main reasons that organisations fail to deliver. It is a particular challenge for HR professionals who must continually walk the balance between supporting people and supporting the business. Project owners can get very upset that good projects are sidelined, but if the projects are not substantially aligned (and that means 75 per cent or more of the benefits) to delivering organisational goals, then they are not a good use of resources. Identifying how an activity contributes to organisational goals will identify the real value of the activity to the business.
Redesign the activity to increase its alignment to specific organisational goals. For example, an activity designed to “improve performance management” is hard to measure, whereas an activity designed “to reduce absence and increase productivity by 1 per cent” is very clear.
2. Under-estimate the benefits
After you have valued the benefits, do a variation. Assume the benefits were halved, or came in a year later, or only reached a quarter of the target audience. Look hard at the real value.
Rather than throw the activity out, look at what you can do in terms of design to ensure that the benefits are really driven out. This might mean changing the speed of delivery, increasing follow up or using a different implementation method.
3. Over-estimate the costs
Any evaluation must include a review of actual and expected costs. HR activity is notoriously difficult to cost. What if costs doubled or tripled or a recurring cost appeared?
Design cost control into the project. How can you reduce initial costs or reduce risk costs? Would a pilot programme reduce the costs of the roll out? Would a pilot programme increase costs but reduce risk?
4. Look at risks
Be really tough on yourself about risk. What if the company is bought or sold, if strategy changes, if key people leave or if the project is only half completed? A half completed bridge is useless, whereas a half completed language course may have considerable practical value.
Use force-field analysis to itemise all the potential risks, weight them and devise actions that can minimise or out-weigh each risk.
Can this process really work?
The situation. A medium-sized software company had a basic, annual appraisal process which had become a “tick box” process, and was seen to add little value.
The process. By following The ROI Academy process outlined above, it was discovered that the appraisal system was not linked to any business goal. When the organisation was challenged to say why it wanted appraisals at all, it was found that it wanted to improve performance. While designing the evaluation process it was also found that there were no benchmarks for “what good looks like.”
The solution. As a result of the evaluation process, performance standards and accountabilities were developed and implemented in the organisation.
The result. There was rapid improvement in performance as people began to understand what they were really expected to do. In addition, there is now a belief among the management community in the company that appraisals are a valuable process.
About the author
Hedda Bird is Managing Director of 3C Associates, where she leads the ROI practice and manages a team of leading instructors and communications professionals. She holds a first degree in Mathematics from the University of London and an MBA (with distinction) from the University of Warwick. She is a mentor for the Princes Trust, supporting young people starting a business for the first time. Hedda Bird can be contacted at: email@example.com