It's the middle of January and conference season is upon us. ASTD kicks it off with TK 2010 in Las Vegas. Then, its off to San Diego with Training 2010. And of course the big one - ASTD 2010 ICE takes place in May in Chicago. Some of you will attend one or more of the 2010 conferences with the intent of finding an evaluation process that fits your needs. To ensure you are clear on those needs, ask yourself the following questions.
1. What purpose will evaluation serve?
The first step toward achieving a goal is purpose clarification. Get clear on the purpose you are trying to serve through adopting an evaluation approach. Do you want to justify your spending? Do you want to increase your budget? Are you looking for an approach to help you ensure your team implements the right programs for the right people to meet the right needs? Whatever your purpose for pursuing an evaluation approach, get clear. Write a simple purpose statement to stay focused.
2. Who are our stakeholders?
While it may sound simple, it is sometimes surprising to see who gets left off this list. Think about all of the stakeholders who have a vested interest in your training programs. Among the many stakeholders are the participants, supervisors, senior executives, and the suppliers from whom you purchase programs. There is also your team including designers, developers, performance consultants, and evaluators. Identify them all.
3. What types of decisions do these stakeholders make about our programs?
Your many stakeholders make decisions about your programs routinely. Participants decide whether or not they are going to engage. Supervisors decide whether or not they are going to support participants as they apply what they learn in a program. Executives decide whether or not they are going to continue funding programs. Think about all of the possible decisions being made about your programs.
4. What type of data do our stakeholders need to make these decisions?
Given the type of decisions being made, think about what type of information would help them make those decisions. For example, what type of information would supervisors need in order to fully support a program. Would they need to know how a program will help change the work habits of their staff? Or maybe they would need to know how a program is improving the quality of work. Maybe they would want to know what is preventing their staff from being successful with the application of knowledge and skill acquired during a program.
5. What type of data are we providing our stakeholders?
What information do you currently provide your stakeholders about programs? Are you only sharing learning objectives or do you actually provide the success with those objectives? Are you collecting data post-program to describe to supervisors the barriers and enablers to application of knowledge and proving them insights as to how they can better support their team? Do you describe to them how improvement in quality is directly linked to your program?
6. What are the gaps?
Given your stakeholders, the types of decisions they make about your programs, the types of data they need, and the data you are currently providing, what are you missing? These gaps in your data are one of the primary needs to be filled with your new evaluation approach.
With a clear view of what you need in terms of data, look at other criteria important to your selection. Maybe you want a process that is:
- Appropriate for a variety of programs
- Theoretically sound
- Accounts for all program costs
- Accounts for other factors
- Applicable on a pre-program basis
Make your list and pack your bags. Upon arrival at the conference, read your purpose statement, review your list, and attend as many sessions on training evaluation as you can.
Now you are ready to make your selection.