Three Ways You Know Your Training Works


I’m a big believer in assessing whether or not your leadership training and development programming works to make your organization more effective.  Sure, it’s good to know that the participants enjoyed the training, found it interesting, and thought you did a good job as a facilitator, but it is much more important to find out whether the participants learned something new or thought about something in a new way; applied what they learned to the workplace or were motivated to apply something they already knew but had never tried; and whether or not the program resulted in achieving the organizational objectives to make the organization more effective.

  1. Assessing learning.  A classic way to know whether or not the participants learned something is by giving a pre-test, providing the teaching or training, and then giving a post-test to see if learning improved the scores between the pre-test and the post-test.  However, there are many other ways to determine if learning occurred. For example, ask participants to share in a group or class discussion what they learned and listen carefully to what key points from the program they mention; or ask participants to play a game or friendly competition in which they need to use the knowledge learned to win the game; or stage a debate, role play, or case study that requires knowledge of the information provided in the course.  There are an endless variety of ways to assess whether students learned the material. In some cases experienced participants may have understood some of the information already, but they were inspired or motivated to think about the material in new and different ways that adds depth and strength to their skills and knowledge.
  2. Assessing Application. For me it is critically important to know whether or not participants apply the learned material in their day-to-day jobs. Because I facilitate leadership development programs for supervisors and managers who work in a wide variety of client organizations, I may not be on-site frequently enough to observe which participants go back to their jobs and return to business as usual versus using the new leadership and communication skills covered in the training program.  Because I can’t witness their application of the training on the job, I primarily use three different methods to assess this.  At the end of the training course I ask the participants to share the top two or three things they learned that will be most helpful if applied back on the job. Then, I ask them to predict how likely they are to change their current methods of working in order to adopt and apply the new skills.  I usually have them use a 4 point scale to predict whether they will or will not change. Then, I follow up a few weeks later with a survey or preferably a personal coaching session to ask if they have had the chance to apply the new learning on the job, and if the answer is yes, I ask them to describe how successful the application was, and when they expect to next use the newly learned skill.  Finally, an even more objective method to assess this is to ask the participant’s supervisor and/or peers if they have noticed the participant applying the new skill, or even attempting to apply the new skill at work.
  3. When an organization hires my company to provide leadership training and development programs there is the expectation that supervisors and managers will improve as leaders, and in turn this will result in better organizational effectiveness.  This can sometimes be difficult to measure, and can take time.  After all, managers who have just learned something new and who are practicing the new skill or knowledge, may not become completely proficient until the new skill becomes a competency they have become highly effective at using.  Also, most organizational effectiveness measures are impacted by multiple variables both internal to the company and external (like the competition and the economy).  However, with a strong leadership development program that emphasizes continuous learning and growth over a long period of time, it is possible to see positive organizational improvement trends.  I recommend selecting a few key metrics that the organization already gathers and tracks prior to implementing the training program.  For example, employee retention, increased revenue, improved productivity, and customer satisfaction.  If these four items (as an example) are already being measured, a company can note the metrics prior to implementing the leadership development program, and look at any changes at key milestones along the way.  Over time if the trends for these metrics continuously improve after accounting for other variables that could affect them, it is possible to attribute at least part of the improvement on organizational effectiveness resulting from the leadership program.

What other methods have you used to assess the results of your leadership development efforts?