Just as there’s more than one way to skin a cat, there’s more than one way to evaluate a training program. My previous post on training evaluation methods explored why it’s difficult – or even impossible – to isolate the impact of some training programs on a business outcome. Anti-bullying classes are a case in point. You could try to capture the program’s effectiveness by not training a control group and comparing behaviors against a group that has gone through the program. But that raises ethical questions, especially if bullying complaints against members of the control group start piling up!
Here’s another tool to consider: Trend-line analysis. All you have to do is identify a trend you expect to be influenced by the training program.
Let’s say you have instituted training that is aimed at reducing the number of lawsuits against your company. In your trend-line analysis, you would plot the number of lawsuits in the months or years before the training and continue the graph in the weeks and months after. Of course, you have to understand what other variables might impact the lawsuits. This method may not be suitable if, for instance, government regulations caused an increase or decrease in legal actions against your company.
Here are some other questions to consider before starting a trend-line analysis on the effectiveness of your training program:
• When did the training program start? If the program has always been part of the business, there’s no way to identify the trend before it started. For this analysis tool to work, you need historical data from before the implementation of the training.
• Do you have enough data? If your organization is sued only once every decade, there is no statistically valid way to determine whether your anti-lawsuit training is effective.
Of course, you need not limit your analysis to a single trend. If you want to determine the impact of an anti-bullying training program, you might consider looking at employee complaints, sick-leave days and other factors. You could then plot these numbers as separate trend lines on a single graph. You may see a correlation among the variables and be able to determine lagging indicators (an increase in complaints or sick days taken leads to an increase in lawsuits, for example). You may also be able to calculate a value for Return on Investment (ROI) for the training.
This case study outlines one strategy for evaluating the effectiveness of training. Every organization and training program is different. The trend-line analysis can be a useful tool when there’s enough historical data, and you know what you want your training program to accomplish.