Approaches to Evaluation of Training

Summary

Every organization will invest in its workforce/employees by providing training for them so that there is a generally improved output. As such, there is a need for these training programs to be evaluated separately in order to determine their effectiveness at improving the general output of an organization that employs them. Evaluations differ greatly in terms of the sectors involved. In an article by Cifalino and Baraldi (2009), extensive research in the healthcare systems in Italy is outlined. Two reasons are given for picking the health care systems: one, it is under a “new public management”, which requires that they be accountable for the resources utilized and two, this field is necessary for improving the knowledge of the employees as it affects the outcome.

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Whether training is necessary for improving performance is determined by either the operational approach or the strategic approach, this is what is known as ‘training evaluation’. These two methods are very distinctive: the operational approach has its focus on the quality of the training that has been made available to the employees while the strategic approach has its focus on the effects the training has on the employees on a personal level and to the organization as a whole.

The common method used in training evaluation has been the operational approach but gradually people are adapting the strategic approach. It is, however, important to note that not one method is better than the other; and that both methods have their limits, and finally they can be used together to ensure a decent evaluation procedure.

Learning Points

  • There are different “operational tools” that can be used in “identifying and measuring the effectiveness of training programs” (Cifalino and Baraldi, 2009, p.3).
  • The operational approach has mainly been studied on the “individual-level”; hence a broader study has to be taken to include studies at the “organizational-level” in order to remove this limitation (Cifalino and Baraldi, 2009, p.3).
  • Performance measurement, PM, has changed over time and is now known as Strategic Performance management, SPM (Cifalino and Baraldi, 2009).
  • The Balanced Scorecard and the Performance prism are some of the frameworks in SPM (Cifalino and Baraldi, 2009).
  • The SPM mainly makes use of the Human Resource, HR, in order to fulfill its purposes, hence the HR managers are advised to completely utilize PM in which three different models could come in handy i.e. stakeholder approach, utility approach, and the relationship approach (Ripley, 2002).
  • An HR scorecard was started with the aim of maximizing the role of HR for the organization’s success (Cifalino and Baraldi, 2009).
  • SPM does have limitations and this is mainly the fact that it is hard to measure the performance of training programs (Cifalino and Baraldi, 2009).
  • The type of research method used is the action research, AR, which entails the active involvement of the researcher in question (Cifalino and Baraldi, 2009).

Discussion

It is very important to take up evaluation processes. I agree with the above statement because; whether the processes are operational or strategic, the following reasons approve the undertaking of such a course: one, managers need to show how the training is in line with the “organization’s objectives and goals” (Kirkpatrick and Kirkpatrick, 2009, p.15), two, whether or not to continue the training and three to improve future training that is to be done (Kirkpatrick and Kirkpatrick, 2009, p.15). With these in mind, the decision as to which approach to use is now useful.

The varieties of models that are currently available for evaluation make it a process that is able to cater to diverse organizations. I agree with this for the reason that, in a bid to improve performance measurement, PM, there are different models that have come up, the two mentioned in Cifalino and Baraldi (2009), are the balanced scorecard and the performance prism. Others include the “business excellence model, shareholder value added, activity based costing, cost of quality and competitive benchmarking” (Neely and Adams, 2002, p.1). All these frameworks presented various aspects of the approach to the issue of PM. Hence, it is up to an organization to determine which model suits their organization’s goals better.

The Kirkpatrick model is not as effective as the other different models that are present. I strongly disagree with this because though other newer processes have been established, this does not negate the significance the Kirkpatrick model has played. The Kirkpatrick model has been used over time and it mainly involves four levels i.e. reactions, learning, behavior, and results (Training Evaluation, 2003). From this model, others have come up and the stakeholder’s approach is a much more favored way since it factors in the consultation of those who have a stake in that organization (Creative, 2009). Examples of these stakeholders who all have interests at different capacities include (Creative Commons, 2009): “trainees, trainees’ managers, funding managers, training developers, training community” among others (Nickols, 2003, p. 4).

Training evaluation processes are simple and do not necessarily require modification. I disagree with this statement on the basis that, there are challenges that are definitely expected to arise in the training evaluation, and these are mostly applicable to all sectors. The two challenges listed by Mohapatra (HRM, n.d.), are “the diverse workforce” (HRM, n.d., p.1) and also the “changing business needs from time to time” (HRM, n.d., p.1). The diverse workforce would mean the merging of different cultures and making them all conform to one goal. This will prove to be tricky and very involving hence the need to ensure that the training provided to these various people are working.

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The evaluation processes are oblivious of technology and can be carried out as they always have been in the past. I disagree with this because times are changing, and thus it is very necessary for organizations to incorporate new technologies in their training and evaluations in order to maintain relevance in the current times (HRM n.d.).

Training evaluation is a costly but necessary process. I agree with this and though there are other challenges associated with it for example the difficulty in measuring the effectiveness of training in its exactness, difficulty in measuring the “short-term and long-term learning” (ASDC, 2003, p.9), the aspect of picking those to benefit from training can also pose as a challenge (ASDC, 2003); it is a necessary process to be done. The costs incurred in training are also massive, for instance in America, organizations can spend up to $100 billion on “training and development”, and if this is not evaluated, this investment will be in vain (Eseryel, 2002, p.1).

Critical Analysis

In the article by Cifalino and Baraldi (2009), two approaches as earlier indicated were used and these include the operational and strategic approach. The operational approach involved measuring the effectiveness using “reactions, learning, behavior and organizational results” (Cifalino and Baraldi, 2009, p.10). The three healthcare organizations that the process was done on had some similar objectives i.e. to improve the knowledge of the nurses, to improve the technical skills, and to have a shared goal about the organizations’ goal (Cifalino and Baraldi, 2009).

A conclusion was able to be reached from the three teams carrying out their research: one, they hailed the practicability of the evaluation that was done in terms of the changes that took place and also feedback; two, the participants also agreed on the fact that the way the research was carried out, it would assist in “future training programs” as it also reinforced the current impact of the training achieved; finally, limitations were identified i.e. the exercise was “time-consuming”, communication failure that resulted in increased costs of monitoring the training performance (Cifalino and Baraldi, 2009, p.13). They also concluded by agreeing on taking up the programs that were specifically “aiming at supporting the achievement of organisational priorities” (Cifalino and Baraldi, 2009, p.13).

For the strategic approach, a short training initiative was used and the Balanced Scorecard (BSC) was applied in order to determine the effectiveness of the training done. The BSC involves: getting results of the program, obtaining the data, and analyzing “performance at an organizational level” (Cifalino and Baraldi, 2009, p.14). The following are the specific perspectives that the BSC entailed: “design perspective” i.e. if the right training initiatives were used; “delivering perspective”, if the initiatives were being passed across rightly; “learning perspective”, if the participants were really benefiting from the program; and finally the “performance perspective” if the organization was profiting from these training initiatives (Cifalino and Baraldi, 2009, p.14).

The participants of the two healthcare organizations who took part in using the BSC (Balanced Scorecard) method agreed on the following: “the BSC can support performance management in the training area” (Cifalino and Baraldi, 2009, p.17), the BSC has to be incorporated in many programs in order for its effect to be notable, the process is less time consuming as compared to the operational approach, BSC can be seen as a common ground since everyone can relate to it and finally using modern technology to enhance communication ensures a low cost unlike the operational approach (Eseryel, 2002, p.1). This definitely shows that where the operational approach failed to meet its objectives, it is complemented by the strategic approach and the two can be made use of together in order to have a wholesome training evaluation.

Application to the UAE

For the United Arab Emirates, the approach proposed to be used for the healthcare organizations is the stakeholder approach. The following are the outlined processes that can be custom-made to fit the UAE: “Identify the key stakeholders groups” (Nickols, 2003, p.6), in this case, which parties are directly interested; “Identify the contributions and inducements for each group” (Nickols, 2003, p.6), i.e. the stakeholders in question; “Prioritize these contributions and inducement” (Nickols, 2003, p.6); “Devise simple ways of measuring the satisfaction of the various stakeholders with their inducements” (Nickols, 2003, p.6); “Devise simple ways of measuring the value of the contributions made by the various stakeholders” (Nickols, 2003, p.6); “Incorporate them into a stakeholder contributions-inducements scorecard” (Nickols, 2003, p.6); “check frequently- communicate often, drive productive conversations” (Nickols, 2003, p.6); “Incorporate into meetings, the training itself and training post-mortems” (Nickols, 2003, p.6).

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There are documented advantages associated with this approach that will definitely be very practical especially for UAE, these include: the process takes all stakeholders into account hence “a balanced view is obtained” (Nickols, 2003, p.7), it “encourages and supports mutual accountability and shared responsibility” (Nickols, 2003, p.7), it merges the “Kirkpatrick model and the Return on Investment approach” (Nickols, 2003, p.7), it also “shifts the emphasis from transforming trainees to providing value to stakeholders” (Nickols, 2003, p.7) among other benefits.

Lessons Learned

The issue of performance measurement or even training evaluation is no longer a subject that is left for the trainers only. The organization is to be involved especially by assisting in the implementation of the methods that have been settled on. One thing is very clear, before undertaking a training evaluation procedure it is important to understand the organization’s goal, the interests of the different stakeholders are also to be put in perspective and investment, in terms of finances and also time. The strategic approach is currently gaining more popularity since it is not only focused on individuals but the organization at large. Different tools of study are useful depending on the sector that is involved. The sector that was tackled here was the healthcare organizations and the approaches proposed can be modified to meet the specific needs.

References

ASDC. (2003). Suggested Methods for Evaluating Safe Start Training Outcomes. Web.

Cifalino, A. & Baraldi, S. (2009). Training programs and performance measurement: Evidence from healthcare organizations. Journal of Human Resource Costing & Accounting, Vol. 13, No.4 pp. 294-315.

Creative Commons. (2009). Selecting Criteria for Evaluating Training. Web.

Eseryel, D. (2002). Approaches to Evaluation of Training: Theory & Practice. Web.

HRM. (2011). Training & Development. Web.

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Kirkpatrick, D. L. & Kirkpatrick, J. D. (2009). Evaluating Training Programs. Web.

Neely, A. & Adams, C. (2002). The Performance Prism. Web.

Nickols, F. (2003). A Stakeholder Approach to Evaluating Training. Web.

Ripley, D. (2002). Improving Employee Performance: Moving Beyond Traditional HRM Responses. Web.

Training Evaluation. (2003). Evaluating. Web.

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