February 26, 2013

Evaluation + Isolation = Loneliness

It is exceptionally rare for me to leave a conversation with anyone I work with without discussing the topics of evaluation, return on investment (less so expectation) or value for money.? Sometimes I wonder if we have an almost unhealthy obsession with the topic.

This is a ‘the house believes’ type post and I purposefully and deliberately encourage you to comment and reply below so that we can discuss this more.?

So, the house (me) believes that; “taking an isolationist approach to evaluation is fundamentally flawed.”

We live and work in incredibly complex and complicated contexts. There are so, so, so many other variables that impact our worlds, how can we possibly isolate them to show the value that an L&D or learning solutions can have?

All of these variables can have an impact on the people, outcomes and effectiveness of any learning solutions we are putting into place.

What would be the process to go through to isolate those factors?

Do you equate a value to them? Do you allocate a percentage impact that those things have had on the outcomes/participants?

What about the weather? Seriously, go with me for a moment.? What if you were running a sales training programme in a retail business that is reliant on footfall for sales to occur. The snow means shoppers are finding it more difficult to travel and so don’t visit the stores where your eagerly trained people are waiting to sell to them.

snow shopLet’s imagine that the sales performance of those people on your programme dipped during the period of the snow.? To what extent can you attribute that to the snow? Is it all related to the snow? Did they actually do well despite the snow although it was below previous or target performance?

What about other departments? What if we said that the next 1/4 after the snow, sales figures shot up. To the extent that they were higher than before the snow.? It is also worth noting that the Marketing team had also commissioned a new campaign and advert. The head of Marketing is saying that this improvement is mainly due to their campaign. How do you split the two? How do you split the two without upsetting/offending one party?

One of the benefits (or fabrications) of the isolationist approach is that you can show in pounds, shilling and pence the return that has been achieved versus the original investment made.

The trouble is that the moment you introduce assumptions, estimations or variances you fundamentally undermine the proposed core benefit, empirical evidence of the returns on investment.

What about a different approach? One that allows for and even actively encourages recognition and consideration of the other variables in place in our worlds.

The New World Kirkpatrick model focuses on these areas (and more).? At its core the new world model is so much more than an approach to evaluation it is a partnership with the individuals and business that you are working with.? That there is a no single L&D intervention that can guarantee success. That success (and the measure of that success) is more likely to be achieved by:

This does not happen where L&D departments are merely the order takers and involved once the decisions have been made. You will notice that here we are talking about Learning Professionals making a shift to becoming trusted and more strategic business partners. One that drives collaboration in organisations and knows that success can only be achieved through putting themselves at the centre of the business and working together to achieve the desired results.

As a Kirkpatrick New World Model certified facilitator I can see the huge value that this approach provides but it is about shifting the mindset around evaluation. Moving from the old mindset of evaluation as an after thought and starting with happy sheets that flips the Kirkpatrick model and turns it in to a collaborative and powerful consultancy model that delivers better results.

I believe isolation approaches only achieve one thing, making L&D lonely.

Are you an order taker or a collaborator driving business improvement?

How do you add value in helping your stakeholders see the benefit of collaboration and partnership?

Phil Willcox is the founder of E3 Training & Consulting and facilitates CIPD Certificate in Learning & Development Practice programmes for DPG. You can connect with Phil via Twitter at @Philwillcox and also on LinkedIn.

If you are looking to get a fresh perspective on evaluation and take your approach to the next level, join Phil, and Howard Rose for the next UK Kirkpatrick Certification Programme. For more information on this exclusive event then please email [email protected] or contact our Kirkpatrick programme advisor Lucy Malley on 0161 975 7777.