By Dave Basarab
Are you constantly fighting to show and justify training’s value to your organization? Does your organization view training as an expense versus an investment with predicted return? Is your training function misaligned with the decision criteria used by senior executives when deciding where and how to make investments?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, consider implementing predictive evaluation (PE). PE is a form of business forecasting for training that predicts the future as accurately as possible, given all the information available, including historical data and knowledge of any future events that might affect the forecast. PE not only forecasts value, but also is a monitor and control mechanism that involves three stages. The first stage is focusing on the right metrics for evaluating training. You could monitor many things, but you want to focus on those that affect the business. The second stage is implementing steering control. When you are thinking about performance and you are in an operating period that starts on, say, January 1 and ends on December 31, you do not want to wait until December 31 to figure out that you have a problem and then make some changes. You should solve that problem as early as possible, by using PE results. The third stage is using the right performance measures. We need to ensure that we have appropriate measures by predicting training’s intention, adoption, and impact before we train.
PE has two major components: predicting, which is before the fact, to decide whether to train; and evaluating, which is an after-the-fact measurement against the predictions. The beauty of PE is that it uses leading measures (intention and adoption) as a signal of results (impact). If the leading indicators are below predicted success gates, actions can be implemented to “right the ship” so that the desired results are realized.
The framework and premise on which PE is based means that before, during, and after training, participants have some level of motivation to use key learnings. These are “intentions.” Intentions can be strong or weak. On the basis of their intentions, participants “adopt” (apply) the new skills as part of their work behavior (routine). Adopted behaviors practiced over time (repetition) produce results (an “impact”) for the business. The magnitude and value of the results are affected by all three factors: intention, adoption, and impact. Using the model as a basis for mirroring employee learning and performance, you can predict intention, adoption, and, finally, impact. But before doing that, you need to understand these three PE elements.
An intention evaluation measures the following: Are participant goals and beliefs upon course completion aligned with desired goals? Intentions are the goals that participants wish to achieve using the knowledge and skills they learned in training, which are supported by their beliefs. This is the first evaluation focus point, because there will be little or no adoption or business impact if participants have little or no intent to use the training. Intention evaluation involves judging participant-authored goals against a predefined standard. If participant goals meet the standard, those goals are labeled as acceptable. Goals that do not meet the standard are considered unacceptable.
An adoption evaluation measures the following: How much of the training has been implemented on the job and successfully integrated into each participant’s work behavior? An adoption evaluation analyzes participant performance (behaviors and actions that the employee has transferred to the job) and participant goal completion rate against a defined adoption success gate (percentage of employees performing as predicted). A set of on-the-job adoptive behaviors is developed from the course design or material and from the predicted intention goal statements.
An impact evaluation measures the following: What business results can be traced back to goal adoption of participants? Are results to the business as predicted? What is the typical profile of a participant who has achieved results? What additional business results (value) could be achieved if participants who have little or no adoption were to adopt their goals? An impact evaluation assesses the changes to organizational results attributable to the use of skills mastered in training.
Predicting the Value of Training
Predicting training results is similar to forecasting in other business functions; for instance, when executives decide which equipment to purchase, what products to launch, whether to expand the workforce, and so forth. Lacking sufficient information, decision makers could fail to support business initiatives, including training programs that could potentially produce significant value to the company. When executives decide to spend money on training, they evaluate their options–much like they evaluate other large investments–on the basis of financial returns to the company. The PE approach allows organizations to predict results prior to training delivery (early in the design process); decide whether the benefits (value gained) are worth the investment; and, if the choice is to train, evaluate and report so that corrective actions are implemented as needed.
PE allows organizations to predict what impact (results) will be realized by their company; what behaviors will result in adoption (transfer) for participants and at what success rate; and what intentions (goals and beliefs) participants must author, thereby enabling them to begin adoption.
Predictive Evaluation Benefits
What are the benefits of PE? PE allows organizations to predict (forecast) training’s value to the company, measure against those predictions, use leading indicators to ensure that you are on track, and report in a business format that executives easily understand. You can interweave outcomes and leading indicators into training during the design and delivery and move from an event-driven function to one that predicts success, measures its performance against those predictions, and is seen as returning significant shareholder value for the funds invested.
However, the greatest strength of the PE approach is not about how it is communicated to the executives, or the tools, or the results, but rather how it requires participation of the supervisors and the employees in setting their own intentions and measurement of adoption. The approach treats employees as adults owning their learning versus students “checking off” a class from their list and being measured by someone else. The key components of the approach are the training program, training outcomes, prediction of value, intention (to use), adoption (actual use), and impact (the results to the company).
About the Author
Dave Basarab, founder of Dave Basarab Consulting, is an accomplished, highly respected trainer, evaluator, author, teacher, inventor, and thought leader. Dave has developed some of the most innovative approaches to training and evaluation in the marketplace today. Dave’s products, services, and methodologies–such as his comprehensive learning to performance system–help companies get a bigger bang for their training bucks. And his innovative predictive evaluation model regularly helps companies maximize their training return on investment by as much as 200 to 300%. He has provided critical training functions for a variety of companies, including Motorola, Ingersoll Rand, NCR, and Pitney Bowes. He is a well-respected speaker and a best-selling author, who has written several books and regularly contributes to the industry’s most prestigious publications. For more information, visit www.davebasarab.com.