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Assessment is the process that lets you as an organisation evaluate or measure the impact of the training program with respect to your set objectives. It makes you aware of the areas where you lag behind. Similarly, you get to know about the areas where you’re exceptional or average. You can follow up and build around your strategy with the help of the information derived from assessment.
Without assessment, a training program is directionless. Imagine you outsource a training program for your employees. Your KPIs include a rise in your employees’ productivity and a cultural change marked by the inflow of globalisation in the industry that you work in. What next? Can you continue without a proper assessment of your training program? Obviously, you can’t.
You need to undergo an assessment using different tools and techniques. That is the only way you can measure the impact of your training program on your trainees, on the basis of which, you’ll move further with your consequent actions.
Why is assessment required?
Assessment serves as a multi-dimensional function for a multi-purpose guidance. Its necessity can be outlined in the following functions-
To check the progress of trainees
Assessment measures the trainees’ progress on different parameters. These can be skills, knowledge, behaviour, attitude, body-language etc. Pre-Assessment levels are compared to the post-assessment levels to understand the extent of a change as a result of the training program. These parameters are selected with respect to the organisational objectives. This is the most basic function of any assessment program.
To check the effectiveness of training
Training is a costly affair. You initiate a training program so as to achieve your desired result in terms of your KPIs. For that particular result, you need to achieve it within the limits set by the ROI or Return on Investment. As a result, your training program should be effective enough to let you enjoy the benefits. An assessment lets you know where your training program stands. You can incorporate the necessary changes right in the middle of the training program in case you feel the presence of any underlying ineffectiveness. It’s an assessment of your training program that eventually benefits your trainees.
Organisational objectives/ KPIs
Apart from the individual progress, assessment also takes into account the organisational objectives or the KPIs on which the organisation seeks to improve as a whole. Individual effectiveness doesn’t necessarily result in organisational well-being in a direct manner. Hence, it becomes important to evaluate whether the training outcomes are in sync with the KPIs.
To work on improvements; Continuing beneficial practices
A check through assessment whether the desired training objectives have been achieved or not and to what extent the outcomes exceed or lag behind is important. In case of the latter, the organisation can find through assessment the areas where it needs to rework upon, so as to further improve. The extent helps to calculate the amount of effort required to reach the desired position.
On the other hand, if the assessment presents a positive result, there needs to be a continuance of the beneficial practices. Assessment makes you aware of those right practices that are yielding beneficial results. There can be a combination of multiple practices. Assessment makes you aware of such combinations in simple numeric terms backed by data.
To bring about a change
The generalised objective of any training program is to bring a positive change in the status quo. The assessment program guides the trainees and the organisation towards a change that they’re seeking. This ultimately reflects in their KPIs.
Popular models for assessment
There are certain models that provide a framework for the assessment of the training program. These models are renowned and work exceedingly well in most of the scenarios. Each of them offers their own benefits and deficiencies. The Kirkpatrick’s model is one of the most prevalent training assessment-model. It’s an old model, but still in use. Though, it has accommodated in itself a lot of changes that have occurred over the period of time.
A glance on the Kirkpatrick’s model
The Kirkpatrick model created by Donald Kirkpatrick in 1959 follows 4 levels. These are
The first level measures the Reaction of the trainees towards the training. It measures whether the training is inclined with their job-requirements. It also seeks to measure their engagement and learning experience.
The second level, Learning measures what the trainee has learnt during the course of their training. It’s in terms of their knowledge, skills and confidence etc.
The third level, Behaviour measures whether there has been a positive change in the trainees after they have completed their training. It checks on the implementation of learnt skills at the workplace.
Finally, the fourth level, Result measures the change in terms of metrics. The effect of the training program on the KPIs. Whether a favourable change has occurred or not.
An example: An increase in the sales by 8% after the training program is a result. This is the ultimate objective of an organisation. A training program may be successful in terms of changing the behaviour of the employees, however the ultimate success of a training program is the reflection of a positive result that helps an organisation achieve a favourable change in their KPIs.
Other models- A comparison
There are certain other models in addition to Kirkpatrick’s models. The Phillips ROI model is similar to the Kirkpatrick’s model. In addition, it includes a fifth level, that’s the ROI, that measures the returns of the training program with respect to the training expenditure made by the organisation.
Anderson’s Model of Learning Evaluation is a yet another model. It aligns the business strategy to the training program and measures the contribution of training to its strategic results.
Another model is Kaufman’s Five Levels of Evaluation. It measures the resources that are required in the training process. Next up it follows certain aspects of the Kirkpatrick’s model like evaluating the learner’s reaction, assessing whether the training objectives were met or not. It also measures the practical impact of the benefits along with the greater benefits. Finally, it takes into account the societal benefits that are somewhat complex to measure.
It’s the decision of the organisation to choose from among these models. Kirkpatrick’s model is touted as the best-suited one because it lays down the assessment process in four convenient steps. While other models offer their own sets of advantages, they are slightly complex and may be used in accordance with the suitability of training objectives.
Tools to evaluate
A model outlines the assessment process. To work on the process, we require tools. These tools are the drivers of the assessment process. There are multiple tools and they should be used with respect to their appropriateness.
Interview serves the purpose when the trainees are limited in number and when a particular complexity needs to be addressed.
Observation is a first-hand tool. It is beneficial when the number of trainees is large. It provides insights on behaviour and is suitable for checking skills under a mechanical training method.
Tests and Examinations
Tests and examinations are a basic assessment of the knowledge learnt during the training process. They can measure specific and technical knowledge around a topic.
Questionnaires and Surveys
Questionnaires and surveys take into account the feedback of the trainees. They tend to present an overall picture on the basis of the trainees’ response. Suited when the sample space is large. They’re particularly used to evaluate the training content and methodology where trainees are asked about their experience of using them.
A discussion with a focus group who underwent training can prove to be a vital assessment tool. There are certain instances when multiple perspectives at a single point of time can work in extracting keen insights to the manager. Many of the basic tools may not work in certain situations where discussions can work.
The pre and post training performance of employees is an excellent tool for assessment. A rise in performance is often linked with a successful completion of the training program. If the performance reduces or remains stagnant, analysis can be undertaken to understand the areas where a reworking is required, and accordingly action can be taken.
Analytics as a modern-day tool
In the modern-day technological world, the training software is laced up with AI-based tools that offer customised assessment solutions for individual trainees. They present reports on different fronts taking analysis to a different level. Humans may fail, but the analytics works exceedingly well with an accuracy that’s unmatched. It provides information on multiple domains- What’s working well, and what needs to be done so as to improve a certain deficiency- All with a great attention to detail!
Majority of these tools predominantly measure the tangible changes in knowledge as a result of the training program. What about the not-so-visible change that you may also want to evaluate? These include behavioural, character, personality and attitude-based change. You can’t simply use an Interview or a Test to measure these changes. There are other specific tools that comes into play-
Psychometric Tests evaluate personal traits like behaviour, personality and attitude. These contain a well-designed set of questions that seeks to identify the different types of traits that belong to an individual. Modern-day Psychometric tests are even designed to keep a check on bias.
Gamified assessments are modern forms of assessment that are highly appealing since they include elements of fun and recreation. They are capable of extracting great insights on the thought-process, the Intelligence-Quotient and the character of a trainee. Examples include crosswords, time-based quizzes, scrambles, analytical and numerical puzzles and many others.
Simulations and Role Plays
Simulations and Role Plays work well for certain industries. They present a scenario that’s reflective of an actual work situation. The trainees can be assessed on different parameters be it the application of learnt concepts, the attitude displayed in a crisis-situation, behavioural distinctions and many more. While simulations include a sophisticated set up, role plays are enactments based on a situation.
A check on the KPIs
In the end, assessment helps in measuring the results with a check on the KPIs or the organisational objectives. It’s important for an organisation to set KPIs prior to the incorporation of the training program. The KPIs are customised with respect to the organisation. For example, an organisation may seek a rise in its turnover as a KPI, another one might seek a high productivity rate or a lack of wastage or a focus on customer satisfaction. It’s important to set plausible and well-defined KPIs so as to realistically gain out of your training program.
An application of Assessment- Example
A scenario cited on the first page under the Assessment section- “Your KPIs include a rise in your employees’ productivity and a cultural change marked by the inflow of globalisation in the industry that you work in.”
Here’s how you continue with the assessment process-
You measure the pre-training metrics of the trainees. You take into account the trainees’ reaction through a questionnaire and rework your program according to their suitability. Keeping a check on their learnings with the help of quiz-based tests, you find an enhancement in their cultural index along with their communication skills. This is a change in their behaviour. The enhanced post-training productivity when compared to the pre-training productivity results in high conversion rates in the international market is in itself a result that you seek out of your training program. This is how Assessment works!
While there are a number of assessment models along with a number of assessment tools, it therefore becomes imperative for the organisation to choose the one that suits them best in their interest. A prior analysis is required. A view on KPIs is important too while choosing the model and the tools. The trainees should be empathised upon. An assessment isn’t just an end result, it’s a continuous process. It begins even before the training begins in the form of a Pre-training assessment. It continues to work during the training as a Mid-training assessment. The Post-Training assessment is the most important assessment. However, that doesn’t mean that the other two are of little value. Catching the problem as early as possible and rectifying the same is significant.
Usage of technology is all pervasive these days. Thanks to Learning Management Systems and E-Learning tools, technology is already being used in the L&D industry. As previously mentioned, it is also used in assessments wherever possible in the form of analytics. The accurate results along with personalised recommendations can prove beneficial to a great extent. Not using technology can prove detrimental as its prevalence is rising day by day because of the benefits that it offers.
Implementing the changes as suggested by assessment is essential. Working and reworking is the essence of training. It should be undertaken with an aim to improve. Long term perspective bears fruit under such a situation. Continuing the beneficial practices along with an implementation of required changes for your KPIs is what your training program seeks with the help of assessment, that’s eventually the ultimate key to your successful training program.