Talent Development

How Employee Performance determines the Success of Your Training Program

Employee performance reviews are one of the best ways for an employer to show their appreciation for their staff. It’s also an excellent way to gauge how employees are able to contribute to the business. And its best benefit – it is an avenue for rewards and recognition of the business’ top employee performance and thus, also an instrument for augmenting both employee morale and productivity.

The evaluation process usually involves both the manager and staff in scrutinizing and justifying employee performance metrics together.

Also included in these evaluations are the ‘intangibles’ – performance metrics that aren’t based on any quantifiable indicators per se; but rather are observable behaviors and competencies required for an employee to do the job well.

Employee appraisals are also one of the tasks that get relegated to the sidelines most of the time. Measuring performance of employees takes up a fair amount of time and effort on both the manager’s and the employee’s part.

Not only that, performance reviews can be a protracted process, especially if the organization has a fairly complex feedback system.

We cannot stress enough that fulfilling employee evaluations in a timely manner should be at the top of every manager’s list. That timeliness will be beneficial to the both the employer and employee in terms of motivation and productivity. It will be a big advantage to the training department as well.

A prompt review gives everyone in the company better insight on what competencies contribute most to the company’s business goals and what skills need more polishing.

In the learning and development field, employee performance plays an integral role in determining the success of any training program. From a learning professional’s perspective, employee performance reviews are an intrinsic part of the training and development cycle.

This is not only because managers need to do periodic reviews with their trainers, but there’s also a need to do regular staff performance appraisals of those who have undergone training programs.

Methods of Performance Evaluation for Employees Who Have Gone Through Training Programs

The training department’s employee review process is a bit different from the methods of measuring performance that we are quite used to.

Aside from the periodic appraisal that takes a look at an employee’s key performance indicators (KPIs), observable competencies, and contributions to the company, training evaluation also includes employee opinions, assessment results, and even justifying that the program has impacted overall business performance.

There are numerous flavors of employee performance evaluation methods out there. However, since we’re focusing more on how it relates to training and development, we’ll be paying particular attention to using employee evaluations to justify a training program’s effectiveness.

And for the sake of this post, we will stick to the most commonly used methodology – the Kirkpatrick Model.

The Kirkpatrick Model evaluates a training program’s success by undertaking an evaluation for employees’ performance at four different levels (phases) of the learning cycle.

These levels are reactionary feedback, learning checks, observation of behavioral changes, and produced results. We will discuss the intricacies of each phase. We’ll also include some very useful tips on how to effectively assess employee performance at each phase of the cycle.

Level 1: Reactionary Feedback

The first level of evaluation solicits feedback from the employees. In any training course, it is always imperative to get reactionary feedback from the participants.

It tells the trainer, the instructional designer, and the training manager – basically the entire training team – what particulars of the course are effective and what parts of it need more work.

Soliciting reactionary feedback is usually done at the end of every topic and also at the end of every course. The usual particulars asked are those pertaining to course delivery, allotted time, the training venue, the relevance of the content, and so on.

Do take note that the most important part of this exercise is getting feedback on the relevance and helpfulness of the course in relation to success in the employee’s work.

Useful Tips:

  • Survey questionnaires are the usual delivery method for this level of evaluation. However, the facilitator can also directly ask the class questions. If this is the case, the facilitator needs to make sure to document all the feedback because it will be used as data later on.
  • When creating a survey, always ensure that the questions are succinct and leave no room for interpretation or assumptions. The same goes for each descriptor on the scoring or rating scale.
  • Make sure to use a standard scoring / rating scale for the entirety of the survey. This avoids confusion on both the employees and the person in charge of collating and analyzing the data.
  • It’s always best to do this activity exactly right after a topic or course. Doing the evaluation after an extended amount of time has elapsed will render the activity ineffective as the learners might’ve already forgotten details about the session.
  • Consistency is the key here as this part of the evaluation process unintentionally gets omitted oftentimes. This can be due to many factors; but the usually it’s the facilitator rushing to give the class a break or is too eager to start the next topic.

Level 2: Learning Checks

The second level of evaluation calls for a knowledge and/or skill check. For example, instructors should offer written tests or practical exams to their learners at the middle and end of the course. From a training and development standpoint, learning professionals employ written assessments or simulations as learning checks for their learners.

This phase of evaluating an employee on what was learned during the course can take place in the middle of the course (optional) and right after the learning session. Learning objectives (as compared to performance / terminal objectives, which will be discussed later on) are checked against a certain standard to see if they are adequately met by the learners.

Certifications are usually granted to those who have demonstrated the acceptable quality of skills or knowledge during the assessments.

Some Useful Tips:

  • Avoid formulating trivial questions when creating written assessments. The best question format – even if it’s just a simple knowledge check – is in the context of a work-related scenario.
  • Multiple choice (MC) questions are the most commonly used items on a written test. Rightfully so, because these are most effective in testing learners regarding the course’s content. Just a tip – only ask one specific question per line item. Also make sure that the choices are all balanced in terms of length and are all viable answers, meaning no right or wrong answers that are too obvious! The best multiple choice selections all look correct, but there is only one answer that is more correct than the others. And please, no trick questions or interdependent items.
  • Avoid using hypothetical scenarios for simulations and practical assessments. Use situations that are based on real events that happen in the workplace instead. In doing this, the test creator can closely work with subject matter experts to identify common work scenarios pertaining to the skill being tested.

Level 3: Observable Behavioral Change

Observable behavioral change is the third level of employee performance evaluation for measuring training results. This phase involves checking if the acquired skills during the session are being applied by the employee in the work environment.

This aspect of assessing employee performance is usually done as a follow-up activity a few weeks after the completion of the course.

One important concept to remember is that the assessments done on Level 2 and this level of evaluation are worlds apart. There is a popular saying that “What looks good on paper doesn’t necessarily reflect what happens in real life.”

The same notion applies to this evaluation phase – learners might have aced the certification test, but that doesn’t mean that employee performance in the specific skill will improve vastly.

To add, this method of assessing employees’ learning is based on how the skill is applied in actual work. This methodology doesn’t involve measurable performance metrics; but is more of measuring the ‘intangibles.’ Thus, the usually employed approaches include observations, interviews, and surveys.

Some Useful Tips:

  • The 360° Method is a practical approach that can be used to evaluate staff performance on observable behavioral change. This method entails getting feedback from the employees’ manager, peers, and direct reports on how the employees’ are applying the learned skill in the work environment. Of course, feedback is confidential and the interviewed parties will always remain anonymous.
  • The assessor can also employ another approach by interviewing both the direct manager and the employee and directly asking for feedback on how the learned skill is being applied.
  • If time and resources are scarce, the assessor can also issue a survey to the participants and managers – to serve as a follow-up assessment on how they gauge the use of the learned skills in actual work.

Level 4: Produced Results

Remember ‘terminal’ objectives? Now, this is the level where both key performance indicators and terminal objectives are taken into account. Analysis can reveal a causation that the impact on employee performance is a direct result of training.

Furthermore, it also determines if the learners have attained the set performance goals as specified by the course objectives and therefore, serve as proof of the training program’s effectiveness.

Now, going back to terminal objectives. If learning objectives are the expected outcomes that come immediately after a learning session, terminal (or performance) objectives are expected outcomes that will directly impact the employees’ on-the-job performance in the long term.

The usual expected outcome of terminal objectives is an increase in specific KPIs; which in turn, equates to contributing to the organization’s business goals.
This type of employee performance evaluation is done periodically – like an employee monthly review. However, it can also be done quarterly or yearly. As for the most common methods, performance evaluations / appraisals and business reviews are some examples of the assessment tools that can be employed for this phase.

Some Useful Tips:

Always do a thorough analysis of the impact in performance. Just because employees attended a learning session on, for example, improving salesmanship, it doesn’t automatically mean that the increase in sales should be attributed to the employees taking the course.

There might be other interventions that have been put into play. These would also have to be taken into account as possible contributing factors or even root causes as well.

How Does Employee Performance Justify a Training Program’s Success?

Consistent follow-through is the key to ensuring that training comes full circle. As we have realized by now, a training program is an extensive and demanding process – and the learning session is but a small fragment of the bigger picture.

Multiple follow-ups must be done along the way to ensure that the acquired competencies are applied and reinforced outside class, so that the entire training effort will not come to naught.

More importantly, the objectives of any training endeavor should, at the end of the day, culminate to a positive impact on business goals. As discussed above, the evaluation of a training program involves four different phases; and each level is highly dependent on the previous one.

This is why the evaluation of employee performance at each stage needs to be executed at a specific time. Diligence in doing so allows the organization to determine the success and impact of every training intervention.

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