2 Proven Ways to Assess if Training Participants are Learning

Assess if Training Participants are Learning

How to Assess if Training Participants are Learning
Too many instructional designers and trainers forget to assess if training participants are learning what they are supposed to be learning along the way.

Why Are There So Little Training Needs Assessments Done
While it is more common for quizzes and tests to be built into online learning, we are continuously surprised by the lack of testing and assessments that occur during onsite training workshops.  We find the problem stems from instructional designers and trainers who are good about creating learning objectives, but who are not so good at defining business objectives and learning activities to test skills, knowledge, behaviors or attitudes.

Learning Objectives
Instructional designers and training practitioners have been creating learning objectives for decades.  We define learning objectives as:

  • What do you want the participants to DO that they cannot do now, and
  • What do you want the participants to KNOW that they do not know now

Examples of Learning Objectives
For example,common learning objectives for management training include identifying key responsibilities and challenges of the Supervisor role, understanding the difference between leadership and management and holding constructive performance conversations.  Common learning objectives for sales training programs include understanding customer needs, linking solutions to customer priorities and articulating your value proposition in a way that resonates with target buyers.

Regardless of the topic area, clear learning objectives are necessary to design an effective training program.

Business Objectives
While clear business objectives are common for line leaders, training practitioners sometimes struggle to link learning directly to the business.  We define business objectives as:

  • What is the desired impact on the business if the learning objectives are accomplished

Examples of Business Objectives
For example, if managers improve their skills and knowledge, they should have a positive impact on employee engagement, productivity or retention.  If sales reps improve their performance, they should have a positive impact on revenue, margins, win-rates, portfolio-mix or cycle times.

Done right, each business objective should include the current state, the desired state and the value of closing the gap.  The value of closing the gap tells you how much to invest in training design, delivery and reinforcement.

Learning objectives without business objectives have very little “teeth” and are likely to be treated as “training events” instead of change initiatives to improve on-the-job behavior and performance.

How to Assess if Training Participants are Learning
Once your learning and business objectives have been identified, the format you choose to assess if training participants are learning is critical…it needs to be in sync with the objectives of the program. Consider two proven training assessment types to determine skill proficiency and knowledge gain:

  1. Short- and long-answer tests
  2. Performance tests

Short- and Long Answer Tests
These assessments test one’s “declarative” knowledge and are practical to both administer and score. They are given in paper form or on a computer or tablet and are typically composed of four different types of questions: matching, true or false, multiple choice, and essay. Simple answer tests are most appropriate when you are testing for “knowledge about something”, rather than “knowledge of how to do something.”

Performance Tests
This more complex type of assessment tests the performance (or application) of the skills in real-world simulations. Some of the ways to test whether a subject can actually perform on the job are through observation, scenario questions, or simulations. This is the better way to test if the target audience will be able to transfer the learning to the workplace.

Performance Test Example
Here’s an example of a recent performance test.

  • We  designed a management certification program for new managers.  One of the learning objectives was to teach new managers how to better empathize and communicate with their direct reports and external clients.
  • The related business objectives were to increase levels of employee engagement by 2% and to improve customer satisfaction scores by 7% over a 12-month period.

We designed the performance test as follows:

  • The performance test contained scenarios and role plays based upon the top five challenges faced by new managers at the company. The performance test presented unpredictable situations from different styles of employees and customers.
  • The new managers performance was evaluated through an objective checklist that was created with the client and their customers based upon research into their highest and lowest performing managers.
  • With practice, feedback and coaching, each manager had to “pass” each scenario to be certified as a new manager.

The Bottom Line
To help ensure the transfer of training from the classroom to the job, be sure you match your business objectives, learning objectives and performance tests.

To learn more about effective training assessment and measurement, download Connecting the Disconnects – How to Achieve the Real ROI of Learning

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On behalf of Roche and my staff I would like to sincerely thank you for your help with this. The English as a Second Language (ESL) assessment and coaching that you provided for our team was a great success.

Cam Greig
Associate Director

Roche

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What a refreshing change from the half-baked psycho-babble you normally get from “training” organizations. LSA gives you the assistance you need to define and reach your goal, and then they give you a results driven plan – not just a temporary fix. They are great to work with, and even more importantly, they “get it!”

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Our company engaged LSA to do a specialized “train the trainer” program, and the consultant’s performance outdid our exceptionally high standards for such a program. Very crucial to the success of this program was the work done upfront to discuss our needs and to interview key members of our organization so that the program specifically met our goals. Our facilitators continue to comment on the success of the program. Thanks also for the follow-up.

Frank Abbott
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The Next Generation Management Development courses have helped me communicate more effectively with my peers and teammates. By utilizing effective communication techniques such as clarifying and confirming, and asking open ended questions, I have been able to clarify and understand information in situations where I would have otherwise asked limited questions and made false assumptions.

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We recently partnered with LSA Global to offer our Supervisors and Managers a customized two-day management training program. Everyone who attended said it was by far the best management training program they had ever attended. The content was rich and highly interactive. The case studies were relevant. Each participant walked away from the training much better equipped to lead their teams.

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Intuit

Each program is preceded by an assessment of the participants. The course is then designed to fit the specific parameters and needs of the group. The highly interactive delivery is provided by recognized experts in their fields. On the spot coaching is provided during the program and each participant receives individual follow-up after the course. Courses can be delivered in-person or virtually. Given the nature of Cisco’s business and the way we operate, these remote workshops are a must for anyone who joins our company. Their work is eye opening. Great content and fantastic delivery.

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AKQA

We contacted LSA to help us with customized management development. LSA worked with me to identify a solution that would meet our exact needs. We decided to start at the top and ran the program for our executive team. It was such a great success that we hope to roll it out companywide. We look forward to a long-term partnership with LSA Global and their team of experts.

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Avon’s success is dependent on strong relationships among our Customers, Representatives, Associates, and outside resources we hire to help us meet our business objectives. We were very pleased with the results from working with LSA Global to design and facilitate a custom program for our events management team. LSA demonstrated responsiveness, flexibility, and an innovative approach to working with us.

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I have worked with other training companies and found it to be more of a seller/buyer relationship than one of matching the right expertise to our business issues. That’s what LSA does – ask the hard questions, listen, and understand our business needs. We receive the benefit of their expertise from assistance with personal development plans to enhancing team performance, to looking at enterprise-wide challenges. It’s all about helping our business succeed as we grow. Right now, LSA is providing great ideas, a fresh approach, and valuable guidance as we develop our management team and accelerate our client relationship management results.

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