Learner Feedback Is the Most Important Training Metric

by Sharlyn Lauby | Posted | Learning

Learner Feedback Is the Most Important Training Metric

(Editor's Note: This is the fifth and final installment in our series about using the ADDIE model to enhance the learner experience. We hope you'll check out the previous posts when you have a moment. Enjoy today's post!)

In the last post of the series, we will wrap things up by discussing program evaluation. Why is evaluation important? Because every single initiative that organizations create must be evaluated. That's not a bad thing! It's absolutely necessary. But organizations have to make sure they measure the right things.

Here's a quick refresher about the model we've been referencing in this series. The ADDIE model (assessment, design, development, implementation and evaluation) is a commonly-used process to create learning. In the four previous posts, we've talked about how each phase contributes to creating learning and enhancing the learning experience.

Where evaluation fits in

When it comes to learning, there's lots of talk about aligning training metrics to business goals. It's a very valid point. The whole purpose of training is to improve employee performance, which will ultimately have a positive impact on organizational performance (and goals).

The alignment of training and organizational goals should happen early in the process, ideally during the assessment and design phases. Because that's where the organization makes decisions about what the training is going to cover. For example, the company can't design a training program on coaching skills then measure cost per hire as an indicator of program success. While there might be some distant correlation, the best way to align learning with metrics is to say, "We're going to develop a program on coaching skills because employee engagement scores are down in that area." Then, the metric to determine program success is employee engagement scores.

Feedback is priceless

But there's one learning metric that is often overlooked: employee feedback. Sometimes organizations are so focused on the business metrics that they forget employee feedback plays a significant role in the success of training. How successful would a learning initiative be if every employee hates it, doesn't want to attend and doesn't participate at a high level? There are three opportunities to solicit employee feedback:

Kirkpatrick Level 1 Evaluation

Developed by Donald Kirkpatrick, a Level One evaluation is sometimes referred to as a "smile sheet." It's that piece of paper or online evaluation that gauges an employee's immediate reaction to the training. Some common questions ask about the room, temperature or facilitator skills. One item to consider adding (if you don't already): "What topics would you like to see future training sessions focus on?" It's a great opportunity to hear employees' thoughts. HR might see some trends worth exploring.

While this type of evaluation might seem on the surface as being very basic, first impressions are important. This will offer insight into what an employee is probably telling their co-workers upon leaving training.

1:1 meetings

When learning is done in an individual setting, such as with a mentor or manager, it might be helpful to ask for direct feedback. This could be established during the first mentoring session or mentioned regularly during 1:1 meetings. That way the employee understands that feedback is expected and can start to open up with their thoughts.

Person-to-person feedback gives both the sender and the recipient an opportunity to ask questions and gain clarity. A quick reminder about this: it does require trust between individuals and a sincerity that the feedback will be accepted.

Focus groups

The focus group format can be helpful when you have groups going through a program together, such as new hires attending orientation and onboarding. Or a leadership development program where participants complete several learning activities over the course of a year.

Asking for employee feedback not only helps to evaluate the program that just took place, but it allows the organization to ask questions about future iterations of the program. The group might suggest ideas that they wouldn't have considered sharing individually.

Business metrics are great, but don't forget employee feedback

When it's time to evaluate learning, organizations definitely need to make sure that the program objectives were accomplished. It's the learning program objective that's directly tied to the business goal.

Organizations also need to place value on employee feedback and comments. Their impressions of the program will be shared in the cafeteria, over Slack and via text messages. If employees leave loving the learning, their co-workers will want to know when they get to attend. If employees hate it, their co-workers will find excuses not to participate. And that ultimately impacts the business metric the program is trying to change.

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Cover of the book

Build a High-Impact Learning Content Strategy

Learn how your learning content strategy can positively impact performance, productivity and engagement.


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