Last month I spoke at a conference about the new NHS workplace development policy (see Feb's edition of TJ). The speaker before me had spoken about the importance of evaluating vocational learning. My ears perked up and when it came to my turn to speak, I asked everyone to stand up. I then asked how much training they thought was transferred into improved job performance. 80 per cent? One person sat down. (Sorry I should have explained. I asked them to sit down if they agreed with the answer). 50 per cent? About half sat down. 25 per cent? Almost no one left standing. 15 per cent? About ten people left on their feet and as I am sure all TJ readers know, they were right.
To be fair, research suggests around 50 per cent of learning is immediately transferred but most of that is forgotten over time so just 15 per cent on average remains a year later. An 85 per cent scrap rate in other words. I cannot imagine many manufacturers tolerating that level of waste. Of course nine times out of ten we have no idea how much learning has stuck because we don't evaluate. There remains a large dose of faith in training's efficacy, much less hard evidence.
I have been writing about training evaluation and training policy more generally in these blogs since 2012. This is my last blog, at least for a while, as I am going to spend more time writing loner articles (including for the TJ) and another book. It seems appropriate to pause the blog by thinking about the end point of training - the difference it has made (or not) and more importantly what we can do to make training work.
The enduring problem of training transfer (the 85 per cent scrap problem) got me thinking. Is there one thing more than any other that can improve the quality of training? Is there a secret that can help deliver great learning whether its knowledge, skills or attitudes based? I think there is and I don't think it matters whether you are designing and delivering leadership training, coaching skills, technical skills, customer care, accounting techniques or for that matter teaching evaluation methods. Nor does it matter whether it’s a one-hour workshop or year-long course.
To be really effective, great training has to be a partnership between the learner, the learning (trainer) and the workplace. Training might alter the learner but if the workplace is unchanged, it is likely to be of little use. You might have designed a state of the art virtual learning environment but if the learner isn't motivated and engaged forget it. You may have scoped a real training need, carefully recruited staff who will benefit from the learning but if the training is poorly executed little will change.
Great learning requires partnership. That can be at industry level, organisational level or individual department level (managers, learners, trainers, HR etc). Partnerships need to have a clear focus and be outward looking. Outcomes not just outputs. Working together ... well works!
So - collaborate, network and please don't forget to evaluate - at least now and then.
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